Musical Sprouts students and teacher taste Ukrainian tea.

Actress Lauren Hunter onset. (Credit: Rob Michaelson)

Musical Sprouts students hold up a comparison of Ukraine and Texas geography.

Film Director Julya Jara and Director of Photography Alejandro Guiterrez adjust the camera on pianist Arlington Jones. (Credit: Manuel Alejandro Hernández Cardona of CMC Studios)

The concept arose when MBAW Educational Director Caleb Gonzalez assessed needs from area teachers on which culture they wanted to study in the 2021-22 school year with our programs. At the height of U.S. racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter movement, teachers overwhelmingly expressed interest to bring African American culture into the classroom.

We soon realized the project’s importance, recognizing it could evolve into a full-fledged film. Under the directorial guidance of our Development Director and avid filmmaker Julya Jara, the film, now titled “The Quilt: A Living History of African American Music”, saw new light not only as an educational video for students but as a feature-length documentary for our public audiences to highlight the importance of African American music history and culture. Julya led the charge and discovered Cynthia Freeman Gibbs (pictured right), the film’s screenwriter and one of the two main actors, and Dr. Aaron Prado, the film’s head music advisor and soundtrack composer.

The film portrays Aunt Cynthia, a music history buff who helps her niece Lauren (pictured above) discover music genres borne of African American culture. They unravel a history of music through songs of slavery, Negro Spirituals, Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, Harlem Renaissance, Gospel, Civil Rights, Soul, R&B, and Hip Hop. Cynthia inspires Lauren’s curiosity about history, igniting love and pride for her culture by relating it to her contemporary interests. The layers of a quilt are also used to explain how African American music of the past connects to current music, using historical examples to peel back layers of human experience over time.

Actress and The Quilt‘s screenwriter Cynthia Freeman Gibbs. (Credit: Rob Michaelson)

With the help of the cast and crew, local musicians, and partnerships with Carver Community Cultural Center, African American Quilt Circle of San Antonio, Texas Public Radio, and San Antonio African American Community Archive & Museum, filming finished mid-2021 and will premiere publicly in 2023. Schools will receive it earliest. “The Quilt” has now spread to many of our different programming efforts be it educational, community, and even visual arts, as its purpose of advancing the cultural narrative of Black History through music is applicable to all.


“The Quilt” timeline includes:

Live public concert featuring the film’s musicians

MBAW’s seasonal concert series Russell Hill Rogers Musical Evenings at San Fernando Cathedral brings the Quilt’s artists to the live stage on Sunday 21 January 2022! The concert will also premiere free to watch online on Sunday 19 June 2022 at 7PM CT (UTC -5) and will be available on MBAW’s YouTube afterwards.

Accompanying educational curriculum in local schools 

MBAW’s educational program Musical Sprouts, which brings culturally-rich live/virtual concerts and STEAM-enhanced curriculum to students, has developed an accompanying curriculum for “The Quilt” film, which will be sent out in January 2022 and again in Spring 2023.

Photo exhibition featuring Behind-the-Scenes of the film’s production

The MBAW Art Gallery will exhibit a behind-the-scenes look on the Quilt’s production through the work of local photographers Robert Michaelson, Sarah Jane, and Manuel Alejandro Hernández Cardona on Saturday 21 January 2023.

Public Film Premiere set for 2023