President Ronald A. Crutcher was recently asked to provide music, virtually, as part of the 55th Grand Boulé, a biennial gathering of the oldest Black fraternal organization for professionals in the United States, Sigma Pi Phi.

Crutcher was joined on piano by Joanne Lan-Funn Kong, UR’s director of accompaniment, coordinator of chamber ensembles. They performed three pieces as a prelude for the event’s memorial service, a remembrance of members who have passed away since the previous gathering.  The renowned minister, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, was the speaker following the memorial service.

President Crutcher revisited a favorite piece, “Largo from Sonata in G Minor,” by Henry Eccles, which he learned when he was just 15 under the tutelage of his mentor, Elizabeth Potteiger, at Miami University in Ohio.

“The first piece that I studied with her was this sonata,” Crutcher said. “She was incredibly important to me in my life, and so there is an emotional attachment to that piece.”

In April, Crutcher performed the sonata for the University community in a Facebook Live event. He recalled that he last played it 50 years ago at Yale, as part of his application for a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Germany. 

“Music, and to a more general extent art in general, helps me to transcend the vicissitudes of life and all the craziness is going on,” Crutcher said. “When I'm focused on the music, I’m not aware of anything else, I'm totally focused on that. And it's soothing. It's reassuring.”

This year’s Grand Boulé would have been held in the Bahamas if not for the pandemic, and Crutcher said he hopes the event will be able to meet there next year. “I'm honored to have been asked to perform,” Crutcher said. “And the only disappointment is that I wish it could have been live.”

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