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Top Brass to perform 'UNSUNG HERO' in honor of Paul Laurence Dunbar

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 16, 2005) -- In honor of Black History Month, the Central Region Humanities Center is co-sponsoring a performance of UNSUNG HERO, a musical and poetry program by Top Brass, an award-winning jazz ensemble group.

UNSUNG HERO Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial AuditoriumThe concert, which features Paul Laurence Dunbar's poetry set to music, will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Ohio University's Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.

The event honors the life and legacy of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dunbar was the first professional African-American writer, producing dialect poems, neo-classical verses, essays, editorials, novels, plays and short stories. The concert is a celebration during the centennial year of Dunbar's death.

Dunbar published three collections of poetry, including "Oak and Ivy" (1893), "Majors and Minors" (1895) and "Lyrics of Lowly Life" (1896), before he died of tuberculosis at age 33. Ohio University Press recently published a fourth collection, "In His Own Voice," which contains more than a dozen pieces of Dunbar's previously unpublished poetry and prose as well as three of his scripts and three libretti.

His work continues to influence other artists, such as Maya Angelou in her novel, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and Alicia Keys in her 2001 song, "Caged Bird."

"UNSUNG HERO" features Dunbar's poetry brilliantly set to music by four of America's premier composers: Patrick Williams (two-time Grammy recipient), Lennie Niehaus (Emmy winner), David Baker (director, Smithsonian Institute Jazz Masterworks Orchestra) and Norlan Bewley (Top Brass resident composer). Two guest vocalists and a narrator join the five members of Top Brass for a thoroughly entertaining program of music and poetry presented in varied and energetic styles.

This event is part of the Dunbar Project, a public programming initiative spearheaded by the Central Region Humanities Center. The project also includes the creation of a biographical documentary tentatively titled "DUNBAR." The documentary, to be shot by Frederick Lewis of Ohio University's School of Telecommunications, will include interviews with scholars of African-American history and literature and with modern poets and writers influenced by Dunbar.

"The documentary will advance the argument that Dunbar is important both as a voice of our region and as the progenitor of African-American letters," said Joseph Slade, co-director of CRHC and producer of the documentary. "The documentary 'DUNBAR' is an attempt to recover his legacy for Americans."

"The 'UNSUNG HERO' program represents the center's overall mission to advance education and public programming on topics of regional culture," said Jennifer Scott, Dunbar Project manager and doctoral student in the School of Communication Studies. "The Dunbar Project seeks to recover a regional heritage of writers, examine regional African-American intellectual and social history, and link these regional contributions to American culture more broadly."

Other partners of the event include the President's Office for Diversity, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Communication, College of Fine Arts, Lindley Cultural Center, Department of African American Studies and Black Student Cultural Programming Board.

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Media Contact: Central Region Humanities Center Co-director Joseph W. Slade, (740) 593-0246 or slade@ohio.edu

Editors: For interviews with Top Brass, please contact: Top Brass Member Matt James, (740) 593-0957 or jamesm1@ohio.edu, or Top Brass Director Dave Coleman, (937) 902-8987 or topbrassmusic1@juno.com

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