If it’s autumn, it must be time for a world-class jazz musician to visit Weber State University.
Vocalist Alicia Olatuja will perform a concert with her jazz quintet at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, in the Browning Center on campus, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. The concert is part of the annual Browning Presents! Cultural series at the school.
“It turns out we’ve established a pattern of bringing in jazz artists in the fall,” said Scott Sprenger, dean of the Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities at the university.
Last year, the WSU cultural series opened with jazz trumpeter Sean Jones and his quartet. The year before that, it was jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio.
“We thought we needed to bring in a female vocalist this time,” Sprenger said. “And she is a leading female jazz vocalist who sang at (President Barack) Obama’s second inauguration — that’s where I became aware of her.”
Although not a residency program, Sprenger said they try to pay the artists “a little more money to stick around” and work with students and members of the community before or after the concert. Olatuja will arrive a couple of days early to conduct master classes and other workshops at WSU.
“She’ll visit a freshman music class to talk about how to break into the business and manage your career, which a lot of students are curious about,” Sprenger said.
Olatuja will also present a community class that is open to the public at 1:00 pm Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Browning Center.
The New York Times raved that Olatuja is “a singer with a strong, lustrous tone and an amiably regal presence onstage.” She almost single-handedly stole the show at Obama’s 2013 inauguration with her featured solo during a performance of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and has worked with the likes of Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Christian McBride, Billy Childs and Lonne Smith.
Olatuja’s debut album for the Resilience Music Alliance label, “Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women,” celebrates the art of female composers like Sade, Imogen Heap, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush, Angela Bofill, Brenda Russell and others.
Olatuja is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and began singing in her church choir at a young age. Despite a planned career in veterinary medicine, Olatuja discovered her true passion and ended up earning master’s degree in classical voice/opera from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
Tickets for the concert are $20 for adults; $8 for students, seniors and military. Tickets are available at weberstatetickets.com or by calling 801-626-8500.
The remainder of the Browning Presents! season will bring Dance Theatre of Harlem to campus on Nov. 9, and columnist/commentator David Brooks on Jan. 14.
“It’s hard to market — hard to get a crowd — for dance, so we do that every other year,” Sprenger said. “We’re also trying to bring diverse artists to campus.”
As for Brooks, Sprenger said in the past the cultural series has hosted more liberal voices like Ronan Farrow and Cornel West. This time, they wanted to bring in someone with another view.
“He’s considered a conservative, but he’s really more of a centrist with Republican leanings,” Sprenger said. “We though it would be an interesting voice leading into the election — someone who tries to find common ground and is respected by both sides.”