The South Bend Symphony Orchestra’s American Composers concert on April 2, 2022, is a rich legacy of works by African American composers. Prioritizing to implement diversity into the 2021-22 Season, the fourth concert in the Jack M. Champaigne Masterworks Series will feature works by African American composers exclusively for the first time in the Symphony’s history. American Composers features A Joyous Trilogy by Quinn Mason, Piano Concerto in One Movement by Florence Price, and the Negro Folk Symphony by William Dawson as a testament to the Symphony’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement in action.

For A Joyous Trilogy, Quinn Mason writes that he “wanted to create a composition that was the very embodiment of happiness and cheerfulness, an accessible work that would put any listener in a good mood.” The first movement, ‘Running’ gives the feeling of just that; the never-ending movement of the musicians and the non-stop energy of this section has the audience dashing along with it. While it seems that the excitement does not stop, ‘Running’ collides with ‘Reflection,’ Mason’s second movement. This section is a sudden change that is a tender and thought-provoking movement bringing audience members to move inward and examine themselves and their thoughts. Finally, we come to the last movement, ‘Renewal’ which picks some of that energy back up, however, becoming more vibrant and spirited. This fun intricate section follows through to the end of the piece leaving the audience exuberant and ready for more!

Next up is Piano Concerto in One Movement by Florence Price interpreted by the ever-so-talented Michelle Cann. Although it is technically in one movement, there are three distinct sections played without a break. The first begins with a slow introduction, easing the audience and carefully welcoming them into Price’s world. The piece then quickly moves into the urgent and melodious primary section. The concerto concludes with a sprightly example of a juba, a folk dance that was popular in the years before the Civil War, and a memorial to those before her.

Finally, William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony finishes out this reflective evening. Also represented in three parts this piece opens with ‘The Bond of Africa’ containing a soaring blues gesture by a solo French horn. Not even a minute in, however, the strings interrupt with a tender cinematic-like excerpt drawing the audience in to fully anticipate a spectacular performance. In the second movement, ‘Hope in the Night,’ Dawson describes the atmosphere of a people who have gone through the horrors of slavery but with a three gong strokes, denoting the Trinity, a symbol of hope that guides man through the night. To finish off the piece, the third movement, ‘O Le’ Me Shine, Shine Like A Morning Star!’ Dawson takes on a lighter perspective. Here, he incorporates two African American melodies, “O Le’ Me Shine, Le’ Me Shine Like A Mornin’ Star” and “Hallelujah, Lord, I Been Down Into the Sea” to illustrate a scene of children playing, unmoored by the despair of their slave heritage.

Join Maestro Willis and composer Quinn Mason for the in-person pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. on April 2, 2022, at Morris Performing Arts Center.

The Masterworks Series is proudly sponsored by Jack M. Champaigne.


PHONE – Morris Performing Arts Center Box Office, 574-235-9190 (10 am –2 pm, Tuesday –Thursday)

IN-PERSON – Visit our friends at the Morris (211 N. Michigan St., South Bend) during the times listed above or two hours before any performance.

VIEW the 2021-22 Season schedule,


Regardless of vaccination status, all patrons are required to wear a mask during performances.


For pre-concert interviews, contact Sarah Perschbacher at or 574-232-6343.


About the South Bend Symphony Orchestra

Embarking on the 89th season, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra is the region’s only professional orchestra and is committed to engaging the community in all it does. In addition to being recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and other state and local arts funding organizations, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra is the recipient of the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County’s 2019 Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence, which recognizes the best-run nonprofit organization in St. Joseph County, Indiana.


About Michelle Cann, piano

“A compelling, sparkling virtuoso” (Boston Music Intelligencer), pianist Michelle Cann made her orchestral debut at age fourteen and has since performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

A champion of the music of Florence Price, she performed the New York City premiere of the composer’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with The Dream Unfinished Orchestra in July 2016 and the Philadelphia premiere with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin in February 2021, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “exquisite.” She has also performed Price’s works for solo piano and chamber ensemble for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Detroit, and the New World Symphony, among other presenters.

Highlights of her 2021–22 season include debut performances with the Atlanta, Detroit, and St. Louis symphony orchestras, as well as her Canadian concert debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. She also receives the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization. Embracing a dual role as both performer and pedagogue, her season includes teaching residencies at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and the National Conference of the Music Teachers National Association.

Cann regularly appears in recital and as a chamber musician throughout the U.S., China, and South Korea. Notable venues include the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the John F. Kennedy Center for the PerformingArts in Washington, D.C., and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Barbican in London with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Ms. Cann regularly performs duo recitals with her sister, pianist Kimberly Cann; together their “sheer verve and evident passion is something to behold” (Mountain Xpress).

She has appeared as co-host and collaborative pianist with NPR’s From The Top, collaborating with actor/conductor Damon Gupton, violinist Leila Josefowicz, and violinist and MacArthur Fellow VijayGupta. She has also been featured on WRTI-FM and WHYY-TV in Philadelphia. Her summer festival appearances have included the Taos Chamber Music Festival, Yellow Barn, Perlman Music Program, Music Academy of the West, Geneva Music Festival, and Piano fest in the Hamptons, where she serves as artist in residence.

Cann has won top prizes in state, national, and international competitions including the International Russian Music Piano Competition, the Blount Slawson Young Artists Competition, and the Wideman International Piano Competition. In 2019 she served as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MAC Music Innovator in recognition of her role as an African-American classical musician who embodies artistry, innovation, and a commitment to education and community engagement.

She manifests this commitment through her activities in Philadelphia and as part of touring engagements around the globe. Cann has served as the director of two children’s choruses in the El Sistema-inspired program Play On Philly and was among the first class of ArtistYear fellows at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she worked with community partners City Year, Teach for America, and AmeriCorps to provide arts education and access to underserved communities in Philadelphia. In 2019 she served on the faculty of the Sphinx Performance Academy during its inaugural year at the Juilliard School.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Paul Schenly and Dr. Daniel Shapiro, and an Artist’s Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Robert McDonald.

Cann served as a collaborative staff pianist at the Curtis Institute of Music for several years. She joined the faculty in 2020 as the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies.