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Michael Fried collaborating with the Cultural Heritage Choir and fiscal sponsor Film Arts Foundation

Award: $35,000 Media Arts grant awarded in 2001

Developed but not completed

Filmmaker Michael Fried collaborated with the Cultural Heritage Choir, documenting the Choir and its founder Linda Tillery’s life and work as a lens for examining the role the music of the African Diaspora plays in American society.  They planned to create a one-hour digital television video, with an accompanying web site and education programs.  Freedom’s Road:  A Musical Journey would trace the life and work of Linda Tillery as well as of the other remarkable Choir members.

Linda Tillery is an acclaimed and beloved San Francisco Bay Area musical artist.  A vocalist, Grammy-nominated producer, teacher, arranger, and ethnomusicologist, she dedicated years of her life’s work to the research, teaching, and performance of the great African American oral tradition of song, stick, and story, the ancestor of today’s American popular music. In 1993, she founded the Cultural Heritage Choir, an a cappella ensemble dedicated to preserving African American folksong for future generations.

Michael Fried brought to the project 30 years as a director, producer, writer, arts educator, cultural historian, and social activist.  In 1985, after 15 years as Producing Director of Roundabout Theatre Company, he founded Public Interest TV films–devoted to producing non-profit, non-commercial educational films, television, and videos on social and cultural issues.

This project was interrupted by some members of the artist team’s illnesses and, ultimately, left unfinished because they could not raise the full budget. However, Fried created valuable documentation of the Choir’s rehearsals and performances and of his 2001 travels with Tillery to North Carolina where they visited an historic rural African American WPA resettlement community–land that had once been The Tillery Plantation where Linda’s paternal great-grandparents had worked as slaves.

Pictured: Linda Tillery