What is AHHH?
How can collaborations in music promote community understanding? The Athens Hip Hop Harmonic launched in 2021 as a partnership between the University of Georgia and the local Hip Hop community in Athens, Georgia. The project includes artists, composers, educators, students, and supporters dedicated to building bridges -- and using them -- to strengthen relationships, stretch creative muscles, and to expand individual comfort zones. Centered in mutual artistic curiosity, cultural humility, and respect, Hip Hop artists are paired with university faculty or student composers to co-create new works. The collaborators engage with student music ensembles to rehearse, record, and perform the new compositions in public.
Since August 2021, we paired nine Hip Hop artists and university composers; involved five ensembles (over 140 students) advised by faculty and staff; performed four free public shows reaching over 1200 community members; produced and published eight recording sessions and videos; developed and launched a public website; produced community panel discussions; and presented at the a2ru and College Band Directors National Association national conferences.
Reflections are built into the residencies in facilitated discussions and feedback surveys. Key insights reveal a desire for more meaningful musical and human experiences like this; an openness to learn outside of our own conventions; and deep expressions of joy and gratitude by the mutual lifting up of others through music collaboration.
Supported by UGA's Arts Lab, the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, Ideas for Creative Exploration, and the Hodgson School of Music, the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic is directed by saxophone professor Connie Frigo, who developed it in collaboration with Hip Hop impresario Montu Miller and Mariah Parker (aka Linqua Franqa).
What is the Athens
Hip Hop Harmonic?
Co-Founders and Directors
Connie Frigo is an ever-curious arts leader, performer, teacher, and speaker. Fascinated by the artistic and humanistic potential of Edge Effects - changes in community or cultural structures that occur at the boundary of two or more habitats – Connie is a steadfast organizer of interdisciplinary arts events with a focus on the creative process, social justice advocacy, and community engagement. She a sought-after presenter on professional development, creativity, and equality in music. Connie is the professor of saxophone at UGA since 2011, and director of the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic - a dream role that represents the power of music to define and strengthen community.
Highlights of Connie’s career include six years with the U.S. Navy Band, Washington, D.C.; seven years touring nationally as the baritone saxophonist with the New Century Saxophone Quartet; and faculty positions at the Universities of Tennessee, Maryland, and Ithaca College prior to UGA. She is a Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands.
In recent years, Connie has traveled to Italy, Russia, Brazil, and Panama to perform and teach. She is a member of The Yargo Trio, featuring Angela Jones-Reus (flute) and Liza Stepanova (piano), both UGA faculty members. Yargo released their debut album Voices in 2017. With renown teacher Debra Richtmeyer, she co-authored The Richtmeyer Method for Saxophone Mastery, a 350-page holistic and pedagogical treatise on playing the saxophone.
William "Montu" Miller is the Ambassador of the Athens Hip Hop community, co-founder/chief operating officer for ATHfactor-Liberty Entertainment (ALE), Chess and Community board member, East Athens Media Company Board Director, Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC) member, Wild Rumpus Board of Directors, Historic Athens Board, a dedicated member of Cedar Shoals High School teaching staff, and father of five. He embraces his role as an educator, writer, poet, mentor, and community activist. Montu is a University of Georgia alumni (BA Black Studies) that has always built bridges from the local community to UGA. His company ATHfactor-Liberty Entertainment (ALE) has produced countless projects and helped organize many HipHop events in Athens for 15 years. He spearheaded "Classic City Wax" volumes 1 (2020) and volume 2 (2021), a vinyl compilation project with many noteworthy members of the Athens Hip-Hop community. Montu's outlook and philosophies about his "boots on the ground" approach to community issues have appeared in several publications.