Concert pays tribute to Tallahassee Bus Boycott

Image courtesy: Myah Freeman

The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and the Florida A&M University Concert Choir are joining forces for a debut performance in Lee Hall Auditorium called “Powerful Voices.” The event will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The concert will commemorate the 1956 Tallahassee Bus Boycott with a historical musical commissioned by composer Joel Thompson.

Mark Butler, director of choral activities and studies at FAMU, said this is the first time the choir has performed commissioned work from another composer. He also said that the audience has a great night to look forward to.

“They’ll be the first to perform it ever,” Butler said. “One thing they can expect is history through lyrics … and tells a story of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott and the people who were involved. Musically, they can expect some complex harmonies and melodies. It’s going to be interesting.”

The combination of the choir and orchestra is only one aspect of the concert; the performance will also have three vocal soloists. Two are FAMU students and are representing Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson; the third is an FSU doctoral student, Marques Ruff, who will be portraying the Rev. C.K. Steele. Siana Hayden, a soloist and the alto section leader said she thought it was important to honor the Tallahassee Bus Boycott and how impactful it has been for future generations.

“I believe it’s because it started here at FAMU,” Hayden said. “Being that we are FAMU students, we are representing the school and the fact that we have strong voices here that influence cities, states,or even countries.”

Jordan Booth, one of the soloists in the concert, said she hopes that the audience comes to realize that music about historical events is important.

“Events can be interesting, and it can be beautiful,” Booth said. “I hope that everyone in the audience understands the message and enjoys the way that we portray it as well,” Hayden said this concert will be unlike one she’s ever done before.

“We are telling a story through song,” Hayden said. “Usually, we have worship songs or personal songs that are dedicated to God or a ‘higher being.’ But this time, we are telling a literal story that actually happened on our campus.”

Though this is not the first time TSO and the FAMU Concert Choir have partnered, it is a powerful and special event that will be taking place.

“We’ve performed with TSO before, and we’re excited to have that opportunity again,” Butler said. “People who come to Lee Hall will get to see some of the symphony orchestras, and that hasn’t happened in Lee Hall before, so this will be a great experience for the community.”

Tickets are general admission and are $25 for adults and $10 for students. Individuals may purchase their tickets online at or at the door.