Musical Ensemble Strikes the Right Chords at Passing the Mic.

by: MSC Communications Intern, Hiwot Adilow

In October I had the incredible honor of performing in the Passing the Mic Festival with Taylor Scott, a Junior here at UW and First Wave Scholar. This year’s festival included tributes to First Waver John Vietnam Nguyen, Gil Scott-Heron, and Professor Richard Davis. Taylor is also the lead organizer for a musical ensemble that will be performing  during April’s Linebreaks Festival. I asked her a bit about how the idea came about and her hopes for the ensemble.

Taylor Scott and Nathan France performing a tribute piece to John Vietnam Nguyen

Taylor Scott and Nathan France performing a tribute piece to John Vietnam Nguyen

Hiwot Adilow: What encouraged you to move towards forming this ensemble?

Taylor Scott: A group of First Wavers went to the UK in the summer of 2012. and had the opportunity of performing in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. Although I am from Baton Rouge, it was the first time I felt truly submerged in jazz culture. It was also the first time I had been accompanied by a live band and the feeling was unforgettable. I shared that stage with John Vietnam, my cohort brother, who passed away in the beginning of my sophomore year.


Performers listen to Prof. Davis speak from the audience. Photographed are UW students, poet Dasha Kelly, Gia Scott-Heron, and students from Chicago’s Kuumba Lynx.

Passing the Mic (PTM), an annual event hosted by the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI), was dedicated to John that year. A group of women singers and emcees got together and created this tribute with Madison’s New Breed band. This performance was the buzz of the semester and I couldn’t see the momentum die. I wrote a proposal for the 2014 Line Breaks Festival and in that proposal, I expressed my interest in starting a music ensemble.


Left to Right: Robert Schovile, Ben Ferris, Paul Hastil

HA: What role did this year’s PTM play in relation to music (particularly jazz) on campus?

TS: High school students and established artists from across the country come to participate in PTM festivities. This year, PTM’s main event featured a music ensemble that merged jazz and hip hop; the ensemble included UW students, Paul Hastil on piano, and Robert Schoville on drums. The merging of these genres also merged generations together. The audience included students and of the University, Kuumba Lynx, members of Madison’s Urban League, and members of the Madison Jazz Consortium.

HA: This year, PTM included a number of tributes and among those honored was Professor Richard Davis. How did the tribute to Prof. Davis shape ideas for the musical ensemble?

TS: The Madison jazz scene needs more diversity. In the tribute to Professor Davis, we brought both the intergenerational and multicultural aspects of jazz to this community. Professor Davis has so much wisdom to impart on any aspiring artist and we hope to build stronger connections with him and others alike.

Photographs courtesy of UMOJA Magazine. The ensemble will be performing at the Line Breaks Festival in April 2014. For more info on the project, contact Taylor directly:

Taylor Scott
Programming Support Specialist
Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives
UW Madison Undergraduate
First Wave Scholar 
The JVN Project

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