Nina Kennedy Interviewed for Nashville Public Radio

Nina Kennedy (photo by Kathy Ray)

In anticipation of the Jubilee Day celebrations scheduled for next month, a producer for Nashville Public Radio reached out to Nina Kennedy to ask about a possible interview to be used as part of a project in recognition of "Jubilee Day," Fisk University's Founders' Day, on October 6th. Classical music journalist Colleen Phelps is on a team at WPLN-FM producing a special for the upcoming 150th Jubilee Day, and is currently working on online content that will be released related to the special. During a short text dialogue, Colleen revealed that she had been watching the documentary film Nina had produced on her father titled Matthew Kennedy: One Man's Journey. Matthew Kennedy had directed the Fisk Jubilee Singers - who are considered to be the founders of Fisk University - from 1957 to 1986. 

Though the Free Fisk Colored School (named for Union Army General Clinton B. Fisk) was founded by the American Missionary Association in 1866, it was the concert tour by the Jubilee Singers beginning in 1871 that raised enough money to save the school. The singers, most of whom were formerly enslaved, toured Europe and sang for Queen Victoria who reportedly stated, "They sing so beautifully they must be from the Music City of the United States."

Nina with portrait of The Fisk Jubilee Singers (photo by April Gibson)

By the end of their conversation, Colleen expressed interest in Nina's memoir Practicing for Love, and her upcoming lecture/book signing at Juilliard scheduled for next month. The subject of the lecture is composer, pianist, and soprano Ella Sheppard, who served as matriarch for the original group of Jubilee Singers. Nina had written extensively about Ella Sheppard in her book, and shared details about her life that had been previously ignored by music historians.

Stay tuned for more info as the link to the interview becomes available.

Order Practicing for Love here.


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