The West Virginia University Brazilian Ensemble will be featured during the WVU African Music and Dance Ensembles annual concert Sunday (Feb.15) at the WVU Creative Arts Center .

The Black History Month eventwhich begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatrewill also include the WVU African Ensemble under the direction of Michael Vercelli , other members of the WVU percussion program and special guest artists.

This concert will feature musical selections primarily from West Africa and performed on traditional instruments. Special guests include the WVU Percussion Ensemble and a collaborative work with the WVU Brazilian Ensemble. The collaborative selection,”Maracatu,”was taught in part by visiting exchange students from Brazil and represents the African diaspora in the Americas.

“We are also very excited to welcome special guests Evelyn Yaa Bekyore and master drummer and xylophonist Bernard Woma from Ghana,”said Vercelli, the new director of the WVU World Music Center.”Ms. Bekyore is a lead dancer in the award-winning Saakumu Dance Troupe and regularly gives performance and dance workshops in both the United States and Ghana.

“Internationally acclaimed master musician Bernard Woma performs tirelessly, bringing the unique sound of his indigenous xylophone, the gyil, to audiences throughout North America, Europe and Africa,”Vercelli added.

Woma and Bekyore will join the WVU African Music and Dance Ensemble on selections highlighting Ghana’s diverse cultural fabric.

The WVU African Music and Dance Ensemble is an experiential ensemble, focusing its repertoire on the traditional and contemporary music of Africa and the diaspora. The ensemble consists of both undergraduates and graduate students from many disciplines across the WVU campus. The music is taught primarily through oral tradition, allowing the members to experience the learning process without written music.

Vercelli said that while the focus of the African Music and Dance Ensemble is musical, the cultural contexts relevant to the music studied are inherently stressed, giving the participants a deeper understanding of its meaning and personal enjoyment of the music performed.

The goals of the African Music and Dance Ensemble include fostering a growing community interested in the African arts, while focusing on an expanding body of musical repertoire to encouraging the oral tradition process to take place between new and returning members,he said.Members are encouraged to use personal experiences from past years and abroad in shaping our performance practice.

Vercelli directs the ensemble, assisted by graduate students Adam Wolf and Ryan Frost. He joined the WVU music faculty in the fall of 2008 and has a doctorate of musical arts in percussion performance with a minor in ethnomusicology from the University of Arizona.

While well-versed in the classical percussion repertoire, Vercellis specialty lies in non-Western instruments. He has studied the traditional music of other countries and has done fieldwork in Bali, Cuba, Brazil and primarily in Ghana, West Africa.

He has received many awards for his performance and study of indigenous music, such as being named a Fulbright alternate. He is also the recipient of numerous grants, including the prestigious Northern Trust/Piper Enrichment Scholarship, which enabled him to spend seven months in West Africa researching his dissertation project on Ghanaian xylophone.

For tickets to the African Music and Dance Ensemble Concert, call 304-293-SHOW.