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Eugene Rogers, students discuss social justice through music in new documentary

Jan 21, 2021 | DEI, Faculty, News, Students

“The Sound of Us,” a new documentary produced by Yamaha Entertainment Group, seeks to explore the impacts of music as an artform in today’s chaotic world.

It features Eugene Rogers, professor and director of choral activities at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, who discusses “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” and his decision to premiere the powerful multi-movement choral work by Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson at U-M in 2015—long before audiences rediscovered the song earlier this year in the midst of civil rights reckoning. 

Thompson, along with current SMTD graduate student Julian Goods and U-M alumnus Teddy Gotfredson—both members of the Michigan Men’s Glee Club at the time of the premiere—will also discuss their experiences with the work. Its lyrics are made up of the dying works of seven Black men who were killed by the police.

SMTD will host a virtual watch party where audiences can preview “The Sound of Us” at 6-8 p.m. Jan. 22 as part of the NAMM Believe in Music Week. The event offers the opportunity for audiences to view the film ahead of a release on major streaming platforms yet to be announced. 

“The Sound of Us,” directed by nine-time Emmy award-winning producer Chris Gero, also features interviews with artists like Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, Avery*Sunshine, Eric Whitacre, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Hiromi, Antonio Sanchez, Butch Walker, Will Wells, Patti Smith and others.

“With the challenges of 2020 for the arts and the BIPOC community, I find Chris Gero’s vision to produce a documentary that highlights the resilience and power of the arts to be more needed now than ever,” said Rogers, who also serves as the artistic director of the Washington Chorus. 

I am honored to have this work included in what I believe will be a poignant and beautiful reminder of how the universal language of music, regardless of the style or one’s location, can make an impact. We hope our students, faculty, and alumni alike can join us for this remarkable and limited preview.”

The documentary will include scenes from a previous film about the work by Michigan Media.

The watch party is free and open to all.


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