NASHVILLE, TN — The Big Blue Opera Initiatives (BBOI) at Tennessee State University, the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (CMHFM) present the 2023 Harry T. Burleigh Spirituals Festival on Sunday, March 26th at CMHFM’s CMA Theater from 1 pm to 7 pm. Additional partners include the Burleigh Legacy Alliance, the Country Music Association Foundation, the Burleigh Legacy Alliance, and Early Music America. 

Under the uniquely Nashville theme “ROOTED: The Negro Spiritual as Early Music, Americana, Country Music & Roots Gospel”, programming explores the influence of pioneering African American composer, Harry T. Burleigh and the Negro Spiritual on our greater American and global cultural landscape. Earlier in the afternoon, participants will engage and learn from music industry heavy-hitters, Shannon Sanders and Tiera Kennedy, 2023 Burleigh Featured Artist. 

The day will conclude with the Burleigh Festival Scholarship Fund Concert at 5 pm featuring performances and presentations by Early Music City, David McCormick of Early Music Access Project, the W. Crimm Singers, the Tennessee State University Meistersingers, members of the Nashville Opera-HBCU Fellows, Margaret Campbelle-Holman, Mr. Sanders, 2023 Burleigh Festival Invited Ensemble- Kipp Nashville Collegiate High School Choir, and Ms. Kennedy. At 4 pm, prior to the concert, renowned music scholars and practitioners Dr. Carrie Tipton of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Yvonne Kendall of Austin Peay State University will present a pre-concert talk to discuss the concert’s themes and repertoire with David McCormick, executive director of Early Music America. Leading music educator Dr. Nita Smith will receive the Burleigh Civic Champion Award with the legacy of the legendary McCrary Family will be recognized with the Burleigh Arts Trailblazer Award. 

The Burleigh Festival Scholarship Fund Concert is offered free and open to the public. Donations are accepted to the Harry T. Burleigh Fund for Vocal Studies which supports the academic and artistic pursuits of Tennessee State University voice students and aims to bridge to gap in the performing artist industry and HBCUs. Donations are accepted well before and long after the festival. Donation via check can be made out to “Tennessee State University Foundation” with “Burleigh Fund” in the memo line and mailed to the TSU Music Department, 3500 John A. Merritt Blvd, Nashville, TN 37209. Electronic and online donations can also be made via Click the red “GIVE NOW” button and search “Burleigh Fund”. 

For more information on the Burleigh Festival or to donate, visit or contact Big Blue Opera Initiatives founder and director, Patrick Dailey at