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Music Faculty Member Brent White Awarded Francis Johnson Fellowship

Brent White, Photo Credit: Ola Baldych

Brent White; Photo Credit: Ola Baldych

May 4, 2021

Brent White, director of the Drexel Jazz Orchestra and adjunct Music faculty member, has been awarded the Francis Johnson Fellowship by the Library Company of Philadelphia’s Innovation Fellowship Program. 

The Francis Johnson Fellowship will support two fellows—a humanities scholar and a creative practitioner—as they delve into the compositions of this vital early-nineteenth-century artist. These paired fellows will be encouraged to explore a manuscript book of 80 compositions (some unpublished) in conjunction with printed materials held at both the Library Company and at the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The scholar might choose to create a pop-up exhibition or research guide, finding aid, or white paper to enrich the library’s digital assets; the creative practitioner might opt to perform or creatively reinterpret compositions from the book, many of which leave significant room for improvisation, at a public event to be hosted by the Library Company of Philadelphia in the summer of 2022. However, both the scholar and creative practitioner are encouraged to think beyond or across these outcomes. 

White will work alongside Uchenna Ngwe, a final-year PhD candidate at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. White and Ngwe will draw upon one another’s expertise and life experiences as they excavate composer Francis Johnson’s identity as a Black performer in white-dominated fields, situate his contributions in local and transatlantic contexts, and enliven historical collections through artistic reinterpretation and educational application. 

Of the Fellowship, White describes, “The compositional research is meant to showcase a lively celebration of Francis Johnson’s music—a dedication to rhythmic complexities not evident from the musical scores.” 

Each Francis Johnson Fellow will receive a stipend of $5000, a $2500 research fund to be defined by the fellow and program director, and lodging at the Library Company’s Cassatt House residence for four to eight weeks. The Library Company will also cover each fellow’s travel expenses (up to $500). Both fellows will be honored at the Library Company’s 290th Annual Dinnerand interviewed for the library’s podcast.