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Snead State Presents Black History Month Concert

Snead State Community College is proud to present the first Black History Month Concert this Friday, February 16, at the Boaz campus.

As part of this special event, hosted by the Music Department, Snead State welcomes guest artists, Dr. Iris Fordjour-Hankins and Sarah Ruff. The guests will be accompanied by Snead State’s own Piano Instructor Dr. Monica Baker. Performances will also include the Concert Choir and College Street Singers.

The performances will begin at 7 p.m. in Fielder Auditorium, located in the Story Administration Building at 220 North Walnut Street in Boaz. Admission is free, and the community is invited to attend.

Dr. Iris Fordjour-Hankins

Dr. Iris Fordjour-Hankins, a 2013 second-place winner in the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition at the University of Kentucky, completed a Doctor of Music Arts degree at the University of Kentucky in voice in 2021. She is an assistant professor at Oakwood University where she teaches individual voice, diction, and opera workshop. She also teaches voice as an adjunct professor at Alabama A&M University and Valley Conservatory. Previously, she taught vocal music for the Detroit Public Schools and believes the 15-year experience has become the bedrock of her skill as a music educator.

As a classically trained soprano soloist, Dr. Fordjour-Hankins has had the privilege to sing in various venues. Notable is her most recent chamber recital (May 2021) including Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), Adolphus Hailstork’s Songs of Love and Justice, based on the sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jake Heggies’ contemporary cycle, Faces of Love. In December 2024, she performed the role of the Mother in Menotti’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, in addition to reprising her role with Oakwood University Church as the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah. Dr. Fordjour-Hankins ’dissertation, Shining a Spotlight on Female African American Composer Evelyn Simpson-Curenton, is part of her continuing effort to educate people about the beauty, elegance, and high level of craftsmanship poured into Simpson-Curenton’s music for classically trained vocalists.

Professor Sarah Ruff

Sarah Ruff was born in Wolverhampton, England. She began her musical studies on piano and violin with the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music and was a member of the Wolverhampton Youth Symphony and Wolverhampton Grammar School Orchestra. After moving to Miami, Fla., in 1994, Professor Ruff continued her musical studies, at Dillard High School. She earned a B.M. in Music Education at the University of Miami in 2003, an M.A in Humanities at Nova Southern University in 2009, and an M.M in Music Education at Boston University in 2016. Noted as a highly successful educator, Professor Ruff was named one of South Florida’s Top Black Educators by Legacy Magazine (2016) as well as Teacher of the Year for the Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts. She was also a regional finalist for the Teacher of the Year award with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Oakwood University, she is the orchestra director and a professor of music theory.

Professor Ruff is also the founder and director of The String Project, a nonprofit organization that provides string programs for students who do not have access. Since its inception in February 2023, over 40 students in Huntsville are receiving string instruction through the String Project. She believes that all people can learn music and is willing to teach anyone possessing the tenacity required to acquire the knowledge, skills and, and artistic sensitivity for performing music.