AAAI directors enthusiastic about upcoming “Potpourri” show, move back to IU Auditorium


For the Indiana University African American Arts Institute (AAAI), Saturday night’s performance of Potpourri of the Arts in the African American Tradition is unique for a couple of reasons.

AAAI, a program within IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), has welcomed a new face into its group of directors — or rather, welcomed home a familiar face. Additionally, the annual show, which features all three AAAI ensembles — the African American Choral Ensemble, the African American Dance Company, and the IU Soul Revue—is taking place in a bigger venue that allows the ensembles a chance to display their talent in a way that truly fits the diverse performance.

“The name really explains what the Potpourri is about. There’s such a wide range of performance styles that make up the African American tradition. Each ensemble has a very diverse repertoire,” said Charles Sykes, AAAI executive director. “When you come to the Potpourri, you should expect to experience a broad repertoire and great mixture of performance styles.”

I’m excited about the opportunity to reach more people on the IU campus.

Dr. Charles Sykes, Executive Director of the African American Arts Institute

While Sykes was understandably reluctant to reveal all of the elements of the show, he was pleased to discuss the return of former IU student Crystal Taliafero, a renowned musician who has performed with the likes of Billy Joel, Bloomington resident John Mellencamp, and Bruce Springsteen, among other legendary figures.

Crystal Taliafero director of IU Soul Revue“The biggest news is a new acting director for the IU Soul Revue, Crystal Taliafero. When I was a graduate student at IU many years ago, I was a horn coach for the IU Soul Revue and she was a member of my horn section,” said Sykes. “I’m really excited about what she will bring. She always had great energy and I’m looking forward to seeing that in what the Soul Revue brings to the stage.”

Taliafero, a native of Hammond, Ind., is equally excited to be back in her old stomping grounds. Obviously well-equipped to guide her pupils, the music veteran understands the responsibility of holding up the high standards of the ensemble she was once a part of.

“Having gone through the program under the leadership of the founder, Dr. Portia Maultsby, it’s a great honor for me to serve as acting director of the IU Soul Revue and teach as a visiting assistant professor this year. I accepted this position because I felt it was my duty, because of its rich tradition and deep roots in the African American culture and music. It was pretty much the start of my professional career, so I felt it was my time to give back,” said Taliafero. “Our performance at Potpourri will be a funky, high-energy situation, where the audience can look forward to seeing psychedelic experience from the ‘70s, a blues experience from the ‘60s, and a funk and R&B experience from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.”

Indeed, the move back to IU Auditorium has the entire AAAI eager to explore the full potential of Potpourri, as Sykes explained.

“Potpourri’s only been in the auditorium once, in 2004. I’m excited about the opportunity to play for a larger audience. I’m excited for the opportunity for us to do some things technically that we were not able to do at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater,” said Sykes. “I’m excited about the opportunity to reach more people on the IU campus. I would expect that we would have more students in the audience, which is the ultimate goal for me. So if we can have a great show—and I’m pretty sure we will—I think that we’ll be able to grow our audience a bit.”

The IU African American Arts Institute’s Potpourri of the Arts is Saturday, November 5, at the IU Auditorium. The show starts promptly at 8 p.m., and tickets are available at the IU Auditorium Box Office. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $15 for children under the age of 18, and $10 for IU students.