Getting an education in music and the arts at Bowie State University just got a little easier, thanks to the legendary musicians who brought the world songs like, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Solid.”
The Bowie State University (BSU) Foundation is hosting a special tribute concert from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on May 17, 2013 to honor the life and legacy of the late Nickolas Ashford and his widow, Valerie Simpson, who made up the award-winning duo, Ashford & Simpson.
“Ms. Simpson will be in attendance for the event and we will introduce new scholarships for students while supporting the Ashford & Simpson Endowed Music Scholarship Fund,” said BSU spokeswoman, LeAmber Howell.
The event will take place in BSU’s new $71 million Fine and Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2012 and features specialized art and recording studios, dance floors, a photography processing lab and an outdoor sculpture workspace.
The 128,000 square-foot center, which school officials said will greatly enhance the education experience for students, includes a 400-seat main theatre, a 200-seat black box theatre and a 200-seat recital hall.
It also includes classrooms, laboratories and office suites.
“What a privilege it is to celebrate Ashford & Simpson for their exceptional accomplishments as internationally renowned songwriters, producers and performers,” said Richard Lucas, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the Bowie State Foundation.
Established by the BSU Foundation, the Ashford & Simpson Endowed Music Scholarship Fund will honor their legacy and their continued commitment to providing a platform for aspiring artists, Lucas said.
BSU plans to award two scholarships each year, Lucas said.
Along with Simpson, Ashford, who died in 2011 at the age of 70, penned such soulful classic songs as “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” “You’re All I Need To Get By,” and “I’m Every Woman.”
Widely regarded as one of the best songwriting teams in music history, the couple wrote for many of music’s legends, including Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles.
Married since 1974, Ashford & Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. In addition to writing countless classics for others, the couple recorded 15 albums together, including four that went gold. Their final album was “Been Found,” a 1996 collaboration with poet Maya Angelo.
Prior to President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, Ashford & Simpson re-recorded their hit song, “Solid as a Rock,” and changed the lyrics to, “Solid as Barack.”
Simpson recently released a new CD, “Dinosaurs are Coming Back Again.”
The BSU tribute will feature jazz and gospel producer Jeff Majors, Baltimore jazz singer Maysa Leak, and jazz and pop singer Jean Carne. An All-Star band, conducted by Clarence Knight of the BSU Department of Fine and Performing Arts, will also perform.
“Whether Valerie Simpson will perform, that’s still up in the air,” Howell said.
However, Simpson will receive an honorary degree before the show. Ashford will also receive an honorary degree, posthumously.
“The goal is to increase enrollment and heighten awareness about the University’s fine and performing arts programs, including music, art, visual communication and digital media arts, music technology, and theatre arts,” Lucas said.
Tickets for the event are $200 for general admission and $275 for VIP access, which includes a pre-concert reception. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.bowiestate.edu or call 301-860-4300.