About Afro Blue
Afro Blue, was founded in the spring of 2002 by Connaitre Miller, Jazz Voice Coordinator at Howard University. Singing music similar to the styles of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, The Manhattan Transfer, and Take 6, while adding their own unique sound, this dynamic “vocal big band” has performed to wide critical acclaim. Afro Blue has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered ; reached the top four on The Sing-Off, NBC-TV’s a cappella group competition; and joined the legendary Bobby McFerrin in selections from his Grammy - nominated VOCAbuLarieS album during the 2011 D.C. Jazz Festival in what the City Paper penned “the finest concert in D.C. Jazz Festival history.” In December 2013, Afro Blue appeared at a Christmas party given for employees at The White House and was honored to perform for President and Mrs. Obama. Following that performance, the group was honored to record an hour long Christmas special for NPR, titled An Afro Blue Christmas, hosted by Michele Norris, which aired nationally during the 2014 & 2015 holiday seasons. Afro Blue has established a continuing relationship with The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts having opened for The Manhattan Transfer and Jon Hendricks; performed with The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Pops under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch; and shared the stage with former Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz, Dr. Billy Taylor. In May 2015, Afro Blue performed with the current Artistic Director, Jason Moran, in the “Harlem Nights/U Street Lights” concert series, which celebrated the jazz connection between Harlem, NY and Washington, DC. The concert was performed at both the historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NY and the Kennedy Center. The past June, an Afro Blue alumni ensemble was featured in the all-star concert “A Night at the Kennedy Center: The DC JazzFest Salutes Howard University Jazz!!!”
Highlights of Afro Blue’s history have been their collaborations with world-class jazz pianist and Howard university alumna, Geri Allen, who is the current Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. The ensemble has been honored to have joined Ms. Allen in the premier of her commissioned suite For the Healing of the Nations: A Sacred Jazz Suite for the Victims and Survivors of 9/11; for a performance of Mary Lou’s Mass for the 15th anniversary of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at The Kennedy Center; at the “Celebrate Brooklyn!” concert series in Prospect Park, NY; Celebrating the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo, at the Apollo Theatre, and for the world premier of her composition Stone and Streams, which was commissioned by The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, for which Afro Blue received a proclamation from the New Jersey State Government. In 2014, Afro Blue joined Ms. Allen at the 44th Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert at the University of Pittsburgh.
Since its existence, Afro Blue has received numerous Student Music Awards (SMA) by the premier international publication of jazz and contemporary music, DownBeat Magazine, and members of the ensemble have been recognized for their stellar solo work. Afro Blue director, Connaitre Miller, was awarded by DownBeat, the prestigious “Jazz Education Achievement Award” and Jazz Times Magazine traced the history of Afro Blue in the feature article “How Afro Blue Happened.” Locally, In 2011 Afro Blue was named Jazz Artist of the Year by the Washington City Paper and also received the Spotlight Award from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) for bringing national attention to the Washington, D.C. music scene. Afro Blue has been voted Best A Cappella Group for the past five years by WAMA. Their CD The Best Is Yet To Come was named Best Choral Album, as well as, Album of the Year for 2013, and their CD’s Jubilee and An Afro Blue Christmas were named Best A Cappella recording for 2014 and 2015 respectively. Afro Blue has released two additional CD’s: Freedom in Song (2008) and It’s a Matter of Pride (2010). Afro Blue was also featured on the John Blake Jr. recording of jazz spirituals titled Motherless Child (2010). All recordings are available on CDbaby.com.
The ensemble evolves as student members graduate from Howard University and new members are auditioned and trained. The current Afro Blue roster consists of vocalists Myesha Henderson, Irene Jalenti, Ayodele Owolabi, Peter Roberts, Devin Robinson, Matthew Robinson, Jillian Willis, and Marissa Zechinato.