Once a young undergrad with a focus on dramatic arts, Jazz legend Archie Shepp returned to Goddard College’s Haybarn Theater in January 2014 for a rare concert for Plainfield Vermont. He played as a featured guest of The Ronnie Burrage Trio.
Archie Shepp’s newest release “Let My People Go” (Archieball records) is a collaboration with Jason Moran MacArthur Fellow and artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center. The music is a recasting of traditional spirituals.
Shepp, a 1959 alumnus of Goddard, also received the Goddard Award for Excellence at the show.
The 83 year-old world-renowned saxophone player, composer, pianist, politically committed poet and playwright rarely performs in the United States and typically plays before thousands at venues like the Ford Theater in Los Angeles rather than a 250 person show at a converted barn in rural Vermont. He is a frequent performer at jazz festivals in France, where he has his primary residence.
Shepp’s importance in the jazz canon is indisputable. He was a leader in the ‘60s black jazz avant-garde or free jazz movement, and is a protege of John Coltrane.
In 1965, six years after graduating Goddard with a degree in theater, Shepp released the album “Fire Music” which included the reading of an elegy for Malcom X. Later albums spoke out about civil rights and the Attica Prison riots.
The Goddard Award for Excellence has been awarded three times in the college’s history, and recognizes individuals who exemplify the highest ideals and aspirations of the college, as stated in its mission: “to advance cultures of rigorous inquiry, collaboration and lifelong learning, where individuals take imaginative and responsible action in the world.”
“Since his time studying drama here at Goddard in the late 50s, Shepp has become a
legend on the stage as well as a heroic icon of social equality,” said former Goddard President Barbara Vacarr. “His work, as a founding father of free jazz, his teachings on subjects ranging from Revolutionary Concepts in African-American Music to Black Musician in Theater, and his social activism make him an ideal candidate for this award.”
The concert at the Haybarn Theatre was presented by Goddard College and WGDR/WGDH radio. Archie Shepp took the stage with musicians Tom McClung, Nicolas Letman Burtinovic, and Ronnie Burrage.
Burrage received his Masters in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard in 2015 and is cornerstone of the NYC jazz scene and is a legendary international performer as well. He has toured internationally from Siberia to South Africa to Japan, and can be heard on over 100 jazz albums.
Initially founded in 1863 as the Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont, Goddard College later moved to its current Plainfield campus and was chartered in 1938 by founding President Royce “Tim” Pitkin. In 1963, Goddard became the first U.S. college to offer low-residency adult degree programs. Now offering accredited MA, MFA, BA and BFA degree programs from the main campus in Plainfield, Vermont and sites in Seattle and Port Townsend, Washington, Goddard’s low-residency education model offers the best of on-campus and distance education, with experienced faculty advisors, rigorous on-campus residencies, and the freedom to study from anywhere.