On January 20, 2020, The Hill School paid tribute to the life and work of The Revered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a morning of song and storytelling. The Hill welcomed home guitarist George Kilby, Jr. ’78; his friend and fellow songwriter and musician, Phil Wiggins; and bassist Andy Calder, who wowed students and faculty with a special concert called “Racism, Reconciliation, and the Blues.”
The trio took the audience on a journey of the history of American music and its roots in the Blues. Phil, a masterful harmonica player who also is a recipient of the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, shared examples of work songs, field hollers, and spirituals which were most often sung by slaves, workers, or those imprisoned for breaking Jim Crow Laws. They continued with the birth of the Blues, noting that the Blue note is what happens in between the major and the minor, where musicians “bend the string” and make the instruments come to life and imitate the human voice.
The conversational, interactive concert featured moving original songs by both Kilby (“You Never See the Hand Throw the Stone,” and “Black Man on the Corner”) and Wiggins (“Forgiveness”). The trio also played other familiar tunes by Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll.
Sprinkled in among the music, the men shared personal stories of what it was like for themselves and their families growing up in the South during the Civil Rights era. Both the Wiggins and the Kilby families had roots in Alabama, but had very different experiences -- Kilby as a white man and Wiggins as a black man. They each offered their unique perspectives on racism and the impact it has had on each of their lives.
“The most important thing is to maintain a healthy spirit, “said Wiggins. “Don’t give power to someone who hates you. To get to that place, you have to go through forgiveness.”
Following the performance, Kilby continued the conversation during a meeting with Hill School student leaders.