Breakout Session

Reconnecting the Dots: Acknowledging the History of Blackface Minstrelsy and its Persisting Legacy in American Popular Voice Culture and Performance Practice

Sunday, June 24 • 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Presenter: Alexis Davis-Hazell
Introduced by: Randall Umstead 
Location: Cohiba 1-4

In this session participants will be encouraged to engage in authentic multicultural appreciation and stylistic interpretation of American popular music derivative of African-American Culture. Cultural appropriation as referenced in popular music is today’s euphemism for the culture of acceptable theft. Debate on the validity of the cultural appropriation argument is largely done outside of historical context. Re-establishing an historical continuum as the overarching context for analysis facilitates the revelation of an impersonator versus interpreter dichotomy in performance practice. Impersonation and interpretation are often conflated in American popular culture, particularly regarding the intersection of African-American culture and popular music. This conflation is made possible by cultural compartmentalization, invalidation and revisionist history. Erasure of iconographic and linguistic evidence is due in part to trauma and embarrassment. Blackface became the most popular and widespread practice of racial impersonation by the dominant Anglo-American culture, which has been pervasive into the present day. Participants will learn the history of Blackface Minstrelsy and the structure and functions of the minstrel show and will be provided examples of impersonation and authentic interpretation in performance practice.

About Alexis Davis-Hazell

Alexis_Davis_Hazell.jpgPhiladelphia native mezzo-soprano Alexis Davis-Hazell is an active performer and teaching artist in the Southwest and on the international opera stage. Since 2008, Alexis has participated in more than one hundred and twenty performances of The Gershwins’ masterwork, Porgy and Bess with European touring companies – produced on the eight-show per week musical theater-touring model. On tour, she performed on every level: from an understudy in the ensemble to principal artist. Alexis appeared in the recent critically acclaimed productions of Show Boat and Porgy and Bess at San Francisco Opera – both aired on PBS, and marketed internationally on DVD. Alexis has also maintained an opera and concert performance schedule with regional companies in the US. Her roles have ranged from Dritte Dame (Die Zauberflöte) and Mme de Croissy (Carmelites) to Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Giovanna (Rigoletto) and High Priestess (Aida) – having appeared most recently as La Frugola and La Badessa in the Utah Festival Opera production of Puccini’s Il Trittico. Davis-Hazell serves on the voice faculties at Grand Canyon University and Chandler-Gilbert Community College, teaching private instruction and music humanities. Alexis is also Creative Director of the innovative production company Jazzoperetry, Inc, co-founded with her husband – singer, writer, composer and arranger, Earl Hazell. Davis-Hazell holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Temple University, and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Vocal Performance from Arizona State University.