Penn State’s 25th Annual African American Music Festival

Story posted February 8, 2022 in CommRadio, News by Kileigh Kane

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During the week of February 1-5, Penn State is hosting its 25th annual African American Music Festival, which will host events and bring in guest artists to celebrate the beginning of Black History Month.

The event is coordinated by Anthony Leach, a professor of music on campus whose 1995 choir performance for class gradually turned into the festival we know today.

The African American Music Festival began many years ago, when Anthony Leach, who was a volunteer choral ensemble at the time, wanted to perform sacred and secular choral music from the African American choral traditions in the Penn State University School of Music.

Once appointed as a professor in 1994, the choir he’d created, known as Essence of Joy, turned into Music 93. He knew that with his new class he wanted to perform something in celebration of Black History Month in February 1995.

The inaugural event was called ‘A Celebration of African American Spirituals Concert’ and it featured Essence of Joy, as well as many guest artists. In 2009, the festival was renamed to its current title ‘The African American Music Festival at Penn State.’

Meghan Nardella, a social media coordinator for the event this year, talked a little bit about the importance of having festivals like this. “I think it’s incredibly important to have festivals and events on campus that showcase the talents of people of color, especially when taking into consideration that Penn State is a predominantly white institution,” Nardella said.

“Having festivals like this is, I think, the first step towards equity. You need to be able to uplift the underrepresented groups in order for them to eventually be equal. But for now, the best equitable way to do that is by having festivals to educate people.”

Kileigh Kane is a third-year majoring in telecommunications. To contact her, email