Before there was Lincoln Center, there was San Juan Hill, once home to New York’s largest black community and later a large Puerto Rican population.
In the area around which Lincoln Center now stands. San Juan Hill was home to hugely important artists and icons, including Arturo Schomburg, Thelonious Monk, and James P. Johnson, composer of the famous “Charleston.”
On October 8, 2022, the new David Geffen Hall will open with the world premiere of San Juan Hill by Etienne Charles: A New York Storya multimedia work that reconsiders the cultural and musical heritage of the lost district of San Juan Hill.
A series of free arts programs at the David Rubenstein Atrium and the Weeksville Heritage Center examine this history leading up to the world premiere, titled Sounds of San Juan Hill, starting September 22, 2022.
More information below.
San Juan Hill Sounds
The Jazz Legacy of San Juan Hill
Thu, Sep 22 at 7:30 PM
Atrium David Rubenstein
Return to the dance halls and jazz clubs of San Juan Hill in the late 1800s and early 1900s with host Loren Schoenberg (saxophonist and senior scholar at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem) and a special guest. Long before Harlem earned its rightful place as the center of African-American cultural achievement, San Juan Hill was home and a nurturing neighborhood for the creative minds of many of jazz’s greatest artists. James P. Johnson, Benny Carter and Thelonious Monk are just three of the legendary entertainers who lived and performed there, and it’s where West Side Story was set. Join us for an intriguing and questioning look at many vital stories that intersect with this too long forgotten community.
Wed, Sep 28 at 7:30 PM
Atrium David Rubenstein
Lincoln Center’s ongoing project on San Juan Hill reconsiders the culture and heritage of New York’s lost San Juan Hill community. New York-based, Chilean-born visual artist María Verónica San Martín captures the spirits of displacement and memory in her collage work, constructing intricate multimedia sculptures evoking memory as a living entity that meaningfully occupies space. physical space and invites interaction. For this participatory workshop, San Martín will instruct participants in his creative process, guiding them on the path to bringing their own personal story and experience to the construction of a three-dimensional holistic memory palace. All materials will be provided on site and participants can take their creation home at the end of the workshop.
San Juan Hill Day; Connect to seams
Thu, Sep 29 at 7:30 PM
Atrium David Rubenstein
Once home to New York’s largest black community and later a large Puerto Rican population, San Juan Hill was demolished between the 1940s and 1950s as part of the “urban renewal” plan that created the Lincoln Center campus and d other major developments. While many families were moved to other parts of New York and beyond, a significant number of residents moved to nearby homes in Amsterdam. This multi-part celebration of the heirs to the San Juan Hill story brings the oldest residents of Amsterdam Houses to the Atrium to publicly construct creative oral histories in collaboration with Sydnie L. Mosley Dances. After an afternoon brainstorming session, SLMDances will perform these new works with support from Lincoln Center’s first Poet-in-Residence, Mahogany L. Browne.
Presented in collaboration with Sydnie L. Mosley Dances
Fri, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Atrium David Rubenstein
Bronx-born champion of the city’s musical memory, DJ Logic specializes in connecting the threads between New York’s rock, jazz and rap traditions. He is currently collaborating with trumpeter and composer Etienne Charles on a Lincoln Center-commissioned work inspired by the story of San Juan Hill that will reopen David Geffen Hall when it premieres in October in conjunction with the New York Philharmonic. On this festive dance party, DJ Logic will continue to link the art to the venue for a non-stop hip hop jam with selected music from New York artists only. Come and dance to the hits and deep cuts of the masters of ceremonies and DJs representing as many as possible of the five boroughs!
Is this land our land?
Saturday, October 1 at the Weeksville Heritage Center &
Monday October 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Atrium David Rubenstein
The unanswered questions is a series of conversations presented in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice exploring complex social issues raised by the Orchestra’s programming. The season of the series begins with Is This Land Our Land? – a discussion of the history of the neighborhoods of San Juan Hill and Weeksville, New York communities of color that thrived with culture and tradition but were systematically dismantled, leaving behind a legacy of displacement and erasure which resonates to the present day. Weeksville Heritage Center President Dr. Raymond Codrington hosts a conversation with SUNY Binghamton professor and researcher Dr. Jennifer Lynn Stoever and Etienne Charles, the performer and composer whose Lincoln Center-commissioned work inspired by the story of San Juan Hill will reopen David Geffen Hall when it premieres in October in conjunction with the New York Philharmonic.
Presented in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice
San Juan Hill: A New York Story
Saturday October 08, 2022 at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday October 08, 2022 at 8:00 p.m.
Co-presented by Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic
Commissioned by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Composed by Etienne Charles
Performed by Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, and the New York Philharmonic
The early reopening of David Geffen Hall kicks off with a pair of concerts featuring Etienne Charles’ new work, San Juan Hill: A New York Story—performed by Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden.
An immersive multimedia work, San Juan Hill: A New York Story transports audiences via music, visuals and original first-person narratives of the history of the San Juan Hill neighborhood and the indigenous and immigrant communities that have populated the land in and around where the Lincoln resides Center. A multitude of musical elements – from ragtime, jazz, piano stride, swing, blues, mambo, paseo, West Indian waltz, calypso, funk, disco and hip hop – are woven with historic films and present-day interviews to showcase the myriad musical styles and culture brought to New York by migrants from the South and the Caribbean. In addition to his band, Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, Charles is working with a range of artists and scholars on this commission, including special guests Carl Hancock Rux, Elena Pinderhughes, DJ Logic, and collaborating with playwright Eljon Wardally , video artist Maya Cozier , graffiti/visual artist Wicked GF (Gary Fritz), visual artist Bayete Ross Smith, and historian Julia Foulkes, among others.
San Juan Hill: A New York Story combines the past with the present, laying the foundation for our community to build a new future for Lincoln Center. Leading up to the premiere, Charles, Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic are teaming up for a series of conversations and workshops that will explore the preservation and transformation of culture, gentrification, community activism, as well as resilience in resisting adversity, in collaboration with the Weeksville Heritage Center, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and others.
Etienne Charles, Composer/Trumpet/Percussion
CREOLE SOUL: Sullivan Fortner, Piano; Ben Williams, bass; John Davis, drums; Alex Wintz, guitar; Godwin Louis, Saxophone; Elena Pinderhughes, Flute; DJ Logic, Turntables
Maya Cozier, director; Bayete Ross Smith, 3D multimedia artist; Eljon Wardally, narrator/playwright; Hollis King, Photography; Carl Hancock Rux, spoken word; Wicked GF (Gary Fritz), graffiti artist; Julia Foulkes, historian
Kathleen Felder, producer; Billy Banks, stage manager.
Photo credit: San Juan, Wikipedia, 1956.
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