The Kennedy Center

Afro Blue


Afro Blue, Howard University’s premier vocal jazz ensemble, was formed by Connaitre Miller in the spring of 2002. Since its inception, this dynamic jazz choir has quickly gained national attention. In the span of seven years, Afro Blue has received seven DownBeat Student Music Awards, including Best College Vocal Jazz Ensemble for 2009 and 2010, and has performed at many prestigious venues in and around Washington, D.C. In September 2006, Afro Blue was invited to Rutgers University to perform the premiere of For The Healing of the Nations: A Sacred Jazz Suite For the Victims and Survivors of 9/11 written by jazz pianist and Howard University alum, Geri Allen. The 2008–2009 season included a feature segment on NPR’s All Things Considered and a workshop and performance with jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. Afro Blue’s performance year culminated in a special Earth Day presentation with Marvin Hamlisch at the Embassy of Kuwait honoring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Leonardo DiCaprio.  The 2009–2010 Afro Blue season started with performances in Bermuda at the invitation of Bermuda Premier Dr. Ewart Brown, a concert at The Junction City Opera House in Kansas, four nights at the Kennedy Center as part of The NSO Pops Christmas Concert under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch, and a concert with The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. In April 2008 Afro Blue released their first recording, Freedom in Song—a double-CD compilation of songs recorded by the ensemble between the years of 2002–2008. It’s a Matter of Pride, released in December 2009, is dedicated to jazz pianist, composer, and educator Dr. Billy Taylor, and the CD’s title is taken from the first movement of his suite Peaceful Warrior. Motherless Child, a recording project and concert with jazz violinist John Blake, Jr., featuring jazz arrangements of Negro spirituals, was released in March 2010. Afro Blue appeared with the Geri Allen Trio featuring Ron Carter and Jimmy Cobb in the Terrace Theater on October 6, 2006. As part of JAZZ IN D.C., the group appeared on the Millennium Stage with the Jam on U All-Stars in the program “Dr. Taylor’s Big Band Book” on November 23, 2008, and in the Concert Hall with the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors, Christian Sands, Winard Harper, and Chip Jackson on Nov. 28–29, 2008.  The group appeared in the Terrace Theater May 20-22, 2010 to open all three nights of the Kennedy Center’s 2010 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival.  

Connaitre Miller
is currently Associate Professor of Music and Vocal Jazz Coordinator at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She directs the award winning vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue, teaches vocal improvisation, vocal jazz arranging, and applied lessons in jazz voice.

A native of Kansas, Ms. Miller received a B.M. in Music Education and a M.M. in Piano Performance from Kansas State University in Manhattan. Her post-graduate study was undertaken at The university of Northern Colorado where she majored in Choral Conducting with a secondary emphasis in Jazz Pedagogy.

Preceding her tenure at Howard University, Ms. Miller taught at The Elder Conservatorium of Music (University of Adelaide) in South Australia; at Cypress Community College and Cal State Long Beach in California; and at Kansas State University and Junction City Senior High School in Kansas.

In addition to her work at Howard University, Ms. Miller performs as a solo jazz vocalist, having appeared at many jazz festivals throughout the US and abroad. She also conducts clinics and workshops on jazz singing and jazz choir techniques.

Watch Past Performances

Video 5/10/2015: Harlem Nights/U Street Lights: A Collaborative Presentation of The Apollo and the Kennedy Center

With dual pianos onstage, all-star pianists Jason Moran, Marc Cary (Music Director), Bertha Hope, and Gerald Clayton connect the dots between jazz luminaries with histories in both New York and D.C., including late greats Duke Ellington and Dr. Billy Taylor. In addition, vocalists Queen Esther and Brianna Thomas perform with Howard University’s premier vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue (directed by Connaitre Miller), mining the rich, related vocal history of the New York and Washington, DC jazz scenes. The evening continues with a ticketed show in The Crossroads Club featuring Jason Moran, Marc Cary, and many others.

Video 11/22/2013: WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program / Afro Blue

As part of the Kennedy Center festival American Voices, hosted by Renée Fleming, the Millennium Stage offers a classical music performance featuring members of the WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and a jazz performance by Howard University’s premier jazz vocal group Afro Blue, under the direction of Connaitre Miller.

Video 11/20/2011: Howard University Jazz Ensemble and Afro Blue

The big band plays with the acclaimed jazz vocal ensemble, currently appearing on NBC’s reality TV competition series The Sing-Off. A dance floor will be installed. Part of Swing, Swing, Swing.

Afro Blue