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Jill Scott headlines star-studded Academy of Music anniversary celebration

Jill Scott gave a standout rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime" from the musical "Porgy and Bess."
Jill Scott gave a standout rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime" from the musical "Porgy and Bess."
Philadelphia Orchestra/Pete Checchia

Navigating their second snow storm in a week and slick snow-filled streets, excited concert-goers made their way to the packed Academy of Music for its 157th Anniversary Concert on Saturday night in Center City Philadelphia. The orchestra concert was part of an anniversary celebration, complete with a Ball that took place immediately after at the prestigious Hyatt At The Bellevue Philadelphia. This year, The Philadelphia Orchestra welcomed celebrated singer-songwriter, three time Grammy-winner, actress and Philadelphia native Jill Scott as its featured guest artist.

Jill Scott performs to sold-out Academy of Music crowd joined by Stewart Goodyear on piano
Jill Scott performs to sold-out Academy of Music crowd joined by Stewart Goodyear on piano
photo: Philadelphia Orchestra/Pete Checchia

Also joining the celebration as hosts were native sons Kevin and Michael Bacon, who amused the audience with comical banter complete with Kevin imitating a Philly accent for audience comprehension. The theme of this year's event was "Preserving Our Heritage" and the brothers playfully stressed awareness of the building renovation campaign with Michael quipping about the ventilation system "it gets so hot Brunhilda is down to a size two."

Led by music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin, with Stewart Goodyear on piano, The Philadelphia Orchestra performed Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story," with ample audience participation on "Mambo," and variations of Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." The crowd erupted with applause as Jill Scott made her way to the stage to join the orchestra for a rousing rendition of "Summertime" from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." Nezet-Seguin remarked that he was a huge fan of Scott's, and it was a dream to work with her.

Scott reminisced and shared her joy to be back in Philadelphia with the audience, acknowledging her alma maters Pierce and Green Tree Elementary schools, Philadelphia High School For Girls, and Temple University before singing a beautiful rendition of "Home" from the musical "The Wiz." She also shared that the Academy was "the stage that I first saw Kathleen Battle sing. So it is a privilege for me." Scott performed several of her hit songs, including "Golden" and "The Way," the latter featuring a dynamic solo by saxophonist Mike Phillips. Scott was joined also by fellow Grammy-winner Robert Glasper on piano while performing their collaborative ballad "Calls."

When Scott held up one finger to indicate another song, after the Bacon brothers had bid the crowd farewell upon the concert's ending, concert-goers were unanimous with agreement and applause. She and the orchestra dove into her beloved swan song "He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat)" showcasing her vocal agility in several registers and her bi-lingual operatic ability.

Several high profile Philadelphians attended the concert, including Congressman Chaka Fattah and his wife Renee Chenault-Fattah, and Mayor Michael Nutter and his wife Lisa. Mayor Nutter has referred to the Academy of Music as "one of this country's most beloved treasures." The annual concert and ball celebration is the only fundraiser that is held for the Academy, a National Historic Landmark. Click here to donate to the Academy's Renovation and Preservation Fund.