Black History Month: Huntsville artists are shaping our musical identity

single-meta-cal February 14, 2024

Huntsville, a city often recognized for its cutting-edge technological advancements and space exploration contributions, is coming into its own as a premier music city.

Once considered a small, sleepy town full of engineers and chain restaurants, Huntsville’s story is being rewritten. From Lowe Mill to North Huntsville, a tide of artistic talent is rising. You see it on canvas and in sculptures and taste it in an increasing number of unique restaurants.

You can hear it everywhere from rehearsal spaces at Alabama A&M University to the world-renowned Orion Amphitheater. Each year, the sound grows louder, sweeter and more familiar.

To what do we owe this cultural reawakening? Look no further than our local Black artists who are shaping our musical identity.

The Alabama A&M Maroon and White Marching Band perform in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville.

The Alabama A&M Maroon and White Marching Band perform in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. (Photo credit: Dokk Savage Photography)

Their mediums, whether dance, music or visual, represent the very best of what Huntsville is about. Their contributions are an integral part of our expanding cultural fabric and are worthy of celebration.

This Black History Month, it’s crucial to acknowledge the profound impact and contributions of Huntsville’s Black musicians, who have enriched our local music scene and left an indelible mark on the broader music industry.

It’s a point of pride that the City and Huntsville Music Office recognizes the immense value Black artists bring to our music community.

Unwavering commitment

The Huntsville Community Drumline, a dynamic ensemble that fuses traditional percussion with contemporary flair, has found a supportive ally in the Huntsville Music Office. Their rhythmic beats echoes through the streets of Huntsville, symbolizing the unity and diversity within the city’s music scene.

Additionally, the Alabama A&M Maroon and White Band, a powerhouse in the realm of historically Black college and university (HBCU) marching bands, is coming off a triumphant year. They stole the show at both Mayor Tommy Battle’s annual State of the City address and did so again as lead band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

The Community Drumline performs outside City Hall during Huntsville Music Month in 2022.

The Huntsville Community Drumline performs outside City Hall during Huntsville Music Month in 2022.

During Huntsville Music Month in 2023, the Music Office played a key role in spotlighting and promoting Black artists through music-themed series like Love Jones, Mixx Madness and R&B Vibes Live. The expanded Women in Music Week also featured several talented Black female artists on stages throughout the City.

The inaugural Launchpad Festival in Big Spring Park featured a headlining performance from Huntsville’s own Deq’n Sue, whose photo was also featured within the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine in 2022. In her band for that headlining performance was Grammy-award winning producer, writer and musician Kelvin Wooten, also a Huntsville native.

The Launchpad Festival was the perfect lead-in to the opening of Jazz in the Park-Huntsville, hosted each year by the City’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI). Thanks to great weather and great talent, this year’s Jazz in the Park-Huntsville was one of the most successful to date.

Shaping our musical future

The Huntsville Music Office’s commitment to supporting Black artists extends beyond the stage. We’re working actively shape our music scene now and how it will look in the future.

To that end, we’re advocating for the appointment of diverse thought leaders and subject matter experts to the Huntsville Music Board. Deq’n is a past member, and Kelvin was appointed in January 2024, as was Kim Tibbs, a renowned artist in her own right. They join a roster of other Black artists and creators whose respective talents are nothing short of awe-inspiring – Mario Maitland, Codie Gopher, Kaleka Jones and Karmessa Padgett.

Dante Pride performs at the Launchpad Music Festival in Big Spring Park. He is wearing a vest and a Pittsburgh Pirates ballcap.

Rapper Dante Pride performs at the Launchpad Music Festival in Big Spring Park in September 2023. (Photo credit: Dokk Savage Photography)

Mayor Battle’s appointment of these individuals marks a pivotal step towards creating a diverse and representative space for musical expression. By ensuring that the decision-making body reflects the rich cultural diversity of the city, Huntsville is fostering an environment where the voices of Black musicians are not only heard but actively shaping the city’s musical identity.

As we reflect on Black History Month, let us also celebrate the accomplishments of our talented artists – past, present and future. By recognizing and uplifting Black musicians and organizations, Huntsville is not just preserving its musical heritage but actively contributing to the evolution of a more inclusive and harmonious cultural landscape.

Music Officer Matt Mandrella can be reached at Visit to learn more about the Huntsville Music Office.