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Second Annual John Coltrane Symposium

John Coltrane Symposium Panels and Concert

Saturday, September 25 12:00–7:00PM

The Second Annual John Coltrane Symposium culminates in this day-long event featuring moderated panel discussions, a dramatic reading, music, and more — in celebration of the life and music of John William Coltrane.

The highlight of this year’s symposium will be two panel discussions about Coltrane’s music and life. The opening panel includes discussions between ethnomusicologist Nia I’man Smith; composer, multi-instrumentalist, and educator, Jamal Moore; and artist-educator and AfriCobra member, James Phillips.

Our second panel will feature three biographers on John Coltrane. Scholar and musician, Karlton Hester will join two of the earliest biographers on Trane: Bill Cole and Dr. C.O. Simpkins. Cole and Simpkins have not been in conversion in over thirty years. We are honored to bring them together along with Hester to learn about their approaches and research to bringing Coltrane’s life, music and beliefs to a wider audience.

Keynote speaker Dr. Greg Carr will walk us through the historical and musical narrative of Coltrane and his musical foundations. This year’s symposium will also include a dramatic reading of Dear Listener from Carlo Campbell of Theatre in the X. Dear Listener, a play conceived and written by Anyabwile Love, takes place just days after Coltrane records A Love Supreme and imagines his reflections on his life and musical career as he visits his mother and Cousin Mary in Philadelphia. Our four days of events will conclude in the only way imaginable: with a musical performance by Alfie Pollitt and his All-Star Quartet.

Program Schedule


Panel I: Impressions on Coltrane

  • Nia I’man Smith — PhD. candidate in Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington and founder of The Black Connection
  • Jamal Moore — Professor of Jazz History at Coppin State and composer-performer
  • James Phillips — Visual Artist, AfriCobra, Associate Professor of Arts at Howard University
  • Dr. Josh Myers (moderator) — Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Howard University and author of Cedric Robinson: The Time of the Black Radical Tradition


Panel II: A Force for Real Good: A Coltrane Biographers Round Table

  • Dr. C.O. Simpkins — Author of Coltrane: A Biography (1975)
  • Bill Cole — Musician and author of John Coltrane (1976)
  • Dr. Karlton Hester — Professor of Music at UC Santa Cruz, musician, and author of The Melodic and Polyrhythmic Development of John Coltrane’s Spontaneous Composition in a Racist Society (1997)
  • Gabriel Vanlandingham Dunn (moderator) — Writer, DJ, Black American Music historian, and creative consultant


Keynote Address

  • Dr. Greg Carr — Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Howard University and co-host of In Class With Carr


Dramatic Reading: Dear Listener

  • A theatrical work in progress written by Anyabwile Love
  • Read by Carlo Campbell, Artistic Director, Theatre in the X


Closing Concert

Alfie Pollitt All-Star Quartet at The Woodlands Mansion

  • Alfie Pollitt – piano
  • Nasir Dickerson – saxophone
  • Richard Hill – bass
  • Alan Nelson – drums

Cover: John Coltrane's "Circle of Tones," a drawing by John Coltrane reputedly given by the artist to Yusef Lateef, backstage between sets at a shared gig sometime during the 1960's. The drawing was later included in the introduction to Lateef's iconic book, Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns (1981), from which this scanned image was produced.
Saturday, September 25 12:00–7:00PM


  • Performance
  • Talks

Program Info

Free with RSVP
All Ages

Pre-registration with advance RSVP required.

NOTE: General Admission tickets are sold out. A limited number of additional tickets for lawn seating only have been made available for this program.


Symposium Panelists

  • Nia I’man Smith, Jamal Moore, James Phillips, Dr. C. O. Simpkins, Bill Cole, Dr. Karlton Hester, Dr. Greg Carr

Alfie Pollitt All-Star Quartet

  • Alfie Pollitt – piano
  • Nasir Dickerson – saxophone
  • Richard Hill – bass
  • Alan Nelson – drums

Theatre in the X’s Carlo Campbell performs Dear Listener


The Woodlands, 4000 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

  • The Woodlands, Philadelphia

Health & Safety

Ars Nova Workshop cares about the health and safety of our artists, audience, and staff. Please consult our health and safety protocols before attending this program.

The Woodlands

The Woodlands’ 54-acre undulating landscape is at once an 18th-century English pleasure garden, an active 19th-century rural cemetery, and a modern-day green oasis for the communities of West Philadelphia. Please note before planning your visit:

  • Guests can arrive by foot, bike, or public transit.
  • Limited on-site parking is available for some events.
  • Please bring your own lawn chair or blanket for outdoor seating.
  • The front entrance of The Woodlands is located approximately 1/4 mile from the performance areas, with a slight incline along the way. Please wear comfortable shoes when visiting.


Should you require accessible entry or seating for this program, please contact The Ars Nova Workshop at or 215-805-3376 for more information.


Special COVID-19 admission guidelines are being followed to ensure a safe environment for all guests at The Woodlands.

  • Masks are required for all indoor spaces.
  • Please wear a mask and maintain social distancing while in line for the Stable Restroom.
  • Please respect other visitors and the Site Rules found on The Woodlands website.
  • Fundraiser
  • Performance
  • Talks

Second Annual John Coltrane Symposium

The John Coltrane Symposium in collaboration with Ars Nova Workshop is proud to announce its second annual celebration of the life and music of John William Coltrane, curated by Anyabwile Love. This year's celebration will be held at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia, with additional events at The Discovery Center in Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia.