“Motown Sound” coming to GBPAC

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Music composer George Walker (pictured right) is the inspiration for the UNI George Walker Society, which will be hosting a Motown celebration this Sunday at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

ALLISON MAZZERELLA, Staff Writer

Baby boomers will be taken through a time warp to their teenage years full of music and memorabilia straight out of the 60’s this Sunday. On Feb. 26, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC) will be the venue for “A Celebration of the Motown Sound” from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The UNI George Walker Society of Music is bringing this free event to campus in conjunction with Black History Month.  

The event will include live performances, dancing, videos of Motown artists from the past and displays of authentic Motown collectibles and memorabilia.  Celeste Bembry, student recruitment and retention coordinator, serves as the president of the George Walker Society. Bembry avidly encourages students to attend the event this Sunday.

“We want people to come, and we want people to celebrate by dancing and enjoying themselves from that awesome time and period in our American history,” Bembry said. “It’s a social event; we want people to come and mix and mingle.”

According to Bembry, the main idea behind this event is to mix the past with the present.  

“We wanted to think of something out of the box this year, and in collaboration with the big celebration of Black History Month, we wanted to participate and bring in a period of time when the music out of Motown influenced and impacted the world,” Bembry said. “We are creating a moment of time in the 60s.  You’re going to hear musicians that are taking a classic and yet taking it to the 21st Century.”  

Although Bembry stresses that the primary focus of this event is the music, there will also be an introduction to the history and culture surrounding Motown and Detroit.  

“You’re going to hear about Detroit,” Bembry said. “A little bit of history, of sharing about the culture of African-American contribution to music through Hitsville and Motown.”

The event will bring in performers from campus, as well as professional performers outside of UNI.  According to Bembry, the event will be “a community collaborative effort.”

Just as there will be a variety of performers from around the Cedar Valley area, both students and community members are welcome to attend.

In addition, Bembry says the event will be a trip down memory lane.

“You young college students get to watch the youth of that period,” Bembry said. “We can watch baby boomers become teenagers again because of this music. We’re going to bring it in and just lay back and watch folks who’ve lived in that period come up and do their dances.  It’s just a lot of fun to see.”  

The George Walker Society is one of the many branches of the National Association of Negro Musicians Inc., which is a historic music society founded in Chicago in 1919.  

“We’re about promotion of African-American repertoire. Our advocacy is to promote music, perform it, classic to commercial,” Bembry said.

The George Walker Society is hoping to relaunch themselves with this event at UNI.  Celeste attributes the idea behind “A Celebration of the Motown Sound” to admissions recruitment specialist Paul Sapp, an avid collector of Motown memorabilia.  

This collaborative effort to share the past with current students was something the two had talked about doing for years.  

“We just said, ‘we’re going to bring students into this, and let’s get this done,’” Bembry said.  “It really is about you guys.  We want you guys to celebrate what ‘was,’ because life is a continuum, and we have a moment of time to go, ‘Oh, this is what it was, but look at where music is going now!’ We get to see a moment of time on its continuum […] Let’s celebrate what happened then and there, and then look to you guys for your genius and your creativity.”  

Bembry notes how this event can provide inspiration for current students to expand upon and pay homage to the music of the past.

“Take the classic, and [then] where’s your twist, expression and musical thought on a classic?” Bembry said. “That’s what honors the music.”