Over its 18-year history, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) Lively Arts Series has engaged local and national artists to share their work with the college and surrounding Blue Bell community. In recent years, MCCC has explored the influence of African culture on new world music, with Center-supported projects such as Africa, the Call and Response and Then and Now: Jazz Cubano. The latter is a fall 2013 series of concerts and programs focusing on the Afro-Cuban influence in jazz, featuring Poncho Sanchez's Cubano Be Cubano Bop, Ninety Miles, and the Omar Sosa Afri-Lectric Experience. MCCC has emerged, along with Bryn Mawr College, as an important venue for performances that are not otherwise available for Philadelphia audiences.
Montgomery County Community College's (MCCC) Lively Arts Series presented four concerts that featured African popular artists who derive their music from native musical traditions while incorporating a host of western instruments and techniques, reflecting a cross-pollination of influences. Featured artists in the series—Grammy Award-winning singer, dancer, and percussionist Dobet Gnahoré (from Côte d'Ivoire) in her Philadelphia debut; singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo (Benin), dubbed "the queen of African crossover pop" by Afropop Worldwide; singer and guitarist Baaba Maal (Sénégal); and African-American pianist and composer Randy Weston's African Rhythms (inspired by Gnawa music of North Africa)—derive their work from traditional sources, but also reference a wealth of transnational cultural influences. This was the Lively Arts Series' first in-depth exploration of African music and the cultural, social, and political environment that creates it—a programmatic effort to expand audience awareness of Africa beyond a continent in crisis. MCCC hosted a pre-concert lecture by jazz scholar Willard Jenkins, collaborator on Randy Weston's 2010 autobiography.