is a Doris Duke Artist Award winner, Guggenheim Fellow and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Drama. She’s a performance artist, comedian, actor and writer who has been presented internationally across North America, the UK, Hong Kong and Africa. She’s been a guest on late night shows on NBC, Comedy Central and FX. She starred in her own pilot presentation with Lionsgate for truTV. Her commentaries have appeared on American Public Media’s Marketplace, PBS, VICE, Jezebel, Playgirl Magazine, Huffington Post and CNN. She’s been awarded artist residencies from MacDowell, San Diego Airport and Ojai Playwrights Festival. She is currently the Artist-in-Residence at ASU Gammage and the Kennedy Center Social Practice Resident. Her work has been awarded with support from Creative Capital, The MAP Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, National Performance Network, a COLA Master Artist Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, nine Los Angeles Artist-in-Residence awards, Center Theatre Group’s Sherwood Award, the Art Matters Foundation, and the Joan D. Firestone Commissioning Fund from En Garde Arts. Her recent “Kristina Wong for Public Office” was simultaneously a real life stint as a local elected official in Koreatown, Los Angeles and rally campaign show. That show was filmed for Center Theater Group’s Digital Stage. She's created and directed original theater works with residents of LA's Skid Row, the Bus Riders Union, undocumented immigrants, and most recently the formerly incarcerated Asian Pacific Islanders members of API Rise. Kristina founded Auntie Sewing Squad, a national mutual aid network of volunteers that sewed cloth masks for vulnerable communities during the Covid pandemic. Their book “The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care and Racial Justice is published by the University of California Press. Her role in the Auntie Sewing Squad is the subject of her currently touring “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord”— a “New York Times Critics Pick” that premiered off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop. The show won the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for “Outstanding Solo Performance”. “Auntie Kristina’s Guide to Asian American Activism” comes out Spring 2025 from Beaming Books and is co-written with the producers of Radical Cram School.
Maimouna Youssef (Mumu Fresh)
is a GRAMMY-Nominated, Indigenous Music award-winning, Musical Ambassador for the US State Department, elected governor of The DC Chapter of The Recording Academy & an Ambassador of The Black Music Collective.
Mumu Fresh has toured internationally as a critically acclaimed Afro-Indigenous singer, Emcee, songwriter, activist, workshop facilitator and audio engineer who’s been called a “quadruple threat” by The Roots’ Black Thought and “groundbreaking” by Oscar-winning artist, Common.
In 2021, Maimouna partnered with AFROPUNK x Netflix to illuminate and celebrate Black women muses and was the voice behind the ACLU Systematic Equality campaign. In 2020, she was asked to lend her soulful voice to the ESPYs tribute to Black Lives because WE Matter. Some of her other standout moments in 2020 include her contribution to Salaam Remi’s album “Black On Purpose”, along with their single “EMOGs” which surpassed 2 million streams on Spotify alone upon release in 2020. She hit the ground running in 2021 with her viral feature on Tobe Nwigwe’s song “Tundah Fiyah” from their album “Cincoriginals” which immediately surpassed one (1) million views on Instagram on release day.
Maimouna has performed to sold-out audiences, in renowned venues around the world, electrifying stages alongside countless musical giants including Common, The Roots, Sting, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Billy Ray Cyrus, MC Lyte, Brandy, Femi Kuti, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Raphael Saadiq, Nas, Burna Boy, the National Symphony Orchestra and Dave Chappelle. Her soul-stirring performances stole the show at the Black Girls Rock Awards 2019 and Black Music Honors 2019 and 2021. She’s rocked stages at acclaimed music festivals including the Essence Music Festival, Global Citizen, and SXSW
Maimouna recently landed a lead role in Black Thought’s upcoming Broadway musical “Black No More”, which will premiere in 2022. In 2019, Maimouna performed alongside thespian legends Lynn Whitfield and Joe Morton at the Apollo Theater for a dramatic reading of Ta Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me”, produced by Kamilah Forbes. In addition to her musical appearances in the films “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” and “Girls Trip”, her music has been featured in the TV shows Queen Sugar and Being Mary Jane. She is the voice of Ford Motor Company’s “Roll On” commercial, which celebrates women of color. She has received worldwide praise for her viral NPR Tiny Desk performance addressing gender inequities and women’s rights amongst other pertinent social issues. She has shared her story of Afro-Native artistic and philanthropic excellence appearing on MSNBC, FOX 45, NPR, CNN, Cooking with Chef JJ on Cleo TV, Sway In The Morning and Al Jazeera.
Mumu Fresh has released 2 solo LPs, 2 group LPs, 1 solo EPs, 1 Mixtape, and countless singles and features with super producers such as Dj Jazzy Jeff, Salaam Remi, DJ Dummy & 9th Wonder. While touring 6 of the 7 continents, Mumu Fresh has built a relationship with over 200K engaged fans on social media who have shared and streamed her music millions of times in at least 92 countries throughout the world. Mumu Fresh’s music and philanthropic endeavours have been featured in publications such as Variety, Ebony, Essence, BET & more.
Maimouna has served as a mentor for several GRAMMY U affiliated young aspiring artists. In 2020, she founded her own online music education platform called “Muniversity Studies” to teach aspiring artists how to reimagine the music business and thrive independently with purpose. Mumu Fresh is quickly becoming known as an independent music mogul for her generation. Maimouna is committed to ‘Art Activism’ and has performed within the US prison system, Congressional Black Caucus, I.M.A.N. Central in Chicago, The W. K. Kellogg Foundation and more, bringing awareness to important social issues. Mumu Fresh is a global citizen, musical healer, cultural philanthropist and community pillar.
Maimouna “Mumu Fresh” Youssef has a very diverse and expansive musical background ranging from Jazz, Gospel, Spirituals, traditional African & traditional Indigenous music, to Hip Hop, Soul, rock and experimental acapella fusion. Maimouna has a passion for activism and community service. She has donated much of her time and platform to increased awareness & education around race and gender inequity, environmental justice and independence for artists.
Dahlak Brathwaite (Playwright/Performer) is an award-winning dramatic auteur: playwright, composer, performer, director, and filmmaker. His work has been presented at The Smithsonian, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, REDCAT, MCA Chicago, Ars Nova, The Public Theater, The Apollo, SXSW, by Creative Time, and on HBO’s last two seasons of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. Dahlak’s trilogy of works - Spiritrials (solo play), Try/Step/Trip (musical), Adapting History (documentary film) - take a personal look into the criminal justice system and the relationship between Black American music and Black American subjugation. Development of the work has been supported by CalArts, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Victory Gardens, and Montalvo Arts Center. Dahlak has received awards and support from NEFA, the Doris Duke Foundation, The U.S. State Department, NYU Tisch, and MAP Fund. He was a Creative Capital finalist and a United States Artist nominee. Most recently, Dahlak was invited by The Public Theatre's Under the Radar Festival to join their 2023 Devised Writing Group. He is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, where he was awarded the Dean’s Full-Tuition Fellowship, and served as the Assistant Director for the national tour of the Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma!
Dion Reiner-Guzman (DJ/ Sound Designer) better known as Dion Decibels, was born into music. With his father, a professional drummer, and his mother, a samba and flamenco dance instructor, Dion was steeped in sound from his earliest days. He discovered the turntables in 2001 and fell in love with the ability they gave him to shape, transform, and extend his favorite songs. He has since become a major force in the Bay area music scene and is highly respected as a DJ, engineer, producer, and artist. From parties to concerts to award-winning theater performances across the country, there’s no environment untouchable to this dynamic DJ. Dion has performed at the Nokia Theater, Fox Theater, and Lincoln Center, DJ’d alongside Saul Williams, J.Rocc, Digable Planets, Rahzel, and George Watsky, to name a few. In the theater world, he is best known as the musical director & DJ for celebrated playwright Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s masterwork Word Becomes Flesh. He is a renaissance man. Dion’s seamless mix of hip hop, soul, and funk, with some latin and house sprinkled in have made him a favorite of devoted fans in every area code. His mixes, beats, and eclectic take on postmodern music have earned him a well-deserved reputation as a sound engineer whose skill set and crates are limitless.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Director) is the 1999 National Poetry Slam champion, the 2011 Alpert Award winner in Theater and one of 21 artists to be named to the inaugural class of Doris Duke Artists in 2012. He is the founding Program Director of the exemplary non-profit Youth Speaks, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one day festivals designed to activate under-resourced parks and a peaceful urban life through hip hop arts and focused environmental action. Spiritrials is the latest piece he’s directed with Youth Speaks/Campo Santo having most recently helmed Chasing Mehserle and Mirrors in Every Corner by Chinaka Hodge and Dennis Kim’s Tree City Legends to acclaim. Mr. Joseph is currently completing new works for Creative Time, the Philadelphia Opera, the Chautauqua Symphony and South Coast Repertory Theater while serving as Chief of Program and Pedagogy at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. bamuthi.com/@bamuthi
Sean San José (Director) is the new Artistic Director of The Magic Theater and is co-founder of Campo Santo, the award-winning ensemble theater company in San Francisco. He also conceived the theater project Pieces of the Quilt, a collection of short plays confronting the AIDS epidemic. San José organized and created the AIDS Service Arts organization Alma Delfina Group-Teatro Contra el SIDA, to distribute funds and present benefit performances. As Founding Director he has worked, commissioning these pieces and then presenting the plays in theatres, schools, libraries, clinics and community centers. He has recently been awarded one of the Audrey Skirball-Kennis TIME Grant Awards to support the development of his new work. He has also been awarded a San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Commission, two residencies at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from the Wattis Artist Residency, a Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award, the DramaLogue Award, Backstage West, the Cable Car Award, and the Bay Guardian Goldie Artistic Achievement in Theatre Award. Productions he has conceived, created and produced have also garnered numerous awards in excellence, including; the Bay Area Reporter Best of the Season, Cable Car Award, DramaLogue and Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award.
Joan Osato (Video Projection Design/Producer) For the past 20 years she has played a pivotal role in local and national theater and been Producing Director of The Living Word Project since its inception with Artistic Director Marc Bamuthi Joseph in 2001. She’s brought a multiplicity of producing and design talents to Living Word Project Repertory works such as The Break/s, Word Becomes Flesh, Scourge, Tree City Legends, Mirrors in Every Corner and Chasing Mehserle amongst many others. She has designed plays for Campo Santo including The River by Richard Montoya, and Alleluia by Luis Alfaro, directed by Jonathan Moscone. She recently received the Theatre Bay Area Award in Video Design for Berkeley Rep’s (Tribes, by Nina Raine), directed by Jonathan Moscone. Joan’s current work includes a state-wide community engagement project called Califas (2013 Rockefeller Mapfund) with Calshakes and Intersection for the Arts, Reflections of Healing with muralist Brett Cook, Nogales (Mapfund 2014 recipient with Richard Montoya, Sean San José and ASU’s Department of Film, Theatre and Dance), Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s /peh-LO-tah/, directed by Michael John Garces, as well as Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival and Life is Living, a community development project centered around neglected parks in urban centers around the country.
Brittany White (Production Manager) has approximate knowledge of many things and it seems to have made living life in and for theatre feasible. In most instances she plays the role of Prop Artisan, sometimes that role extends out to Production Manager, Director's Assistant, Set Designer, Stage Manager, Set Dresser, Storyboard Artist, Scenic Carpenter, or whatever duty gets thrown at her. She has worked on a few theatre, film and/or dance productions around the Bay Area with Campo Santo, CuttingBall Theater, TheatreFirst, California Shakespeare Theater, Marin Theater Company, Bay Area Children's Theater, HEIST, DelinaDreamProductions, FaultLine Theater, African American Shakespeare Co., Aurora Theatre, and K*STAR Productions, and has served as Production Manager for Youth Speaks. Brittany White stays behind the scenes. Technical theater background, mainly as a Prop Artisan but will cover most roles. Member of SF based theater group, Campo Santo. Happy to be alive and doing theater nationally and internationally for 10+ years. Yee!
Darl Andrew Packard (Lighting Designer) is a Bay Area lighting and video designer who is also the co-founder of Collage Theater (www.collagetheater.com). He is incredibly excited to be making this project his lighting debut with The Living Word Project’s Spiritrials. His video design work has been seen in collaboration with Collage Theater, Amara Tabor-Smith/Ase Dance, and Jayne Wenger’s Winter Bear Project. His lighting credits include collaboration with Killing My Lobster, Wolfgang Wachalovsky, Megan Finlay/ Rapid Descent, Laura Arrington Dance, FACT SF and Jesse Hewit/Strong Behavior among others. He has previously served as the production stage manager for Josh Kornbluth’s Citizen Josh, the Touring Technical Director for Word for Word Performing Arts, and the Theater Manager at CounterPULSE. He has apprenticed with Bay Area designers David Szlasa and Allen Wilner, and served as Technical Director on Living Word Project’s red, black and GREEN; a blues by Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
The Living Word Project is a theater commissioning, developing and producing company, whose work crosses disciplines integrating photography, film, visual arts and new media into its creations. As a collective of designers, performers, directors and technicians, our work endeavors to break open new modes of narrative, employing emerging aesthetics and techniques that push the possibilities of storytelling and theatre. We commission, develop, premiere and tour our Repertory works such as The Break/s, Word Becomes Flesh, Scourge, red, black and GREEN; a blues, Nogales, /peh-LO-tah/, Moving & Passing, Chasing Mehserle and Translating Selena by Richard Montoya. Upcoming work includes Rashomon by Sean San José, directed by Mina Morita, Last Days a Pu’unene Mill with Tanya Orellana, and The Travelers by Luis Alfaro and the The Magic Theatre. Works currently on tour include Try/Step/Trip by Dahlak Brathwaite, directed by Robera Uno, Prieto by Yosimar Reyes, Kat Evasco and Jose Antonio-Vargas, Peoples Kitchen Collective’s EARTH SEED, and Cristal Chanelle Truscott’s Plantation Remix.
Brent White is a lifelong Philadelphian and jazz enthusiast. Mr. White understands Philadelphia's rich cultural community; its leaders, history, musicians, connectors, and politics. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Widener University, a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies from the University of the Arts, and a certificate in non-profit management from LaSalle University. He has toured nationwide and internationally as a freelance trombonist to the world’s largest Jazz festivals, yet possesses the local field experience, and relationships with many of Philadelphia’s non-profits with a career focus that can be summarized in one word—Jazz. Previously, Mr. White has worked as the Education Program Manager at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, designing and implementing outreach education programming for Philadelphia students. Mr. White has taught jazz in the Philadelphia Prison System, the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, in the Camden New Jersey City School system, and as Director of Jazz Orchestra at Drexel University. Residencies included the Juilliard School of Music outreach Department (Bay Area Tour), where he provided jazz workshops in juvenile detention centers, children’s hospitals, and schools in the San Francisco Bay area.
As a trombonist, Mr. White has toured with the likes of John Legend (Indonesia), Kindred Family Soul (South Africa), and the Sun Ra Arkestra (Europe). Mr. White has been welcomed to the stage by Lady Alma, and has recorded in-studio for Patti Labelle. Mr. White is no stranger to the Philadelphia and New York jazz scenes where currently, he performs with Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Josh Lawrence and Color Theory, and the Fresh Cut Orchestra, among other ensembles.
Lauren Putty White has an MFA in dance from Montclair State University and a BFA in Modern Dance Performance from the University of the Arts. Having performed internationally with Parsons dance company and PHILADANCO, White has also choreographed for Ballet X, Grace Dance Theatre, Bryn Mawr College, and Drexel University. She has taught at the University of the Arts, Stockton University, Temple University and for the School District of Philadelphia. White co-founded Putty Dance Project, with her jazz musician husband, producing socially conscious critically acclaimed works. They have presented at the Kimmel Center, Baltimore Dance Invitational, Boston Contemporary Dance Festival and San Francisco’s Virtual Pathways. Most recently, White was the featured dancer with the Sun Ra Arkestra at Carnegie Hall and a guest teacher at Cornell University. She currently teaches workshops in her methodology Physical Listening for Free Form Body Motifs, specializing in movement improvisation to Free Jazz music. An emerging dance writer, she also writes for Philadelphia’s thINKingDANCE . White is currently dance faculty at Stockton University.
Orrin Evans: During his kaleidoscopic quarter-century as a professional jazz musician, pianist Orrin Evans has become the model of a fiercely independent artist who pushes the envelope in all directions. Evans upholds that reputation on his 20th album, Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions), on which he helms a multi-generational A-list quartet through an eight-piece program that exemplifies state-of-the-art modern jazz. From first note to last, the members, convening as a unit for the first time, display the cohesion and creative confidence of old friends, mirroring the leader’s predisposition for finding beauty in the heat of the moment.
Although he’s never had the support of a major label, Evans has ascended to top-of-the-pyramid stature on his instrument, as affirmed by a #1-ranking as “Rising Star Pianist” in the 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll. Grammy nominations for the Smoke Sessions albums: The Intangible Between and Presence, by Evans’ raucous, risk-friendly Captain Black Big Band, cement his bona fides as a bandleader and composer.
Evans bedrocks his speculative sensibility with virtuoso command of the piano and deep assimilation of the fundamentals. A deft tune deconstructor, he commands vocabulary across a broad timeline of swinging, blues-infused hardcore jazz and spiritual jazz/avant garde jazz dialects, as well as the Euro-canon, and conveys his stories with the intuitive spontaneity of an ear player. He projects an instantly recognizable sound, sometimes creating flowing rubato tone poems, sometimes embodying the notion that the piano comprises 88 tuned drums.
Evans’ stylistically polyglot compositions – influenced by the expansive, individuality-first Black Music culture of his native Philadelphia and by a decade playing Charles Mingus’ beyond-category music in the Mingus Big Band – similarly postulate an environment of “structured freedom” that instigates the personnel to push the envelope in all his multifarious leader and collaborative projects. These include the Eubanks Evans Experience (a recent venture with eminent guitarist Kevin Eubanks); the just-formed Brazilian unit Terreno Comum; Evans’ working trio with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield; Jr.; and Tar Baby (a collective trio of 20 years standing with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits).
One of Tar Baby’s two 2022 releases will be released on Evans’ imprint, Imani Records, which he founded in 2001 and relaunched in 2018.
An influential educator, Evans is devoted to passing the torch to new generations. His students include the outstanding young alto saxophonist and Blue Note artist Immanuel Wilkins, and the prodigious, Grammy-nominated teenage pianist Brandon Goldberg.
Ian Macaulay is a guitarist, composer, and producer originally from Woonsocket, RI. Over the past 15 years, Ian has made a name for himself in the Philadelphia r&b and jazz scene, performing and recording with John Legend, Estelle, and Eric Roberson, as well as jazz artists Clark Terry, Ray Vega and Joe Lovano.
Recently, Ian was featured on Brent White’s album Broken Toy, which also featured pianist Orrin Evans and bassist Luques Curtis, as well as on drummer Wayne Smith, Jr’s soon-to-be-released debut album, for which he also served as mixing engineer. Ian is also a member of the band Maiden Seoul, who just released the first single, Verve, from their debut album, Cinematic, set to be released in the spring.
In between maintaining a busy touring schedule, Ian is also getting ready to release his first record as a leader, which will show off his diverse range of influences, from jazz to R&B and progressive rock.
Wayne Smith Jr.: Nurtured in the legendary Philadelphia jazz scene, Wayne Smith, Jr.’s career as drummer is as promising as it is eclectic. After graduating from the famed Creative and Performing Arts High School, he went on to study at the world renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. Eager to advance his music career, Wayne began performing regularly at staples of the Philadelphia jazz community including Chris’ Jazz Cafe and Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus. As his reputation grew, he branched out, performing in New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C alongside such well known musicians as Donald Byrd, Orrin Evans, Duane Eubanks, John Ellis, Stacy Dillard and Bootsie Barnes. He teamed up with Victor North (saxophonist) and Lucas Brown (organist) to form Three Blind Mice and the trio still performs together to this day. After being tapped to join the legendary Sun Ra Akestra, Wayne toured Europe, Canada, and Australia, which would prove instrumental in his development as an artist.
During his travels, Wayne was exposed to a variety of musical genres and styles that piqued his interest and stimulated his musical growth. He began to explore a blossoming interest in rock music, anchoring a group that went on to do multiple recordings. He also began to pursue relationships with other musicians. It was during this time that he reunited with a former band mate, pianist George Burton. "I've known Wayne since I was about 16 years old. He was the first drummer I used regularly. Over time, I started using different cats to try to get a different feel on my music. But, the problem with that is that after every gig I always thought ‘if Wayne had played, he would have murdered it’, so I always went back."
With a heightened passion, Wayne developed his now signature playing style that revels in the dynamic interplay between musicians. His experimentation inspired a new musical sensibility; one that remains grounded while still ferociously ambitious. Tim Warfield (acclaimed tenor saxophonist and Temple University professor) has described Wayne as an “inventive drummer who displays an in-depth musical consciousness, quite willing to embrace the moment, yet never losing himself nor the tradition in the search." Jazz guitarist Steve Giordano agrees, stating “I love playing with Wayne as his natural feel and energy always adds to my compositions in his unique way. Even when he just lays it down, his feel is so good that the music always swings.”
Nimrod Speaks: Born in Philadelphia, Pa, Nimrod Speaks is a well-trained bassist, composer and educator both on electric and double bass. He began playing at the age of 16 on an electric fender bass while in high school under the tutorship of Ricardo Jackson. He later was introduced to the double bass during his first semester in college. He brings his individual soulful tone to many styles of music. Much of his musical studies in classical and jazz concentration include training with Ben Blazer, Ralph Bowen, Douglas Mapp, Conrad Hewig, Maria Cadieux, Scott Lee, Kevin Kjos, Mike Richmond, Victor Lewis, Vic Juris, and Stanley Cowell. While obtaining a B.A in Music Education from Kutztown University and a Masters in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University, these schools landed him opportunities to play with renowned artist of today. Some include Boostie Barnes, Ronnie Burrage, Doc Gibbs, Hannible Lokumbe including performance at premier jazz venues such as the Blue Note in NYC and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
Journeying To Justice In Global Prisons
Dr. Baz Dreisinger: Dr. Dreisinger works at the intersection of race, crime, culture and justice. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, specializing in American and African-American studies. At John Jay she is the Founding Academic Director of John Jay's Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college courses and reentry planning to incarcerated men at Otisville Correctional Facility, and broadly works to increase access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Dr. Dreisinger's book Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World (2016) was heralded by the New York Times, NPR and many more, and was named a notable book of 2016 by the Washington Post. Professor Dreisinger moonlights as a journalist and critic, writing about Caribbean culture, race-related issues, travel, music and pop culture for such outlets as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, and producing on-air segments about music and global culture for National Public Radio (NPR). Her first book Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture (2008) was featured in the New York Times and on NPR and CNN. Together with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Peter Spirer, Professor Dreisinger produced and wrote the two nationally aired documentaries about hip-hop, criminal justice and the prison industrial complex. She regularly speaks about justice reform and prison issues on popular news media and in international settings.
Dr. Dreisinger was named a 2017-2018 Global Fulbright Scholar and is working to internationally replicate the Prison-to-College Pipeline, with a focus on the Caribbean and South Africa. She is currently working on a road map for how prison-to-college pipelines and restorative justice can replace mass incarceration as a system of justice.
Rising Tide: The Crossroads Project
Fry Street Quartet: Touring music of the masters as well as exciting original works from visionary composers of our time, the Fry Street Quartet has perfected a "blend of technical precision and scorching spontaneity" (The Strad). Since securing the Grand Prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the quartet has reached audiences from Carnegie Hall to London, and Sarajevo to Jerusalem, exploring the medium of the string quartet and its life-affirming potential with "profound understanding...depth of expression, and stunning technical astuteness" (Deseret Morning News).
With a discography that includes a wide range of works from Haydn and Beethoven to Stravinsky, Janacek and Rorem, the quartet is known for being "equally at home in the classic repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven or contemporary music." (Palm Beach Daily News). Recordings include The Crossroads Project, released on Navona Records, featuring commissioned works by Laura Kaminsky and Libby Larsen, as well as Kaminsky’s lauded chamber opera As One, released on Albany Records. This season, Chicago’s innovative Guarneri Hall will be releasing a video recording of Canções da America, written for the FSQ by composer Clarice Assad.
The FSQ's tour repertoire reaches many corners of the musical spectrum, including works of Britten, Schubert, Beethoven and Bartok alongside contemporary works. The complete quartets of Bela Bartok have been prominent in the quartet’s repertoire with complete cycles presented by the Salt Lake City-based NOVA series as well as in the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall at Utah State University, featuring eminent Bartok scholar Peter Laki. The FSQ premiered Laura Kaminsky's chamber opera As One with soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraff at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and has gone on to perform the work with Hawaii Opera Theater, Lyric Opera Kansas City, and Chautauqua Opera. The Fry Street Quartet continues to commission and perform new works by a wide range of composers. Pandemonium by Brazilian composer Clarice Assad received its Fry Street premiere with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra; Michael Ellison's Fiddlin' was co-commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music Series and the Salt Lake City based NOVA series; upcoming premieres include works by composers Nick Benavides and Gabriela Lena Frank. Both Laura Kaminsky's Rising Tide and Libby Larsen’s Emergence were commissioned especially for the quartet's global sustainability initiative, The Crossroads Project.
After more than 50 performances in three different countries, Rising Tide: The Crossroads Project continues to resonate with audiences. This fresh approach to communicating society’s sustainability challenges draws upon all the senses with a unique blend of science and art, and has been featured on NPR's joe’s big idea (aired during All Things Considered), as well as in publications by Yale Climate Connections, Reuters, and the New York Times. After living closely with this project for more than a decade, the FSQ continues to spearhead initiatives to make a difference in the face of the Climate Crisis. Their Climate Commitment, writing on the topic, and working with the institutions and organizations they’re a part of to imagine and implement more sustainable practices all represent ongoing efforts.
The quartet's touring history includes performances at major venues, festivals, and distinguished series such as Carnegie Hall (Weill Hall) and the Schneider Series at the New School in New York, the Jewel Box series in Chicago, Chamber Music Columbus, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, the DiBartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame, the Theosophical Society in London, and the Mozart Gemeinde in Klagenfurt, Austria. The quartet also enjoys a continuing residency with the Salt Lake City-based NOVA series, where they are currently serving as Music Directors in addition to performing regularly on the series.
The Fry Street Quartet holds the Dan C. and Manon Caine Russell Endowed String Quartet Residency at the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University.
Robert Davies (Physicist/Educator) A physicist and educator at Utah State University, Rob’s work focuses on global environmental change, sustainable human systems, and critical science communication ― which is to say, scientific storytelling for critically important stories. His unique position is jointly sponsored by USU's College of Science, the Caine College of the Arts, and the USU Ecology Center. Rob has served as an officer and meteorologist in the U.S. Air Force, worked for NASA on the International Space Station project, and taught on the faculty of three universities. His scientific work has included research into interactions of spacecraft with the space environment, the fundamental nature of light and information, and Earth's changing climate.
Laura Kaminsky (Composer: Rising Tide) is a composer with "an ear for the new and interesting" whose works are "colorful and harmonically sharp-edged" (The New York Times) and whose "musical language is compounded of hymns, blues, and gestures not unlike Shostakovich's" (inTune). Social and political themes are common in her work, as is an abiding respect for and connection to the natural world. The visual is made manifest in sound, with color and image often serving as the underlying inspiration.
Libby Larsen (Composer: Emergence) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory. Larsen believes, "Music exists in an infinity of sound. I think of all music as existing in the substance of the air itself. It is the composer’s task to order and make sense of sound, in time and space, to communicate something about being alive through music."
Rebecca Allan (Visual Artist) is a New York-based painter whose work centers on landscape and themes of music. Rivers, tributaries, and coastal regions of the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and northern England are the artist's primary sites of investigation and inspiration. Exhibited nationally and abroad for more than 25 years, Allan's work attempts to express, in abstract and painterly terms, the fragility of our ecosystems, and the unpredictability of nature’s cycles.
Garth Lenz (Photographer) is an internationally renowned environmental photographer who examines contrasts between the industrialized and natural landscape. The range of his photographic subjects has included the impacts of industrial logging on forests, and the world of modern fossil fuel production and its associated impacts on the landscape. Recent projects have addressed mountaintop removal coal mining, shale gas production, and the Alberta Tar Sands. His work has appeared in leading editorial publications including, Time, GEO, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times.
Jeff Counts (Production Manager) is General Manager of the Grand Tetons Music Festival, and past General Manager of the Utah Symphony. He has worked in performing arts planning and logistics for over 15 years and previously spent 6 years as an elementary school educator in his home state of Florida. Jeff speaks and writes about music frequently and provides concert annotation and program articles for orchestras and opera companies around the country. When not focused on music, Jeff enjoys a second life as a pop culture commentator and film critic and appears weekly on the regional television program "Big Movie Mouth-Off.”
Learn more about Rising Tide: The Crossroads Project.
Melting Ice/Changing Winds
Jody Sperling (Time Lapse Dance): A New York City-based dancer-choreographer, Jody Sperling has created more than 45 works. She is considered the world’s leading exponent of the style of early modern dancer and performance technologist Loïe Fuller (1862-1928). Sperling has expanded Fuller’s genre into the 21st century, deploying it in the context of contemporary and environmental performance forms.
Years of working in Fuller’s idiom, which involves kinesphere-expanding costumes, has influenced Sperling’s awareness of the body’s relationship with the larger environment. In 2014, she participated in a polar science mission—as the first choreographer-in-residence aboard a US Coast Guard icebreaker—and danced on Arctic sea ice. Her short film Ice Floe, shot during the expedition, won a Creative Climate Award.
Following her Arctic experience, her artistic focus has been on engaging with climate creatively. Currently, Sperling is developing a dance practice called ecokinetics that cultivates the relationship between the moving body and environmental systems while providing strategies for climate-engaged artmaking.
Sperling earned a World Choreography Award nomination for her work on the French feature film “The Dancer” (Dir. Stephanie Di Giusto, 2016 Cannes Film Festival). She was also commissioned to create a major new work featured in the forthcoming Fuller documentary “Obsessed with Light,” directed by Sabine Krayenbuehl and Zeva Oelbaum.
Sperling and company have performed or taught throughout the US and in Bahrain, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, and Scotland. Sperling and has been in residence at dozens of colleges and universities including The Ailey School/Fordham, Barnard College, Brenau University, Bloomfield College, DeSales College, Hobart & William Smith, Hofstra University, Hunter College, Montclair State University, Rutgers University, Skidmore College, Vassar College, Wesleyan University, UC Irvine, UCLA Art-Sci Center, UMass Amherst, University of Nebraska, and University of Wyoming, among others. She holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Dance and Italian Studies, an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University Tisch School of the Arts, and an MFA in Dance from Montclair State University.
Sperling and Time Lapse Dance have received commissions from the Vermont Performance Lab with Marlboro College, The University of Wyoming through the NEA American Masterpieces Program, and the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics. Works have been featured in the repertory of The Netherlands’ Introdans ensemble and performed by Ice Theatre of New York.
Sperling, also a dance writer and scholar, has served on the Board of Directors of the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS). Her dance writings have appeared online and in print in Dance Magazine, The Village Voice, The SDHS Conference Proceedings, The International Encyclopedia of Dance, and she has contributed chapters to the books Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle (British Film Institute, 2014) and Milestones in Dance in the USA (Routledge, 2022).
Prior to founding Time Lapse Dance, Sperling performed as a dancer in the works of other choreographers including Sarah Michelson and Yvonne Rainer.
Matthew Burtner (Composer) is an Alaskan-born composer, sound artist and eco-acoustician whose work explores embodiment, ecology, polytemporality and noise. His music has been performed in concerts around the world and featured by organizations such as NASA, PBS NewsHour, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the BBC, the U.S. State Department under President Obama, and National Geographic. He has published three intermedia climate change works including the IDEA Award-winning telematic opera, Auksalaq. In 2020 he received an Emmy Award for “Composing Music with Snow and Glaciers” a feature on his Glacier Music by Alaska Public Media. His music has also received international honors and awards from the Musica Nova (Czech Republic), Bourges (France), Gaudeamus (Netherlands), Darmstadt (Germany), and The Russolo (Italy) international music competitions. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Award for The Ceiling Floats Away, a large-scale collaborative work with US Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Rita Dove. Burtner holds the position of Eleanor Shea Professor of Music at the University of Virginia (www.virginia.edu) where he Co-Directs the Coastal Future Conservatory (http://www.coastalconservatory.org). He also is founder and director of the Alaska-based environmental music non-profit organization EcoSono (www.ecosono.org). His new album Icefield is out now on Ravello Records.
Burtner’s compositions bring performers and listeners into interactive relationships with the environment through the use of musical ecoacoustics, a field he pioneered in the 1990s to imbed environmental energy within musical forms. Born and raised in Alaska, Burtner experienced the early dire effects of global warming in his home and he dedicated his early musical exploration to the study of snow, ice, ocean and atmosphere, examining the acute impacts of global warming through sound and music. National Public Radio’s Here on Earth’s’ Jean Ferraca described his work as “Fog, Ice, Snow, Cold, Sand, Lava, Wind: These are the elements out of which sound artist Matthew Burtner creates his eerily effective electroacoustic soundscapes, music that draws from both beauty and horror. He calls his music ecoacoustics. I say it’s the world song.” He studied music as a field in close dialog with science and technology, a blend of scientific inquiry, engineering and imaginative aesthetic expression that applies scientific methods as new forms of music theory. New York’s New Music Box wrote that his music is “totally unique, compelling music that is directly influenced by the natural world.” Burtner’s music has been performed in over 600 concerts over the past decade. Reviewers have responded favorably to the intermedia and interactive experience of these performances. For example, Donostilandia in San Sebastian, Spain writes, “The works of Burtner expand music beyond sonic materials… pieces in which the shifting slip of an ice crystal, or tracks in the snow-covered ground, or transforming spheres, or the shakings of leaves extend the mental impressionist landscape of sound …The concert in its totality acts as a parenthesis of perceptive suspension for the listener, an immersion in a sonorous and visual reality of fractals, beautiful, like the color of a thought.” And Sonhors Magazine from France writes about his work, “This audio-visual experience is mesmerizing and subliminal. Burtner plays with beauty, coolness and space; halfway between chamber music and sound sculpture.” His discography includes six solo music albums, starting with Portals of Distortion (1999) up to the most recent releases Avian Telemetry/Six Ecoacoustic Quintets (2020), Glacier Music (2019), and Icefield (2022).
Burtner is the composer of three evening-length intermedia environmental opera/theater works — Ukiuq Tulugaq (Winter Raven), Kuik, and Auksalaq. Auksalaq, created in collaboration with percussionist and media artist Scott Deal, blended intermedia music with politics, science and technology in unprecedented ways. Auksalaq (2010) was the first climate change opera and the first telematic opera, a collaborative work that brought together artists and musicians, scientists, politics and innovative technology. In 2019 the piece was presented by National Geographic who also reviewed the premiere performance in 2012 writing, “Auksalaq is a significant cultural event that marries science as the brain, art as the heart and culture as the soul in our search for awareness and sustainability. Auksalaq can be a political and social driver that will accelerate response to climate disruption. (Michael McBride)” Following a performance in New York at NYU, Joel Chadabe, Director of the Electronic Music Foundation wrote: “Auksalaq is the single best and most important realization of meaningful opera for today’s world that I have heard in decades of producing events in New York and elsewhere. It is a pioneering work that pushes the boundaries of networked, media- enriched performance. It weaves together multiple narratives relating to global climate change into a powerful, evocative, and multi-faceted story, presenting different perspectives in the ways in which we view the world through a variety of media… In its relevance to today’s world, in its theatrical multiple-media presentation, in the ways in which it brings humanity together with technology, it is a remarkable work and an example of how opera may and should evolve today.”
A 2010/2011 Provost Fellow at the Center for 21st Century Studies at UWM, Burtner has also conducted long-term residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), Phonos Foundation/Pompeu Fabra Universidad (Spain), Musikene (Spain), Cite des Arts (France), IRCAM/Centre Pompidou (France), the University of Missouri Kansas City (USA), and the Anchorage Museum (USA). He studied composition, computer music, saxophone and philosophy at St. Johns College in Santa Fe, Tulane University (BFA) in New Orleans, Iannis Xenakis’s UPIC-Studios in Paris, the Peabody Institute/Johns Hopkins (MM) in Baltimore, and Stanford University/CCRMA (DMA) in California.