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Feb. 25, 2008

Professor Joseph and Harlem Teens Raise the Roof at 80th Academy Awards

Columbia Professor Jamal Joseph and twelve Harlem teens with the IMPACT Repertory Theatre fulfilled the dream of a lifetime Sunday when they performed live at the 80th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The students sang Raise It Up.

Click to watch video feature of IMPACT Repertory Theatre
Harlem's IMPACT Repertory Theatre
performed Raise it Up in the film August Rush. The performance company, founded by Columbia Professor Jamal Joseph, received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

(Click image for short video about Professor Joseph
and IMPACT Repertory Theatre)

The song, which they performed in the movie August Rush, was nominated for Best Original Song. Two of the students co-wrote the piece with the group's artistic director, Joseph, chair of the film division of Columbia University's School of the Arts.

IMPACT Repertory Theatre, founded in 1997, is a Harlem-based company for 12- to 19-year-olds that empowers youth through performing arts and leadership training. The teens who performed, all of whom live in Harlem, traveled to Hollywood on Wednesday with Joseph.

IMPACT Repertory Theatre is a branch of the New Heritage Theatre Group, directed by Voza Rivers, which is the oldest African American nonprofit theater company in New York City. Columbia’s School of the Arts sponsors IMPACT, providing rehearsal and performance space at the University.

“We feel like we have already won,” said Jacquelen Singleton, a high school senior, who has been with IMPACT for five years. “This nomination is something we worked really hard for, and for us, it’s not about the award, it’s really about the message we want to deliver: Keep positive thoughts, because a positive thought cannot be denied. And that’s what we did. We kept positive thoughts and now we’re headed for the Oscars.”

“I am very proud of the Academy’s nomination, not for myself, but for the young people from IMPACT, who can now see that their work is, in fact, good enough to get the kind of recognition that it deserves,” said Joseph. “I want kids in Harlem to see this as a positive example of how it is possible to achieve your hopes and dreams.”

Related Links

Harlem Choir Makes IMPACT at Oscars, New York Daily News, Feb. 25, 2008

Oscar Nomination Caps Columbia Film Professor’s Long Journey, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2008

August Rush Spotlights Teens in Harlem Arts Program, Nov. 20, 2007

Watch a clip of members of the IMPACT Repertory Theatre perform Raise It Up

Film by School of the Arts Professor Wins Top Prize at Venice Film Festival, Sept. 11, 2007

Also up for Best Motion Picture was Atonement, a film distributed by Focus Features, of which James Schamus, associate professor of film at SoA, is the chief executive officer.  No Country for Old Men won the Oscar.

"[These nominations] make me proud to be the new dean of the School of the Arts,” said Carol Becker. “I have just returned from Sundance, where I saw some fabulous films by Columbia alums and faculty. It is clear to me that at this moment, Columbia is arguably one of the most exciting film schools in the United States.”

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, Atonement won the 2008 Golden Globe for Best Picture—Drama and Best Original Score. In addition to its Best Motion Picture nomination, Atonement was also up for Best Costume Design, Art Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Music (Original Score), Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

Atonement's great success here and in Europe is worth celebrating, but so too is the phenomenal success of Lust, Caution in Asia and in Europe, where the film is sweeping awards and doing huge box office,” said Professor Schamus, who co-wrote the screenplay for the latter film.

 - Story by Victoria Benitez