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Joan Baez's Sept. 11 concert in Hancher Auditorium fits in UI focus on human rights

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 1998-99 season at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium will open with "An Evening with Joan Baez" at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11. The concert will kick off the University of Iowa Global Focus: Human Rights '98, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fifth Annual Iowa Women's Music Festival.

Baez has been a fixture of American music and human rights activism for nearly 40 years. The Boston Herald recently dubbed her "the grand lady of American folk music."

Her eight Gold Albums and seven Grammy Award nominations testify to her popularity, but they are only the surface of her musical achievements. Along with Bob Dylan and other acoustic artists of the early '60s, Baez was active in the transformation of "folk music" from a museum of traditional ethnic and regional tunes to a contemporary genre of topical songwriting. At the Newport Folk Festival and other important venues she championed the work of a new generation of folk-influenced songwriters, including Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, Eric Andersen, Malvina Reynolds and Richard Farina.

On her 1997 Grammy-nominated CD "Gone From Danger," she renewed that commitment, showcasing the young songwriters Richard Shindell, Dar Williams, Sinead Lohan, Betty Elders and Mark Addison. Reviewing a concert in support of that recording, Jon Pareles of the New York Times observed that her "pearly, compassionate voice . . . is still a marvel of serene purity."

Baez committed her first act of civil disobedience as a California high-school student in 1957, and by the early 1960s she was deeply involved in the civil rights movement. In 1963 she sang "We Will Overcome" before an audience estimated at a quarter of a million at the civil rights march in Washington, D.C., and several years later she was a headliner at the ultimate counter-culture event, the Woodstock Festival.

In 1964 Baez began withholding 60 percent of her income taxes to protest American involvement in Vietnam, and she became a prominent supporter of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley. She later participated in the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in Alabama, and she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Mississippi.

Her anti-war and draft-resistance protests resulted in multiple arrests and instances of censorship, and her controversial profile grew when she traveled to Hanoi to deliver mail and Christmas presents to American prisoners of war there.

Baez co-founded the Institute for the Study of Non-Violence, led anti-death-penalty protests, gave AIDS benefits, lent her support to gay rights initiatives and was instrumental in establishing Amnesty International on the West Coast.

Her activism has not been restricted to the United States. Baez marched for peace in Northern Ireland, assisted in an effort to deliver food and medicine to Cambodia, met with Lech Walesa in Poland, led a march against the death penalty in Italy, performed in Czechoslovakia just before the "Velvet Revolution," gave a concert in Sarajevo to dramatize the plight of the people in Bosnia, and defied Spanish dictator Francisco Franco by performing banned music.

Her distinguished history encompasses two honorary doctorates and numerous awards for her social activism, including the Thomas Merton Award, the Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU, the Lennon Peace Tribute Award, the SANE Education Fund Peace Award and the French Legion of Honor.

The combination of music and activism has led to Baez's collaboration with musicians including the Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tish Hinojosa, Mary Black, Janis Ian, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, the Gipsy Kings and the Grateful Dead.

Corporate sponsors of this event through the University of Iowa Foundation are Group 5 Hospitality, Management Division of Highlander Inc., and Geico Direct Insurance.

The Iowa Women's Music Festival continues with many events noon-5p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, in City Park, and concludes with a concert by the Laura Love Band at 8 p.m. in Clapp Recital Hall, followed by a community dance in the Iowa Memorial Union. For more information, call Laurie Haag or Suzie Steffens, 319-335-1186.

Global Focus: Human Rights '98 is a cross-disciplinary program of teaching, research and action of the UI and its surrounding communities designed to address the problems and prospects of human rights as the 21st century approaches. The program will feature distinguished speakers, scholarly lectures, panel discussions, published research, curricular innovations, community forums, radio broadcasts, artistic displays, theatrical events, films and musical offerings. Global Focus will include visits by Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng; human rights lawyer Jerome Shestack, president of the American Bar Association; and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. For more information, visit the Global Focus website at <>

Tickets to "An Evening With Joan Baez" are $29.50, $27.50 and $25. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.