Lydia Bangura participates in artist residency in Florida with Dr. Philip Ewell

August 26, 2022
Lydia Bangura

This summer, I had the honor of spending three weeks in New Smyrna Beach, Florida for an artist residency through the Atlantic Center for the Arts. When I applied for this residency, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I wanted to work with mentor artist, music theorist, and cellist Dr. Philip Ewell, who is an incredibly influential scholar in the field of music theory for his work on the intersection of music theory and race. I had never participated in an artist residency before and had always associated these programs of intensive study with the performing and visual arts exclusively. I was looking forward to seeing what a residency looks like within the context of music research.

I was accepted to work on an analysis project of Florence Price’s solo piano piece Summer Moon. This piece was dedicated to Memry Midgett, another Black pianist who went on to tour with Billie Holliday. Price is a figure who was connected to so many other Black women in music during her time in Chicago. To me, her use of music to foster community strongly signifies Black feminist ideologies; my goal was to examine her piece through a Black feminist lens and explore the medium of classical music as a communicator of Black feminist theory. Black feminist scholars I began to engage with include Alice Walker, Daphne Brooks, Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde. Dr. Ewell was very supportive of my research and full of resources and writing advice along the way.

Five other incredibly talented musicians were accepted, as well as six poets and six painters. It was a lively and expressive bunch, to say the least! I was honored to meet artist Patrick Martinez and writer Eileen Miles, the other two mentor artists. It is so rare for me to be around other types of artists, since I am so regularly surrounded by other musicians. How invaluable it was to watch these other artists work with such interesting and varied modalities. Every day, our shared meal times were my favorite moments. I could listen to any of the other artists talk about their work, backgrounds, and ideas for hours.

Photos below: Click to enlarge


I greatly enjoyed the day to day experience of the residency. There was plenty of free time each day for individual work, opportunities for group work sessions, and one-on-one time with your mentor artist. In addition, I was elated to make use of the state-of-the-art facilities on ACA’s campus. I had such a stimulating time exploring the library, practicing in the music studio, brooding in the writers’ studio, and poking my head into the painters’ studio. I was even able to perform in the theater and make a recording (which is available on my website).

During my time at ACA, I had the privilege of experiencing such a restorative and creative environment. I could not have predicted the friendships I would make, the opportunities for collaboration, or the interdisciplinary approaches to art so boldly on display. I had expected extended time to read, write, and work on my research (which certainly took place and is valuable in and of itself); what I didn’t expect was to learn so much from the poets and visual artists, to draw inspiration from the beautiful campus, and to reconnect my music scholarship to artistry in a way that I didn’t know I needed.