Musicians Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Through Song At Kimmel Center

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — On this Martin Luther King Day, talented musicians are honoring Dr. King through song. Over 53 years ago, Dr. King made a speech here in Philadelphia. Like all of his words, they have stood the test of time.

As this season’s Jazz Residency Program at the Kimmel Center kicked off Monday night, a local artist paid tribute.

“Jazz speaks for life. This is triumphant music.”

Those are the words of Dr. King and they were paired with the sounds of Richard Hill Jr. and his band Monday night.

Hill is one of three jazz residency artists for the Kimmel Center’s 2019-2020 season. The Center’s Innovation Lab hosted the kick-off.

“Today is the holiday where we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [Hill] has set a piece, a speech by Dr. King, to music,” said Jay Wall, producing artistic director at the Kimmel Center.

Hill has called his work “The Dance With Diversity.”

And leading up to this holiday, he drew inspiration.

“I wanted to write a piece that was Philadelphia,” Hill said. “[King] talked about the blueprint and a blueprint of your life when he was at Bartlett Junior High School here in Philadelphia.”

In 1967, King asked Philadelphia students the question: “What is your life’s blueprint? This is the most important and crucial period of your lives.”

The words of Dr. King’s Philadelphia blueprint speech were read aloud and set to rhythm, showcasing how a blueprint can become an imprint.

“For what you do now and what you decide now at this age, may well determine which way your life shall go,” King said in the speech.

The Jazz Residency Program continues over the next couple of months and includes both student and public workshops.