Dr. Brittney E. Boykin is a native of Alexandria, VA. She began studying piano at 7-years-old with Mrs. Alma Sanford, who taught her through multiple competitions. Dr. Boykin studied piano at Spelman College with Dr. Rachel Chung, and after graduation, attended Westminster Choir College, where she was awarded the R and R Young Composition Prize. Dr. Boykin obtained her PhD in Music Education from Georgia State University, and currently teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Dr. Boykin has written choral music (SATB, SA, TB, and 2-part voicings), art songs, and instrumental works. You can find many of her pieces here, plus one piece on MusicSpoke (Castelloza’s Song– which was commissioned in conjunction with a research presentation at the 2021 National ACDA Conference. The text is by Na Castelloza, a 13th century trobairitz who scholars think was a woman of color. The text and music are both fantastic, and I’ve programmed the unison version for my treble choir in May. Such a good educational piece on so many levels). Dr. Boykin’s “We Sing as One” was commissioned by Spelman for the 133rd Anniversary of it’s founding– for the 2014 Founders Day Convocation. You can read more about “We Sing as One” from Dr. Shelbie Wahl-Fouts’ blog post in December 2020.
At a Midwestern ACDA reading session, one of my students sent me a picture of the cover of “Stardust,” and said “THIS, Dr. Gravelle!” I already had it in a program-next-year pile, and was working on this blog. Stardust is found on Graphite Publishing. It was commissioned by the Pershing Middle School Treble Chorale in Houston (director Marcus J Jauregui) for the 2021 Texas Music Educators Association Convention. The text, which you can find on Graphite Publishing, was written by poet and librettist Brittny Ray Crowell. The commissioner, Marchus J. Jauregui, wrote a succinct preface, saying: “When we sing, we pray twice, and it is my prayer that this piece stirs all who hear it to call for justice for the people of color taken from this world before their time and without concern for their humanity.”
For SSA, piano, and djembe, “Stardust” has many teachable concepts, including rhythmic and unison work. The piece begins in unison, which I’m always drawn to– partly I love the unison-to-parts sound, but primarily I love how honest it keeps the choir ( regarding both rhythm and intonation). After the unison, “Stardust” breaks into a duet call-and-response, then splits into homophonic, triadic movement. The highest note for sopranos is an F5, and no voice sings in extended ranges. “Stardust” is perfect for middle school or older. I hope to program it for my collegiate Treble Choir. “Stardust” would work well on a concert touching on ADEIB, but would also work well on a concert with themes about perseverance, justice, strength, or even a theme of space (“Stardust” is the title, after all. And it’s okay to program a piece with ADEIB themes on a non-ADEIB-themed concert).
Music of Life was premiered at the 2017 Women Composers Festival of Hartford. The music is available in both SAB and SSA, but labeled as Voice 1, Voice 2, and Voice 3, allowing flexibility with who is assigned which part. The text (found below) is by poet, novelist, and newspaper editor George Parsons Lathrop (1851–1898).
Music is in all growing things;
And underneath the silky sings
Of smallest insects there is stirred
A pulse of air that must be heard.
Earth’s silence lives, and throbs, and sings.
If poet from the vibrant strings
Of his poor heart a measure flings,
Laugh not, that he no trumpet blows:
It may be that Heaven hears and knows
His language of low listenings.
“Music of Life” is written in compound meter and includes a rhythmically active piano part. In D minor, the highest note is the picardy third F#5 on the final chord in the top voice. Like “Stardust,” this starts in unison, divides into parts (either 2 or 3 parts, depending on the passage) and finishes in an inverted chord. The piece includes a section of partner melodies (the primary melody, a counter melody, and a descant). There are lots of concepts to draw from this piece, from vocal development to the compound meter to building part independence.
The piano writing makes it evident that Dr. Boykin is a pianist, as the piano part falls into the hands nicely for both “Stardust” and “Music of Life.” Similar to the first piece, “Music of Life” could be sung by middle school students or older. The substantive text chosen by Dr. Boykin makes both of these pieces suitable for a wide age range, depending on the educational aims. Both of these works would be easy to program for a variety of themes.