Penn State Laureate Velvet Brown to present ‘MOJATUBA’ Feb. 9 at Harrisburg

MOJATUBA brings solo tuba, dancers, piano, voice and percussion to the stage in celebration of the African diaspora
Velvet Brown with Tuba

Velvet Brown is the 2022-23 Penn State Laureate. 

Credit: Penn State

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Penn State Harrisburg will welcome 2022-23 Penn State Laureate Velvet Brown for MOJATUBA: Tuba and Dance Fusion at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

Co-founded by Brown, MOJATUBA showcases a unique ensemble, which features the artistic and interdisciplinary collaboration between solo tuba, dancers, piano, voice and percussion. The term MOJATUBA, a mixture between the acronym MOJA — which stands for modern dance, original works, jazz styles and African influence — and its distinctive association with the tuba, represents a sample of the stylistic creativity that this ensemble can execute. The diverse ethnic theme of the program, especially its African-influenced music and dance, contributes to the creation of a soulful energy that connects performers and audience, rendering each performance a profound spiritual experience.

Brown is the Penn State Laureate for the 2022-23 academic year, as well as the David P. Stone Chair and associate director for equity, diversity and inclusion in the College of Arts and Architecture’s School of Music.

A tubist who has been teaching at Penn State since 2003, Brown is an international soloist, composer/arranger, chamber ensemble performer, recording artist, conductor and orchestral player. She has performed and taught throughout Europe and the United States, and in Russia, Japan, Cuba and Canada. Brown is currently the principal tubist of the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra and was previously principal tubist for the Hope and Harmony Ensemble, which recorded a video of fanfares for the 2021 presidential inauguration conducted by Marin Alsop.

She is in her 16th year as lead tuba with Howard Johnson's "Gravity" Tuba Jazz Ensemble. Brown is a founding and current member of Stiletto Brass Quintet, Monarch Brass Quintet and Brass Ensemble, and the Quintet of Americas. She also is a founding board member of the International Women’s Brass Conference and artistic director of the Chromatic Brass Collective.

Brown, who has released five solo CDs, has performed and worked closely with jazz, commercial and classical artists regarded as some of the most influential musicians of all time, including Howard Johnson, Marie Speziale, Bob Stewart, Susan Slaughter and Doc Severinsen.

An annual faculty honor established in 2008, the Penn State Laureate is a full-time faculty member in the arts or humanities who is assigned half time for one academic year to bring greater visibility to the arts, humanities and the University, as well as to their own work. In this role, the laureate is a highly visible representative of the University, appearing at events and speaking engagements throughout the commonwealth.

Brown will be joined on stage by:

  • Anthony Leach, professor emeritus of music and music education at Penn State. He taught choral and general music for 14 years in Maryland, New York City, and Pennsylvania prior to joining the School of Music faculty in 1994. At Penn State, Leach taught graduate courses in music education, conducted the choral ensemble Essence of Joy, and served as Penn State Laureate during the 2009-10 academic year. He is the conductor of the Essence of Joy Alumni Singers and Essence 2, a community choir in State College, Pennsylvania. Leach holds membership in the American Choral Directors Association, the International Federation of Choral Musicians, Chorus America, the National Association for Music Education, and Gospel Music Workshop of America. He is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College and Penn State.
  • Aquila Kikora Franklin, associate director for equity, diversity and inclusion for the Penn State School of Music and professor of theatre/dance, teaches West African, hip-hop and Mojah dance. She has performed, choreographed and taught in cities across the globe and the United States. Franklin also has performed and choreographed for the Atlanta Hawks dance team. At Penn State, her creative work and research focuses on developing the Mojah dance technique, an original style that fuses modern, jazz, West African and hip-hop movement into one form. Franklin shares her passion for dance and culture with young students as the artistic director of Roots of Life, a performing arts ensemble based out of the State College Area School District. Franklin is a graduate of Howard University and Georgia State University.