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Waverly Alston On New Songs - Open Road

Waverly Alston 1

In celebration of poet Walt Whitman's 200th birthday, artist/curator and director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson presents New Songs Of The Open Road: a special project consisting of a series of four “singing” walks which take place in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia. As Whitman was an avid walker/hiker, Jackson and his team will facilitate four audience participation events that consist of singing walkers. These walks will take place in different locations and communities in Philadelphia including North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, Center City and Germantown. These walks are simultaneously influenced by Whitman's poem,"Songs of the Open Road" and inspired by civil rights movement freedom songs. Featuring choir members and additional vocalists, these walks encourage the public to join in walking and singing songs of affirmation.


Walt Whitman 1

Whitman at 200

Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday on Friday, May 31st, 2019 provides an important opportunity to reassess his estimable contributions to American life at a time when our country is so polarized. Organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center with major support from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, this region-wide series of cultural events consists of four new artistic commissions plus a multitude of innovative exhibitions, performances, and programs initiated in conjunction with partner organizations across the Philadelphia and Camden, NJ region. While events take place all year, there is a focus on the two-week period, between May 24 and June 9, 2019, around Whitman's birthday.  


New Songs Of The Open Road is special project designed by artist/curator and director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson, as part of Whitman At 200 - the celebration of Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday hosted by University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center. Our project consists of a series of four “singing” walks which take place in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia.


Led by choirmaster, Waverly Alston and key songwriter vocalists, Taylor"TobyVEnT" Martin, James Solomon and V. Shayne Frederick, these walks involve choirs of walkers, which include the general public. These events are influenced by Whitman’s poem, “Song of the Open Road,” which contemplates the possibilities of American freedom and are inspired by the civil rights movement protest marchers who tested the realities of freedom by taking them to the streets. These events are FREE of charge and we openly encourage all and any to participate by walking and singing with us.


Waverly Alston 2


PJP spoke with choirmaster,  vocalist, songwriter and bandleader, Waverly Alston about Walt Whitman and The New Songs For The Open Road Project.


PJP: Can you briefly describe your musical background?


Waverly Alston: Music began from me as a child just singing to the radio with my sister. Thatlove somehow made its way into me doing Hip Hop and then finding I love for jazz and choral music when I studied at Cheyney University.


PJP: Who is Walt Whitman and why is he still important now?


Waverly Alston: I was always taught that if you want to capture the essence of a thing, go to its root. Although Walt Whitman and I did not share a lot of the same ideologies, or philosophies, I do align myself with his sense of artistic expression. I believe that he was one of the forerunners in leading the freedom of artistic expression. From my perspective, artistic expression leads one to have comfortability in expressing his or her core values; which is the compass for our lives.


Waverly Alston 3PJP: What was your approach to creating for this project?


Waverly Alston: I'm kind of old school in a way. I pulled from different musical influences, such as Fisk Jubilee Singers, Edwin Hawkins, etc.  I also put myself into the mindset of the March On Washington, which was a milestone when we think of public engagement and public performance. The kind of thing that is at the heart of what we're trying to do with New Songs Of The Open Road.


PJP: Who is working with you on this project?


Waverly Alston: Singer/songwriter, James Solomon, singer/songwriterand bandleader, Toby Martin, Philadelphia Jazz Project director and the creator of this project, Homer Jackson and an array of singers from my networks and other musical networks within the Tri-state area.


PJP: When participating in this project, what advice would you give the audience to assist with greater understanding and enjoyment?


Waverly Alston: Come prepared to have a great time of singing, fun, and most of all, unity in purpose and expression. Come prepared to be moved and to help others to be moved. The ideas here in these NEW songs inspired by Walt Whitman's poetry are very rich.


New Songs Open Road


New Songs Of The Open Road - Schedule Of Events:


    1.    Saturday, May 18th - 3pm / Fairmount Park - North Philly

    Location: Mander Recreation Center & Around East Park Reservoir
    Start: Mander Recreation Center - 140 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121
    Destination: Mander Recreation Center - 140 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121    


    2.    Saturday, June 8th - 3pm / Germantown

    Location: Joseph E. Coleman Library to Cliveden
    Start: Joseph E. Coleman Library -  68 W Chelten Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144
    Destination: Cliveden - 6401 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144    


   3.    Saturday, June 22nd - 4pm / South Philly

    Location: Marconi Plaza To Whitman Plaza
    Start: Marconi Plaza -  2800 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
    Destination: Whitman Plaza - 330 W Oregon Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148


    4.    Saturday, July 6th - 4pm / The Parkway

    Location: Parkway Central Library To Boat House Row
    Start: Parkway Central Library -  1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
    Destination: Boat House Row - 1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130


*Be prepared for a vigorous walk in warm to hot weather during the middle of the day. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring a hat to cover your head and if necessary, bring sunglasses as well. Be sure to drink water and we will have additional water on site.


For More Information: Whitman At 200


Waverly Alston Waverly Alston, Jr. is a singer, songwriter, composer, band leader and choirmaster who has given his life to engaging in music ministry for over 20 years. In 1999, he formed “Waverly Alston In The Company of Friends” (WAITCF) to establish a touring vocal ensemble with a message. WAITCF has performed at The Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Berks Jazz Festival, West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, Clear Channel Broadcasting, and numerous churches and venues along the east coast. In addition to working with his ensemble, Waverly Alston has dedicated himself to providing workshops for male engagement and gospel music, redirecting urban males to find alternatives to negative paths through self-awareness and healing. Alston serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Valley Forge and is currently working on projects for the Kimmel Center and the Philadelphia Jazz Project. He is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Pastoral Counseling.





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Major support for Whitman At 200 artistic commissions has been provided to University of Pennsylvania Libraries by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.

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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.