By: Associate Professor of Music in Voice Judith Raiford
Olivia Davis recently completed her junior year in the bachelor of arts in music program. This summer, she will be following her dream of studying in Africa. Awarded a Frederick Douglass Summer Scholars Grant through a rigorous application process, Davis will supplement her TU education by traveling to and learning in Ghana, even though many study abroad programs have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a vocal music major with a minor in anthropology, Davis is seeking to expand her knowledge and experience of non-Western cultures, while increasing her awareness of natural diversity and complexity within world music. She views this chance to study at the University of Ghana as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“As a descendant of Africans, my history of music, my own culture, is a pathway into the complexity of culture, social systems and their impact on music and the arts,” said Davis. “I have elected to take a course on the transatlantic crossing of kidnapped and enslaved Africans at the University of Ghana in Legon. I will also be taking a course on Twi, the predominant language spoken in southern and central Ghana, for greater immersion and phonetic framing of rhythm and tonality in music.”
Davis is excited by the prospect of having her additional academic goals and efforts shaped by the international resources of this program. “Music is a collection and result of social systems, cultural values and language,” she noted. “At the University of Ghana, I will dive into the chain reaction that produced culture-bending artistry and history: film, poetry, literature and music genres such as jazz, blues and rap. This is the music pulsing at the heartbeat of Black and brown bodies fighting for liberation throughout time, and this summer I will get to go to one of the wells of that source.”
When she returns to Tulsa, Davis plans to combine all her areas of interest into her senior project. This will be a recital of songs by composers of color interspersed with poetry and historical and cultural remarks informed by her newfound West African knowledge and experiences.