Singers deliver popular music and stories of female jazz pioneers


Pioneering Women of Jazz Come to Kutztown University to Celebrate Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, presented by KU Presents! in collaboration with Berks Jazz Fest at 7:30 p.m. on February 16 at the Schaeffer Auditorium.

Backed by the all-female jazz band at Jazz at Lincoln Center, singers Charenée Wade, Camille Thurman and Tahira Clayton deliver the popular music and stories of 1960s-era Jim Crow-era Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. South.

From the Jim Crow-South era to the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone were among the most influential and popular singers of their time. Both within their music and outside of clubs and concert halls, they have exercised their exceptional talents to combat racial prejudice, sexism and poverty.

Whether it’s by forcefully and playfully asserting its autonomy and sexuality (Bessie Smith), forcing America to recognize the pervasive racism in the American South and beyond (Billie Holiday), or by giving voice to the civil rights movement with moving anthems of protest (Nina Simone), these pioneering singers spoke to and for the disenfranchised as women, African Americans and artists. All three women challenged social norms, embracing empowerment through their art.

This show delivers popular music and tells the stories of these remarkable women.

Tickets are $40; $34 for students and seniors. Buy tickets at or by calling KU Presents! Box office at 610-683-4092. A pre-show jazz club dinner will be held at the Little Schaeffer Theater with music by KU’s student jazz ensemble. Tickets are sold separately.

Established to be the center of cultural life at Kutztown University, KU Presents! serves the campus and the community by bringing world-class performing arts that entertain, educate and enrich. Learn more at


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