The 50th annual Vivian Robinson Audelco Recognition Awards “The Viv” for Excellence in Black Theatre will take place Nov. 28 at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St., from 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Some of the many award presentations will include the Pioneer Awards to Peggy Alston, Ben Horney, filmmaker and educator Jamaal Joseph, and LaZette McCants. McCants became a volunteer for AUDELCO in 1983 after meeting Flora Polk, who was the organization’s volunteer coordinator. Over the past 40 years, McCants has worn a variety of AUDELCO hats, including a member of the Board of Directors and Nominating Committee, event planner/coordinator, and volunteer coordinator in promoting and building audiences for African American performing artists.
“My enthusiasm and appreciation of visual and performing arts are expressed as I spread the word and encourage individuals to look at the bigger picture of art and what it means for our culture. Art crosses all boundaries: racial, religious, gender and economics.” In 2010, McCants formed an informal group, Volunteer Divas & Divos Plus—Volunteers for Arts & Culture and Community to keep building momentum of the revived spirit of volunteerism.
The Board of Directors Award will be presented to longtime entertainment editor and New York Beacon journalist Don Thomas, who stated, “I am so appreciative for this award. My thanks to Jacqueline Jeffries. I am so happy to see the vision of Vivian Robinson is still going strong.” The award will also be presented to New York State Assemblywoman Inez Dickens (70th District), President of Walk Tall Girl Productions Marcia Pendleton and renowned radio host Jeanne Parnell. “Well, it’s about time,” laughed the popular radio personality. “No, seriously, Vivian Robinson, who was on my radio show many times, had a wonderful idea [in] starting this entire event reflecting the importance of Black theater [and] acknowledging those off and on the stage.”
On this 50th anniversary all praises and love go to Vivian Robinson, who founded AUDELCO in 1973 out of her great love for Black theater. She formed the nonprofit organization, which is an acronym for Audience Development Committee, while she was still working at the Amsterdam News in the marketing department. More importantly, her soul purpose was to generate more recognition, understanding and awareness in the Black communities and to promote better public relations and develop a strong audience for non-profit Black theater and dance companies, as A. Peter Bailey noted in an article he wrote on Robinson in the early 1980s. One of the co-founders was Robinson’s best friend Mary B. Davis. Together they were like Thelonious Monk and Charlie Rouse; they made great music together that has withstood the test of time. Together those two persevering women probably saw more Black plays than anyone in history. During those times the non-profit Black theater circuit included The National Black Theater, Negro Ensemble Company, Roger Furman Theater, Voza Rivers New Heritage Theater Group, Billie Holiday Theater, Black Spectrum, Crossroads Theater in New Jersey, Woodie King Jr. New Federal Theater at the Henry Street Settlement and others. Robinson played a major role in bringing these theaters together to form a family.
The AUDELCO Recognition awards were created because Robinson felt the great actors and actresses who were performing in all those wonderful (her favorite word) non-profit Black plays should be awarded just like the actors on Broadway.
Hey Rim Jeon, born in Seoul, Korea, has a most prestigious reputation as a jazz educator, recognized as the first Korean professor at the Berklee College of Music. Since 2010, she has been active as an assistant professor in the Piano Department of the Berklee College of Music. Since 2018, she has utilized her expertise as an associate professor in the Piano Department of the Berklee College of Music.
As an educator she has the techniques down and the theory definitely in place, but can she play? Her latest album “Groovitude” contains nine tracks that will perk jazzhead ears; she offers inventive reconstructed versions of traveled standards, memorable originals, the Korean folk song “Spring in Hometown” and the Korean pop song “100 Years of Promise.” She takes Louis Armstrong’s popular hit “It’s a Wonderful World” and turns it into a cornbread blues number that swings in every direction. For her interpretation of “100 Years of Promise” she plays whispering cascades of dancing melodies. Jeon’s rendition of the Beatles’ 1965 hit “Michelle” remains a heartfelt ballad under her touch with bellowing basslines by bassist John Lockwood. Her original tune “Daughter’s Dance” is one of the few up-tempo tracks, totally straight-ahead smooth but swinging piano riffs with warm bouncy tones with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Teri Lyne Carrington stretching out. The pianist is supported by three-time Grammy award winner and fellow Berklee College colleague drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and John Lockwood on bass (Tracks 1-6) and drummer Yoron Israel and bassist Greg Holt (Tracks 7-8).
Jeon tickles the keys similar to her piano hero Oscar Peterson, whose album “We Get Requests” (RCA, 1964) permanently changed her musical direction from classical to jazz at the age of 17; she has traces of Ahmad Jamal. “Because I had a classical background, when I listened to him and was told that he improvised, that certainly caught my attention. I was mesmerized by his playing and the idea that one could make up music rather than just playing what was written down.”
“I am making my personal experience a universal one. Each song in this album has a special meaning to me, and I hope it will touch your heart. I recorded this album while my father was battling with cancer,” said Jeon. “He wanted to listen to nice and soothing music while he was fighting for his life. but after two and a half years of pandemic, I can’t think of any better time to release this album. My father wasn’t able to listen to it, but I am happy to share it with you in the spirit of love and hope.”
The album is available on all social media platforms: Apple music, iTunes, Spotify and visit her website at heyrimjeon.com.