Using as its libretto poet Ross Gay’s book-length poem Be Holding—inspired by “Dr. J” Julius Erving’s famous lay-up for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980 NBA Finals—a musical performance will explore themes of Black genius and beauty in the face of racial violence and inequities. The creative process for the piece will engage the students at Girard College, a tuition-free boarding school for academically capable first-through-twelfth-grade students from families with limited financial resources. The school will host Gay, composer Tyshawn Sorey, director Brooke O’Harra, and musical ensemble Yarn/Wire in a multi-year residency to develop the multidisciplinary performance. The artists will work in close collaboration with the school, which will incorporate the development of the new work into its curriculum. Students of all ages will participate as improvisers, documentarians, writers, and performers.
The total grant amount represents project funding plus an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support.