about the program

pieces of mind was conceived from my processing of multiple levels of trauma – generational,

childhood, and ongoing. this is my response to the murder and abuse of Black people by

police/medical/economic institutions, the destruction of our planet, and the COVID-19 crisis. i

am thankful for the Black artists, writers, musicians… Black people…. who have helped keep my

joy alive.

the program is divided into four episodes, each representing a certain state of mind,

and each beginning with a short improvisation. they are purposefully left untitled.

It is my hope that after watching this recital, we can all engage deeper with the many

pieces that  contribute to our humanity. In doing so, we might even find

peace of mind.


Black National Anthem (1905) - J. Rosamond Johnson (1873) arr. Steph Davis

episode 1 (introduction)

    Through the Looking Glass (2017) - Steven Snowden (1981)

    Brian Stuligross, violin

    Year Without a Summer (2017) - Kirsten Volness (1980)

   Evan Kopca, bass clarinet

episode 2

    Motherless Child (Traditional)- arr. Harry Burleigh(1866), adapt. Steph Davis

    Amy Onyoni, soprano


    Mother’s Sacrifice (1908) - L. Viola Kinney (1890) arr. Steph Davis


episode 3


    I go to prepare a place for you. - H.T. (2020-21) - Steph Davis (1999)


episode 4 (conclusion)


    Lyric for Strings (1946) - George Walker (1922-2018) arr. Steph Davis

    Patrick McCaffrey, marimba

program notes

Through the Looking Glass by Steven Snowden

Commissioned by Marimolin, Snowden and the performers aimed to portray the feeling of being

completely overwhelmed with information to the degree that you don’t really know what’s

happening or what’s true and what isn’t.

Year Without Summer by Kirsten Volness

On April 10, 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, sending a plume of ash into the

atmosphere that created a climate disaster the following year: temperatures fluctuated wildly,

snow fell as far south as Virginia through August, and frost killed crops planting after planting

in New England and Europe, leading to the most recent widespread food shortage experienced

in the Western hemisphere. As climate change and conflict continue to cause hunger, will we

tap our toes in the little cantina at the end of the world?

- Kirsten Volness

Motherless Child Negro Spiritual

"Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" (or simply "Motherless Child") is a traditional Negro

spiritual. The song dates back to the era of slavery in the United States when it was common

practice to sell children of enslaved people away from their parents. An early performance of

the song dates back to the 1870s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.


Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile,

Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile,

Sometimes i feel like a motherless chile,

A long ways from home.

Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone,

Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone,

Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone,

A long ways from home.

Mother’s Sacrifice by L. Viola Kinney

Mother's Sacrifice is Ms. Kinney's only surviving work. She registered the copyrights for at least

two other compositions: Show Me (1941) and Time Out for Love (1943). Kinney submitted this

salon-style piano solo for the Inter-State Literary Society Original Music Contest in 1908. It

won second place

- Anthony R. Green.

I go to prepare a place for you -H.T. by Steph Davis

Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist and activist. She helped to lead an

estimated 70 enslaved people to freedom. The title comes from her last words, “I go to prepare a

place for you.” The piece strives to imagine Harriet’s and her crew’s landscape as they escaped

to freedom.

Lyric for Strings by George Walker

Pianist and composer George Walker (1922–2018) knew his grandmother – his mother’s mother

– very well. She had experienced much during her long life, including losing her first husband

when he was sold; she herself managed to escape slavery. About a year after she died, the

24-year-old Walker composed his first string quartet. When he was given the chance to hear

its poetic slow movement performed by a string orchestra, he added the title Lament and

dedicated it as an elegy “To my grandmother.” Later titled Lyric for Strings, the six-minute

work – he continued to call it “my grandmother’s piece” – became his best-known and

most-performed work in a long and remarkable career.

- LA Phil