Alabama’s civil rights history shapes composer Dr. Panion’s musical rise to success

Black History Month

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A conductor, composer, arranger and producer, Doctor Henry Panion’s works span the spectrum from classical to jazz, pop to rock, hip hop to gospel and country.

The richness of Birmingham’s civil rights history helped shape Panion’s rise to success.

“When I hear any form of music, I’m always hearing that music organically, thinking about what I can do to add a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi,” said Grammy Winning UAB Music Professor Dr. Henry Panion, III.

That’s a touch from a Grammy and Dove award-winning educator whose career achievements give Panion universal notoriety in the world of music.

Panion’s rise started 28 years ago when Motown superstar Stevie Wonder requested collaboration. Their work together cemented to a professional and personal bond that exists to this day.

“A great composer, arranger, musician, friend,” Wonder said.

A friend who is now working with artists from every genre of music.

“I can take the work of any artist, be they country, gospel, classical and pop and make it fit into whatever presentation that we are trying to give,” Panion said.

Over the years, Panion has lent his classically-trained talents to artists such as country star Carrie Underwood, in gospel Kirk Franklin, Hip Hop’s Coolio, Jazz artist Ellis Marsalis, soulful sounds with the like of American Idol’s Ruben Studdard, and The Temptations. As well as icons Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan.

“Two things I have to do as an orchestrator and arranger. One is to preserve the integrity of what the original artist intended with them performing but also to allow the music to really breathe with a large orchestra there,” Panion said.

That’s why the 2022 World Games tapped Dr. Panion to be the artistic director. The international competition will draw 3,600 athletes from across the globe.

“To have him as our musical director in creating the theme will live long after these world games are gone. We think that it’s going to be a great legacy gift for our city, state and really for the world,” said Nick Seller, CEO of 2022 World Games.

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