Arts & Culture

American Spiritual Ensemble, Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra Bring the Duke’s Big Band Sounds to Singletary

photo of American Spiritual Ensemble in church pews
photo of Kentucky Jazz Repoertory Orchestra
web banner for Duke Ellington concert at Singletary Center

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 11, 2020) As part of the University of Kentucky’s Singletary Center for the Arts 40th anniversary year, the Signature Series will highlight two nationally acclaimed local acts with university connections — American Spiritual Ensemble and Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra — in a concert honoring the great Duke Ellington. The Big Band sound of Duke Ellington will fill Singletary Center’s Concert Hall beginning 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.

Founded by UK’s own Everett McCorvey in 1995, the American Spiritual Ensemble brings together some of the finest classically trained singers in the nation for the goal of keeping the American Negro spiritual alive. The ensemble has thrilled audiences around the world with its dynamic repertoire ranging from spirituals to classical to jazz and Broadway numbers highlighting the black experience.

The American Spiritual Ensemble is unique in that over 90% of the members are accomplished soloists who have sung in theaters and opera houses worldwide, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and abroad in Italy, Germany, Britain, Scotland, Spain and Japan. The resulting sound of this group is something that choral groups with two or three featured soloists cannot duplicate. The ensemble has presented diverse concerts throughout the United States, Europe and South America, and has toured Spain 12 times presenting more than 100 concerts.

The Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra is a 17-piece big band co-directed by UK School of Music’s Miles Osland, professor of saxophone and director of Jazz Studies, and Dick Domek, professor emeritus. Especially suited for and highly skilled at recreating authentic swing-era arrangements, the orchestra captures the energy, excitement and rhythmic feeling and pulse of the big band music of the swing era.

Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra is known for its ability to transport audiences to such popular late 1930s or early '40s haunts as the Cotton Club and The Savoy. The orchestra’s first CD, "Ellington Celebration," released in 1999, was a retrospective of Ellington's music from the 1920s to the 1970s. It established the group as one of the best jazz repertory orchestras currently performing.

General tickets for the Duke Ellington celebration featuring the American Spiritual Ensemble and Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra are $36 and UK faculty, staff and student tickets are $13 with a valid UK ID when purchased at the box office. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 859-257-4929 or in person at the venue. 

A part of the College of Fine Arts and essential to the UK School of Music, the Singletary Center for the Arts presents and hosts artistic, cultural and educational events for the university community, Lexington community and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Named on April 16, 1987, for the retiring eighth president of the university, Otis A. Singletary, the center has become a major cultural resource for the Commonwealth. From its opening on Nov. 1, 1979, the center has accomplished Singletary's wish to provide a succession of brilliant performances in its Concert and Recital Halls, which constitute impressive evidence of the University of Kentucky's continuing commitment to the arts. Hosting an average of 400 events annually, the Singletary Center has served over 3.7 million patrons in its history. The center provides professional, full-service venues for the creation, practical application and dissemination of artistic, cultural and educational expressions by international, national, regional, university and student performers, artists and speakers.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.