Shadowball is a ground-breaking baseball project featuring a new jazz opera by Julian Joseph and Mike Phillips. It focuses on the achievements of black athletes in the Negro Leagues and their jazz compatriots whose skill, pride and dignity in the face of adversity inspires young people to have the determination to achieve their dreams. Delivered in partnership with BaseballSoftballUK, this innovative project is founded on the struggles of world class black athletes in the 1930’s – 1940’s excluded from the Major Leagues, and their pioneering jazz compatriots who shared their experiences of discrimination.
‘Shadow Ball’ refers to a common pre-game feature during which Negro League players warmed up by staging mock games with an imaginary ball. Though unintended, this pantomime was an apt metaphor for the exclusion of black athletes from Major League play in America for over 60 years.
Through the project, students, teachers and families will experience the struggles of great players like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson who may have been among the greatest players of their time, but whose remarkable talents and achievements went unacknowledged, and Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 broke the ‘colour barrier’ and helped to inspire the Civil Rights Movement in America over a decade later.
The Negro Leagues was a thriving institution, not only for sport, but also for the black jazz musicians connected with the game such as Louis Armstrong – who owned a baseball team and Cab Calloway – who played on one
Out of adversity however, came innovation. The Negro Leagues was a thriving institution, not only for sport, but also for the black jazz musicians connected with the game such as Louis Armstrong – who owned a baseball team and Cab Calloway – who played on one, themselves challenging racism and discrimination as they battled to define a new art form.
This innovative project is founded on the struggles of world class black athletes in the 1930’s – 1940’s
The Shadowball project involved four Years 5 and/or 6 classes from 2 neighbouring schools working in partnership: playing baseball and studying the background of the opera in preparation for rehearsing and performing Shadowball in a professional performing environment.
An Education pack introducing The Negro Leagues, Black History and discrimination, baseball and Jazz which explores the contributions of their heroes through cross-curricular learning, and serves as a background resource and context for all phases of the project.
Partners BaseballSoftballUK, delivering INSET training for staff and together with student coaching at both schools to launch the introduction of baseball as in-school and after-school activities which leads to the launch of school teams.
A professional artistic team consisting of a Director/Choreographer, Music Director, Stage Manager and acclaimed jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss leading in-school residencies with the four Year 5/6 classes from both schools to rehearse and perform Shadowball.