Speakers, Events Announced for Black History Month at CSU

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Freddy Cole, 76, grew up in Chicago surrounded by music. He and three older brothers, including Nat King Cole, all were musicians, and visitors to their home included Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton.

Though never reaching his older brother’s celebrity status, Freddy Cole distinguished himself as a premiere jazz artist in a career that started in the 1950s and continues to flourish with recent CD recordings and worldwide performance tours.

One upcoming stop will be CSU, as Cole will both perform and share insight from his 50-plus years in the music industry as the university’s Black History Month keynote presenter. The program, 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 in University Hall (formerly Fine Arts Hall), is free and open to the public.

Dates also are set for CSU’s other traditional Black History Month programs, including Gospel Extravaganza at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 in RiverCenter’s Legacy Hall. Later, the 25th annual Black Applause Banquet will take place Friday, Feb. 22 at CSU’s Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center.

Cole’s CSU visit also will include a master class for Schwob School of Music students, tentatively set for 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6 at RiverCenter.

Higher education was significant to Cole as he studied at Julliard School of Music and earned a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. With his degree, he initially joined the Earl Bostic Band and eventually developed a vast repertoire of songs in Manhattan bistros and concurrently supplemented his live performances with television and radio commercial jingle work. During the 1970s, he recorded several albums for European and English companies, helping him develop a loyal overseas following.

In the early 1990s, he began working with producer Todd Barkan and released albums on major U.S. labels. During this time, he sang and played piano on jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.’s “All My Tomorrows.” Such activity drew mainstream media attention, including from the New York Times, which lauded Cole as the “most maturely expressive male jazz singer of his generation, if not the best alive.”

He has remained active, releasing a string of recordings through 2006, a year in which his career was further showcased by filmmaker Clay Walker in “The Cole Nobody Knows.” The documentary has been featured in about 30 international film festivals and captured a Cine Golden Eagle Award.

Cole currently leads a quartet of himself, guitarist Randy Napoleon, drummer Curtis Boyd and bassist Elias Bailey, all of whom will perform for a Salvation Army banquet the evening of Feb. 7 at the Columbus Trade Center.

Following Cole’s visit, CSU’s Black History Month observance will continue with the Gospel Extravaganza, as various local guest performers will be featured in the free program at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 in RiverCenter’s Legacy Hall.

On Feb. 22, the Black Applause Banquet at CSU’s Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center will open with a 6:30 p.m. reception followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The event will feature recognitions of outstanding local high school and CSU students and the presentation of the Dr. John Townsend Achievement Award, named in honor of Townsend, the first African American to enroll at CSU. The Townsend Award honors a local individual or group for community service and leadership. The keynote speaker will be Attorney Michael Eddings. Ticket prices are $25 and $5 apiece for CSU students. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 706-568-2273.

Finally, on Saturday, Feb. 23, the CSU chapter for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., will host “A Black History Tribute to Madam C.J. Walker,” performed by the Americolor Opera Alliance of Atlanta, at 5 p.m. in University Hall. The opera, by Atlanta composer Sharon J. Willis, is based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker, the first African-American female millionaire and will feature comedienne Sheryl Underwood as “mistress of ceremony.”

Tickets for the event are $28 or $23 per person in groups of 15 or more. Tickets will be sold at the door and can be purchased in advance by calling Alma Reese at 334-291-8198 or 706-682-0327. Proceeds will go to the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Epsilon Eta Zeta Chapter scholarship fund.

For more information on the other Black History Month programs, contact Bernard McCrary at 706-568-2273.