“The main focus of this class is keeping the aural tradition of the African American Spirituals alive, and also teaching a great bit of history,” Swallow Hill Instructor LaDamion Massey says when discussing his class African American Spirituals.
“You will probably get as much history as you will singing. I feel that’s just as important as the singing. It speaks to the heart and soul of the music, the heart and soul of the slaves.”
LaDamion grew up with African American Spirituals, “but I didn’t understand them growing up,” he adds. “I knew what they were, I just didn’t really get them until I was much older and understood what they were saying.”
“First of all people need to understand that Spirituals are the music of the slaves. A lot of times people get Gospel and the Spirituals mixed up.” While the musical traditions are similar and there is even some crossover, he says
“Spirituals are more about the music of the slaves – their struggles and everything they went through. That’s important because I think the people who take the class feel that. When you feel that, then that goes into the music that you sing, which, when everyone talks about singing with soul, comes from. That conviction.”
LaDamion is currently the associate director of The Bennie L Williams Spirituals Voices, an ensemble that specialize in maintaining the strong tradition of the Negro Spiritual, and the music director at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church. He received a Bachelors in Music Education from Metropolitan State University in 2011.
As a performer, LaDamion can be seen performing with Groove N’ Motion and Great Family Reunion. He is a former member of an acapella jazz sextet Groove Society as well as the Colorado’s most established acapella ensemble, The 17th Ave All-Stars. He has shared the stage with popular funk acts such as The Motet, Parliament Funkadelic’s co-founder Bernie Worrell, Grammy winner Otiel Burbridge and Ian Nevell. As an educator, LaDamion has been affiliate faculty at Regis University, and Metro State University.
In addition to African American Spirituals, LaDamion is excited to offer a variety of piano classes for kids, beginning singing for adults this session.