Musical tribute in honor of S. Carver Davenport, March 29
26th March 2014 · 0 Comments
By April Siese
It’s been said you never forget good teachers; the ones that effortlessly waltz between the roles of loving mentor and disciplinarian in a pedagogy of facts and anecdotes that makes them all the more relatable, as if they were once embarking on their academic journey too. To his students, Professor S. Carter Davenport is as much a father figure as a musical genius.
Davenport began his teaching career at Dillard in 1975 and had previously studied at Hampton University under the tutelage of renowned arranger Roland Carter. That experience and subsequent years performing with greats like Moses Hogan, who would frequently visit the teacher, took him all over the world from Sydney, Australia to right here in New Orleans, where he’s continued his legacy in music as the director of University Choir and associate professor of Music. Davenport has taught hundreds of students, helping many realize their dreams within music and beyond.
“Through the years there have been several students that were able to showcase their talent and they were able to grow. If he saw something in you, he worked hard to make sure you refined your gift. A lot of people went on to do great things musically because of the confidence they put into them,” Class of 1993 alumnus Darnell Prejean tells The Louisiana Weekly.
Dillard’s choir alumni are a close-knit network and one that is very vocal in their reverence of Mr. Davenport. Its many members immediately saw an opportunity to honor their beloved teacher as they noticed the important anniversary date drawing nearer. Using social media to rally Davenport’s many former students, alumnus Tim Ray was pivotal in helping to organize a concert in the professor’s honor.
“It’s really an alumni-initiated event. He’s been there since 1975 and a lot of the alumni were looking forward to his 40th year,” Ray explains. “We organized a concert with members from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s and we kind of put it together and made it happen. We have a pretty broad range of support from the alumni. The university has also been really supportive as well as the community.”
Many of his most famous former students will return to their alma mater to honor the professor, including the Grammy-nominated Rev. Cynthia Wilson and opera star Alfred Walker, whose work at the Metropolitan Opera as Star Basso has garnered international acclaim. For many, it’s the first time in years they’ll be singing with their former classmates, much less seeing them.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends. There’s a pretty good group of people coming back from my era. We haven’t had the opportunity to sing with each other since Dillard. Choir has always been a special thing to us and to come back and honor Mr. Davenport is exciting,” Prejean says.
The 40th anniversary celebration starts Saturday, March 29, at 7 p.m. at Lawless Memorial Chapel on Dillard’s campus. Guests are urged to arrive early and doors will be opening at 5:45 p.m. If you are unable to attend the event but would still like to show your support of Mr. Davenport, the best way may be through perpetuating his legacy. A GoFundMe donation website has been set up to finance an endowment for the inaugural S. Carver Davenport Scholarship fund. As Ray and Prejean explain, the scholarship is a fitting way to honor a professor that has so inspired those around him.
“We were trying to find a way to really pay tribute to him. Most of the people in the committee felt that a scholarship was the best way to honor him and maybe give other people a chance to not only attend college but give those people who may want to be musicians or performers an opportunity,” says Ray.
This article originally published in the March 24, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.