The American Music Research Center (AMRC) has named Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology Austin Okigbo as its interim director for the 2023-’24 academic year. Okigbo, also an affiliate faculty member in the Center for African & African American Studies, global health and ethnic studies, is no stranger to the AMRC.
“I’ve been involved in the AMRC for as long as I’ve been at the College of Music,” Okigbo says. In the past—as an AMRC Faculty Affiliate and Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) on the AMRC’s Soundscapes of the People grant—he has participated in outreach activities and research opportunities, and he continues to serve on the AMRC Advisory Board as well as the editorial committee for the AMRC journal, Americas: A Hemispheric Music Journal. Soundscapes of the People is, in part, funded through a CU Boulder Outreach Award from the Office for Outreach and Engagement.
This year, Okigbo has stepped in to lead the AMRC’s events and research projects while a search for a new permanent director is underway. Susan Thomas, the AMRC’s former director, is now with the Butler School of Music in Austin, Texas; she continues her involvement in the Soundscapes of the People project as a faculty affiliate.
“My goal at this point in time is to make sure that the center maintains the things we are doing,” Okigbo says. “I want to make sure the programming that we have in place is well executed.”
Coming up in October, the AMRC will host a pair of concerts titled “Song of Pueblo.” These concerts highlight the AMRC’s Soundscapes of the People study that’s documenting the history of Pueblo, Colorado, by researching its musical past and collecting oral testimonies.
“When you do a project like Soundscapes without something like these concerts, everything becomes confined to the libraries and archives,” Okigbo says. “Not everybody will be interested in going to the libraries to read up on what you have gathered, but a concert brings life to the community.”
“Song of Pueblo” features a folk oratorio composed by Daniel Valdez with an orchestration by two College of Music alumni: Max Wolpert and Ilan Blanck. The events—weaving together 16 songs and musical numbers that tell the compelling stories of the region’s early history—will highlight the El Pueblo Ensemble, which has been performing the oratorio since its inception, accompanied by the CU Boulder Chamber Orchestra conducted by Associate Director of Orchestras Renee Gilliland.
“I’m looking forward to my role as interim director,” Okigbo concludes. “And I’m optimistic that we’re going to find the right person to permanently lead the AMRC going forward.”
“Song of Pueblo” concerts are Saturday, Oct. 21, at 2 p.m. in Pueblo, Colorado and Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Grusin Music Hall. These free performances are made possible through The Roser Visiting Artist Endowment. Additionally, Valdez will present a lecture on Oct. 25, 4:15-5:30 p.m., in the British Studies Room of Norlin Library on the CU Boulder campus!