By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – “The thing is: Dr. King accomplished things for the United States of America which no one thought could be acomplished; now, I believe the world needs to learn most of the lessons King taught us.”
These moving words were, spoken by a familiar voice, local folk singer and activist, Pete Seeger, filling the Poughkeepsie Public Library’s Mid-Hudson Library System’s Auditorium Saturday afternoon. A large crowd intently listened in to Seeger’s soft, melodic voice, as excerpts from the Grammy-nominated audio book, The Storm King, were unraveled.
Meanwhile, an asortment of historic, potent images appeared on a large screen. And, yet another thing was happening: nationally acclaimed multicultural percussionist, Jeff Haynes, was intensely performing his craft, passion, rapping away on an ensemble of unique drums (one came all the way from Sweden) as he swayed his head and body, getting lost in the music and messages. When not seen performing his musical craft, Haynes was smiling and joking as he interacted with the audience, continually inspiring them to feel and experience the emotionally-charged music, capturing riveting times in our country’s history.
For the second year in a row, Haynes brought his musical genius to the Poughkeepsie Library locale, paying tribute to two of his heroes, Seeger and King. Titled “Listen to the Ryhthms of Black History,” the hour-long journey took guests on a rhythmical ride through history, paying tribute to the people and events that helped shape the past, present and future lives of African-Americans. As Seeger delivered his intimate narratives, containing tales of personal encounters with Dr. King, Rosa Parks and other pivotal Civil Rights pioneers, Haynes was not only feeling the music and being transported to that time period, he was also absorbing a genuine sense of family from those who surrounded him on the stage.
“What I enjoyed most about today is everyone I was performing with is family; one of them I have known for over 30 years and is my son’s God-mother,” said Haynes, who resides in the City of Beacon, where he, along with Seeger, recorded The Storm King hit at his music studio. “I just feel very, very connected to the people I’m here with today, and the fact that I’m celebrating two of my heroes makes it even better, as it felt like Seeger was right here in this room today.”
Some of those people/family, joining in with Haynes included; guest performer, guitar/bassist, Sean Harkness, long-time friend and writer Karen Taylor who recited several poems and sang, as well as two accompanying drummers: Angel Lau and Adolfo Gomez. Haynes not only takes his musical talents to the performing stage, but he carries them over to the teaching realm. Frequently spotted at several of the Newburgh Schools, he holds a weekly after-school drum workshop at Newburgh Free Academy. Gomez, has been attending those sessions for the past three years. The experience has been priceless for the young, budding percussionist who also plays in NFA’s Wind Ensemble.
“Jeff has influenced me so much, not only to pursue percussion but to also come out of my shell, something he calls “Showcase with family,” said NFA senior Gomez following Saturday’s performance. “He asked me to come along and play today, and I quickly said yes; it’s always an honor to play with Jeff because he is such a talented musician.”
Alumni student, Lau, who has been jamming with Haynes for the last eight years, shared similar sentiments about his mentor.
“Today was very, very special and moving,” reflected Lau. “Jeff is just so amazing, and I really believe the reason there were so many people here today was because of him and who he is.”
Able to “resurrect” two humanitarian legends through this second-year venue that further acknowledges Black History Month beginning today,
Haynes hoped to empower young people as well as provide an appreciation and awareness for all they have contributed to music and the world. By the looks of the turnout and the mesmerized looks on people’s faces, along with ensuing smiling and clapping after each number, he did just that….and more.
The Poughkeepsie Public Library strives to stage an assortment of cultural and science activities for children as well as adults. To learn more, log on to: poklib.org.