Jackson Caesar (photo courtesy jacksoncaesar.com) and Roland Hayes (photo courtesy of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections)
A renowned tenor is coming to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to perform a one-person show on the stage that bears the name of the musician who first presented the music.
Jackson Caesar will perform music by Roland Hayes in the style of Hayes in “Spirituals: Celebrating the Music, Life and Legacy of Roland Hayes” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, in the UTC Fine Arts Center’s Roland Hayes Concert Hall.
The free concert, open to the public, is sponsored by the UTC Department of Music and the Division of Diversity and Engagement.
“It’s important to understand the rich history that we have with the local music community,” said Dr.
Kenyon Wilson, interim department head of Performing Arts at UTC. “Jackson Caesar’s research has primarily been about Roland Hayes. The program is going to be talking about the life and music of Roland Hayes and singing the music in the style of Roland Hayes.”
Hayes, a lyric tenor and composer, spent his formative years living in Chattanooga—and was awarded an honorary degree from the University in 1968. The Fine Arts Center was completed in 1980 and the Concert Hall was dedicated in Mr. Hayes’ honor in April 1981.
“I first learned about Jackson Caesar and his project right around the time we vacated the Fine Arts Center for the renovation,” Dr. Wilson said. The Fine Arts Center reopened in September 2022 after nearly four years without performances due to renovations and COVID-19 protocols. “I have been patiently waiting for us to get back into the Hayes and to be able to bring him in.”
Mr. Caesar, who received a bachelor of music degree from the University of the District of Columbia in 2011, is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, arranger, producer, lecturer, educator, documentarian and author.
Mr. Caesar was introduced to the music of Mr. Hayes while in college. He began an annual tour performing Mr. Hayes’ songs during Black History Month in 2010.
“When I first read up on him, I was blown away with his story and his life,” Mr. Caesar said, "and I thought, ‘How is it that we don’t know about this guy with this fascinating story?’
“When we think about famous African Americans during the 1920s and 1930s, the names that come up include Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson and Duke Ellington. No one mentions Roland Hayes, yet he was part of that period, so I was like, ‘You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to make him my story.’”
The UTC Fine Arts Center is located at the intersection of Dr. Roland Carter Street (formerly known as Vine St.) and Palmetto.