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Athens Hip Hop Harmonic: Building a Bridge Between UGA and Local Music

Alan Flurry

A vital collaboration between town and gown, Athens Hip Hop Harmonic has created a pipeline for cultural connections strengthening UGA ties to the community through musical innovation and collaborative artistry. 

The collaboration gets the star treatment this week as the cover story for Flagpole:

As each community artist participating in the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic crossed the stage of Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall and looked out across the 1,100 soon-to-be-filled seats, there was a universal “wow” uttered. Coming together with their UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music pairings and directors of the program, Connie Frigo and Montu Miller, for the Flagpole cover shoot was the first time these local artists had ever stepped foot in the concert hall.

The Athens Hip Hop Harmonic (AHHH) is a multi-year collaboration between the local hip-hop community and the UGA Hodgson School of Music that was launched in August 2021 and is supported by the UGA Arts Lab, the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, Ideas for Creative Exploration and the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music. On Thursday, Oct. 20, UGA’s African American Choral Ensemble, Jazz Combo, Wind Symphony and Contemporary Chamber Ensemble will perform premieres of music co-created by Cassie Chantel and Julien Berger; Ishues Cuthbertson and James Weidman; Convict Julie (Camilla Sims) and Tom Hiel; and Celest Ngeve and Ayako Pederson-Takeda.

Although this month’s performance is not the first, it does come one year after AHHH’s formal introduction to the public through a workshop at Creature Comforts in October 2021, featuring music created by Caulfield (Curtison Jones) with Emily Koh and Kxng Blanco (Jeffery Blakely) with Peter Lane. However, this month also marks three years since directors Frigo and Miller first met and sat down at Hendershot’s to discuss what AHHH could be.

Frigo and a colleague at the school of music, who has since taken another position, first started with the question of what is the concert band not doing that it should be, which they answered with naturally integrating into the larger Athens music scene. After pitching the idea of pairing local hip-hop artists with UGA composers to the Willson Center, Frigo reached out to Mariah Parker who connected the dots to Miller, and has since participated in AHHH. Everything began to fall into place rather quickly, and in February 2020 a larger group of hip-hop community members met with members of the school of music at The Globe. Then almost immediately, the pandemic shut it down until the summer of 2021.

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Image: Oct. 12 Flagpole cover photo by Suzannah Evans

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