July 7, 2022

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama State Council on the Arts

Mobile’s Excelsior Band receives National Heritage Fellowship

Mobile’s Excelsior Band receives National Heritage Fellowship
Nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts includes $25,000 award

MONTGOMERY, Ala., (July 7, 2022) The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) continues its long history of honoring America’s rich, artistic heritage with last week’s announcement of the 2022 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the program, our nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

The Excelsior Band from Mobile, Alabama, was honored with a 2022 National Heritage Fellowship. The Excelsior Band is a Black brass marching band that has embodied the culture of the city of Mobile and its beloved Mardi Gras celebrations. Founded in 1883, the band has long served Mobile and the state of Alabama as artists and ambassadors, maintaining a tradition of excellence, respect, and musical proficiency.

Excelsior leads the parades for both the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association and the Mobile Carnival Association as Mobile’s official band. The band plays carnival balls, parties, weddings, and jazz funerals, performing as many as 300 times a year. The current members are Theodore Arthur, Jr., saxophone; Luquen Cannon, Jr., trombone; Brad Cooper, trumpet; Aaron Covin, trumpet; Carl Cunningham, Jr., trombone; Ronnie Hunter, Jr., bass drum; Hosea London, Sr., trumpet; James Moore, saxophone; Danny Mosley, Jr., trumpet; Herbert O. Nelson III, alto saxophone; Leon Rhoden, drum; and Sean Thomas, tuba.

“Congratulations to the Excelsior Band on this incredible achievement. We are excited that more people around the world will now have the opportunity to learn about and listen to these fine musicians who contribute so much to enhancing the cultural landscape of Alabama,” said Dr. Elliot Knight, executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. We have long recognized the Excelsior Band as an Alabama treasure, and the Council on the Arts honored the group with an Alabama Folk Heritage Award in 2013. Receiving the National Heritage Fellowship cements the legacy of the Excelsior Band as a national treasure.”

“In their artistic practices, the NEA National Heritage Fellows tell their own stories on their own terms. They pass their skills and knowledge to others through mentorship and teaching,” said NEA Chair Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson. “These honorees are not only sustaining the cultural history of their art form and of their community, they are also enriching our nation as a whole.”

In addition to the Excelsior Band, the 2022 National Heritage Fellows include:

  • Michael Cleveland, Bluegrass Fiddler from Charlestown, Indiana
  • Eva Enciñias, Flamenco Artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Stanley Jacobs, Quelbe Flutist and Bandleader from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • The Legendary Ingramettes, Gospel Musicians from Richmond, Virginia
  • Francis “Palani” Sinenci, Master Hawaiian Hale Builder from Hana, Hawaiʻi
  • Tsering Wangmo Satho, Tibetan Opera Singer and Dancer from Richmond, California
  • C. Brian Williams, Step Artist and Producer from Washington, D.C.
  • Shaka Zulu, Black Masking Craftsman, Stilt Dancer, and Musician from New Orleans, Louisiana
  • TahNibaa Naataanii, Navajo/Diné Textile Artist and Weaver from Shiprock, New Mexico

Each fellowship includes a $25,000 award, and all the recipients will be featured in a film premiering in November 2022 on arts.gov. Through the film, viewers will have the opportunity to visit the homes and communities where the fellows live and work, providing a connection to the distinct art forms and traditions these artists practice. Stay tuned for more information about the film this fall.

View the NEA’s full announcement and learn about the other 2022 National Heritage Fellows here.

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About the National Heritage Fellowships
The National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Including the 2022 class, the Arts Endowment has awarded 467 National Heritage Fellowships since 1982, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms. Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in the folk and traditional arts. The panel’s recommendations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, which sends its recommendations to the Arts Endowment chair, who makes the final decision. More information about the National Heritage Fellows is available on the Arts Endowment’s website.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. To learn more, visit arts.gov

About Alabama State Council on the Arts
The Council on the Arts is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts in Alabama. The Council works to expand and preserve the state’s cultural resources by supporting nonprofit arts organizations, schools, colleges, units of local government, and individual artists. Arts programs, assisted by Council grants, have a track record of enhancing community development, education, cultural tourism, and overall quality of life in all regions of the state. Alabama State Council on the Arts grants are made possible by an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and additional funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Learn more at arts.alabama.gov.

Media contact:
Perri Hubbard
perri.hubbard@arts.alabama.gov

Photo courtesy of the Excelsior Band.


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