Renowned US jazz singer ‘excited’ to take up Javett music residency

Prof  Lenora Helm Hammonds

Helm Hammonds, a professor of jazz studies at North Carolina Central University in the United States and a Fulbright senior music specialist, has been praised by the late musician and educator Dr Billy Taylor as a “highly imaginative, adventurous musician” and by pianist Stanley Cowell as “a singer with all the right stuff … with an expansive vision”.

She has released six solo albums, and has amassed a wealth of professional and academic accolades – including a stint as the United States State Department’s jazz ambassador to South-Eastern Africa and as president of the International Women in Jazz organisation.

Now, in August and September, students in the University’s Jazz Studies programme will be enriched by this consummate artist’s technical prowess and breadth of expression as she embarks on a series of jazz concerts, workshops, symposia and masterclasses. She will also lecture on subjects such as improvisation, directing ensembles, composition and arranging, while mentoring UP’s jazz students individually.

“It’s all very exciting (and humbling),” Helm Hammonds wrote on her Facebook page after arriving in South Africa to take up her residency, which forms part of the inaugural Javett Music Awards. “UP has such a beautiful campus and is a historic university.”

The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria is due to open its doors at the University's campus in Hatfield in 2019.

UP Department of Music head Alexander Johnson believes that Helm Hammonds will add tremendous value to an already exceptional department, and says he looks forward to her “unleashing her special brand of magic here”.

“Lenora is a musician of rare talent and quality,” Johnson says. “Her academic reputation and standing are exceptional, and her contribution to jazz has been, and continues to be, profound, insightful and deeply enriching.”

Courtesy of the University’s first Javett Jazz Artist-in-Residence, students can look forward to a month of enlightening educational experiences infused with Helm Hammonds’s trademark down-to-earth approach to building bridges through music.