Skip to main content

Soul Survivor: Celebrating 50 Years of the IU Soul Revue

A Black singer wearing a black hat, sunglasses, and pink shirt holds the microphone while standing beneath purple spotlights.
“This is what God is telling me to do—move and groove,” said singer and IU Soul Revue alumnus Durand Jones. Photo: Scott Dudelson, Getty Images

Durand Jones, MM’15, is the latest in a long line of IU Soul Revue alumni contributing to the Great American Songbook . As one of two lead vocalists for Durand Jones & The Indications, Jones has spent the last six years writing, recording, and touring, releasing three albums that have garnered critical acclaim—and a growing fanbase among modern soul and R&B fans.

“Did I expect to do this s–t once I got out of college? Hell no,” Jones expressed in a statement to the band’s record label, Colemine Records. “But this is what God is telling me to do—move and groove.”

On April 23, 2022, an all-star cast of Jones’ fellow IU Soul Revue alumni dating back to 1971’s inaugural ensemble took the stage to perform for a packed house at the historic Madam Walker Theater in Indianapolis. They were celebrating the IU Soul Revue’s 50th anniversary, and its growing stamp on musical and cultural history.

Black-and-white photo of four IU Soul Reviews members standing and smiling for the camera aboard a bus.
Soul Revue members pose aboard a bus in 1974. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

Opening act

A half-century ago, the IU Soul Revue became the first collegiate ensemble to perform rhythm and blues and soul music for academic credit. It was the brainchild of Herman C. Hudson, founder of IU’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. In the early 1970s, Hudson recognized a wealth of student talent and interest in Black performance styles on IU’s Bloomington campus. He recruited ethnomusicologist Portia K. Maultsby to assemble and lead the group.

Maultsby, then a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin, built the Soul Revue from the ground up, forming relationships with musicians while playing card games at the Indiana Memorial Union. Starting in September, Maultsby recruited a rhythm section from two local bands, pieced together a horn section through word of mouth, and borrowed equipment from faculty members like David Baker. Three months later, the IU Soul Revue played its first show, a Christmas dinner dance for Black faculty.

From those humble beginnings, IU Soul Revue members refined their live act, expanded their performances beyond the IU campus—eventually sharing the stage with Bootsy Collins and opening for acts like Booker T. Jones and James Brown—and evolved into something so much more than a band of talented musicians.

Black-and-white photo of a Black woman wearing a white leisure suit and glasses gestures with her hand while brass musicians stand in the background.
Portia Maultsby directs the troupe in 1976. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

A vibrant expression of Black culture

“It was an expression of Black culture,” Maultsby told Indianapolis Monthly. “The totality of our culture was wrapped up in this one show, from our verbal and musical tradition to the live performance.”

“Dr. Herman Hudson’s vision of a Black popular music ensemble course was unique, revolutionary, and bold back in 1971,” said Charles Sykes, executive director of the African American Arts Institute. “Fifty years later, the IU Soul Revue is still unique, revolutionary, and bold. We are honored to celebrate the legacy he built.”

Hudson and Maultsby’s legacy has grown exponentially over time, with alumni applying what they’ve learned through the IU Soul Revue across the spectrum of popular music over the past half-century. Soul Revue alumni have worked with Toni Braxton, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Tupac Shakur. They’ve played saxophone for Patti Labelle, keyboards for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and provided background vocals for Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello.

But more importantly, Soul Revue alumni have amplified the importance of Black music and culture to wider and wider audiences, shaping generations of IU students along the way.

Black-and-white photo of an ensemble of sixteen musicians wearing matching shirts and vests and posing with their instruments.
The 1975 Soul Revue ensemble. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

“My experience in Soul Revue gave me the confidence I needed to make the career decision that would eventually turn into a 30-year run in the music business,” said James Strong, current IU Soul Revue director and a bassist, musical director, and producer who’s worked with LL Cool J, New Edition, and En Vogue, among others. “The instruction students receive in our course gives them a bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to be in the business, while developing their skills in time management, relationship building, effective communication, and collaboration—skills they can apply to whatever field of work they choose.”

Today, the IU Soul Revue remains the only collegiate ensemble of its kind in the world, helping to establish IU as a place where students of all races and backgrounds have the opportunity to learn, explore their talents and interests, and feel like they belong.

Interested in shaping the IU Soul Revue’s next 50 years and beyond? Make a gift to the IU Soul Revue now, or contact Charles Sykes, executive director of the African American Arts Institute, at or 812-855-0350.

This article was originally published in the 2022 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By

Ryan Millbern

Related stories

A person in powwow regalia that includes weaving, beadwork, and feathers of red, green, orange, yellow, and blue.

A Heartbeat from Home

Cecilia Sanchez has always had a sense of longing. Sanchez’s father was separated from his family, like other Native children in the years before the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.…

Standing at an Indiana University podium stands a woman with brown skin and long. dark hair and wearing a black graduation gown and mortar board cap with pink feathery decor on top. She is smiling and making the shape of a heart with her hands.

“Be Irrationally Imaginative” Says IU Commencement Speaker

The following is an excerpt from a speech by Jordan Davis, BS’22, a Kelley School of Business alumna, Herman B Wells Award winner, and IU Bloomington’s 2022 undergraduate Commencement speaker.…

What Do Molecules Sound Like?

Wearing a lab coat and unruly white wig—think Einstein or a dandelion gone to seed—Walker Smith takes the stage as Maestro Molecules. His instrument: a laptop. His music: the chemical…

Illustration of a robed judge holding a book standing beside the blindfolded "Lady Justice" holding a set of scales in one hand and a sword in the other.

Justice Is Served—By IU Alums

Is IU a pillar of justice(s)? You bet. Allow us to make the case. Between Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law (at IU Bloomington) and Robert H. McKinney School of…