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Semenya McCord '71

We Are Knox...

Semenya McCord '71

Jazz Voice Instructor, Carl Sandburg and Knox Colleges

2006 Alumni Achievement Award Winner

Major: Music Education

A nationally respected jazz artist, Semenya McCord '71 is a vocalist, music
educator, and composer. She has developed programs and residencies
featuring spirituals, blues, traditional, and contemporary jazz for
audiences of all ages and directed annual tributes to the life and "dream" of Martin Luther King, Jr., the music of Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, and community events that celebrate cultural diversity through the arts.

McCord, also known to many in the Galesburg community as Vicki Henderson, began her Knox experience as a junior at Galesburg High School, when she came to campus once a week to study voice with Creston Klingman, the late associate professor emeritus of music. "Coming to the campus once a week, participating in student recitals -- these opportunities, as well as Mr. Klingman's encouragement, made continuing my musical education at Knox very attractive. When I did enroll as a music education major, it felt right."

McCord began her career in Galesburg as an educator at Steele School and Galesburg High School. At the high school she founded Soul Power, a club created to teach black history through creative arts. It was during these early years that she began working on a concert concept called "Journey into Jazz" -- a program structured as a historical view of black Americans through their music. She later expanded the theme to include a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King.

After moving to New England in 1975, McCord performed throughout the area, working with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Young Audiences of Massachusetts, Inc., and the New England Foundation for the Arts to develop musical programs featuring spirituals, blues, traditional, and contemporary jazz. McCord was awarded Outstanding Jazz Vocalist by the Boston Music Awards and received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Musical Excellence from the City of Boston. She earned a Commonwealth Award in the Artist category from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities and was inducted into the "Steppin' Out" Jazz Hall of Fame in Boston. McCord is one of four featured soloists on Apartment House 1776 by John Cage. In 1996, her debut CD, Good For Me!, was released on WeJazz Records.

McCord taught music and humanities courses for 12 years at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and instructed private voice students. She returned to Galesburg in 2003 and is currently a jazz voice instructor at Carl Sandburg and Knox Colleges. She was awarded an Alumni Achievement Award in 2006 for her achievements in music.

Read a Q&A with McCord in the Spring 2006 Knox Magazine.

Read the presentation of McCord's 2006 Alumni Achievement Award by Carol Brown, director of alumni programs.