Part of: Voices of Hope
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Deborah Adesodun is 15 years old and lives in Brooklyn, where she goes to Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School. From a young age, she has loved reading and writing because of the escape it provides, and she enjoys writing poems to express her feelings and connect with others. In “Small Things,” Deborah writes about the changes that the COVID-19 virus has brought, such as our increased distance from one another and the revelation of political disparities. She believes that small changes open our eyes to bigger problems. Deborah aspires to attend Columbia College and become a psychiatrist, but writing will always be a love of hers because it allows her to connect and share ideas.
Alfred is a Brooklyn native of Trinidadian descent. He is a poet, writer, singer, and songwriter, and a passionate life coach in the Protestant community who values uplifting people to a greater purpose. A dynamic thinker, orator, and performer, he constantly takes his audience to spiritual heights. Alfred is currently pursuing an associate’s degree at Hudson Link / Mercy College and is a standing member of Rehabilitation Through the Arts. He is a composer and guitarist in Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program and the Musicambia program. He aspires to encourage people with a message of love and hope through his gifts and music, while living the mantra, “At all times preach the Gospel, and use words when necessary.”
Dorien Bennett is a young African American man from Brooklyn who tries to make a difference and support his family. He is a confident and humorous person who strives to create peace with those around him and stay aware of what happens in his community. Dorien believes that people should respect each other’s humanity and should not cause violence based on the color of our skin. He tries to make an impact in opposing gun violence against the Black community and other minorities, and believes in supporting Black lives and helping to create unity.
Zhi Chen is a first-year student in the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College’s Conservatory of Music, where he double-majors in music composition and piano performance, studying to be a film composer. From childhood, he has suffered mild-to-moderate hearing loss in both ears, but this challenge has never stopped him from continuing his musical studies. A classical and jazz pianist and composer, he writes music for short films and participates in music competitions. He has won many prizes in his age category in competitions such as the Forte International Piano Competition and 2020’s online International Music Festival-Competition “Stars at Tenerife.” He most recently participated in the Score Relief 2021 competition: a virtual film-scoring competition hosted by The Cue Tube to fundraise for the Backup Hardship Fund, which provides relief to technical workers in entertainment industries who have lost income due to the pandemic.
Ashton Coppin was born in 2003, the second child of Kellyann Coppin, his Barbadian-born mother. As a child, he was surrounded by many genres of music, from soca to dancehall, R&B, country, and pop, and listened to singers such as Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Rihanna, and many more. He would spend his days as a child in his older sister’s bedroom listening to her sing, admiring her voice whether it was good or bad, the songs alone enough to make him chime in. Ashton went to Mount Ararat Baptist Church, where he discovered a new type of music: gospel. From then on, he lived the rest of his life through the art of music, listening to the beats and words, growing to love it more as he got older. One of his many goals is to write music that can motivate people around the world and help them feel inspired and less alone.
Nia Eckstein is 15 years old. She was born in America and raised in Trinidad, where most of her family is from, but for the last seven years, she has resided in do-or-die Bed-Stuy. Nia started writing poems as an outlet: Before she started sharing her truth, she was bullied, and nobody believed in her or her dreams. Writing allowed her to share her sadness in discreet ways—but as time went on, she gained happiness and empowerment. In the summer of 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement was underway, she was inspired to write more than 30 poems. To others, poetry may be a hobby, but to Nia, poetry is a way to speak to the world. As a spoken-word performer, she feels a deep connection with the audience, as if they are feeling her emotions. When she speaks her truth, she lets it be heard by everyone. Poetry has helped her find her place in the world.
Triston Falby is a 14-year-old drummer. He drums with the Brooklyn United Music & Arts Program and frequently performs at the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets. Triston’s inspiration is his family and friends, and his goal is to be successful in the field of music. He loved collaborating on the piece “My Power,” and is excited to be representing Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School in Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope.
Kiara Frazier lives in Brooklyn, where she finds different ways of expressing herself through art and listens to many genres of music. She is a determined and compassionate person with high expectations for herself. When she was in middle school, she was selected by her history teacher to join the program BEC2BAMA, in which a group of students learn from brave foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. Through this program, she had the opportunity to interview Catherine Burks-Brooks, one of the Freedom Riders—an experience that taught her many things she never knew about her own history.
Joe Hamm and Soundscapes
Soundscapes is a nonprofit organization in Newport News, Virginia, that teaches critical life skills to students through music education. It provides music instruction and performance opportunities to students in first grade up to age 24 through daily after-school programs, weekend and summer programs, and the Peninsula Youth Orchestra. At the heart of the organization’s success is a belief in the power of music to change lives, and the understanding that all children have valuable contributions to make both musically and to our community. Soundscapes believes that every child deserves access to life-changing music education, which is why the program is free for all participants.
The creators of “See My Friends Again” are Soundscapes student musicians in grades 4–12 and teaching artists led by program and media manager Joe Hamm. As a performer, citizen artist, educator, and composer, Joe has dedicated his music career to the intersection of social equity and music. With more than 20 years of experience, he has led collective compositions and productions with people of all ages at Soundscapes and in cities throughout the US, passing the mic to students and encouraging them to create music that is personal, meaningful, and socially relevant.
Violinist and fiddler Lily Honigberg was born in Washington, DC. She was fortunate to tour the United States with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America in 2014, performing at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Hall, and many other venues. Upon graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy in 2014, Lily enrolled at the New England Conservatory, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in violin performance and her master’s degree in contemporary improvisation. Lily has attended summer festivals that include Meadowmount School of Music, Swannanoa Gathering, and Acadia Trad School. She spent 2016–2019 touring with her band Night Tree, an acoustic sextet that performs original and improvised folk-based music. She was recently accepted as a guest artist for Palaver Strings in Portland, Maine. She is also a co-founder of Folkway Workshop, a weekly online workshop that teaches classical musicians how to learn by ear (without sheet music) through folk tunes. Her duo with bassist James Heazlewood Dale came to fruition in the winter of 2021 after he joined Folkway Workshop. They will release a record together in the summer of 2021.
Gabriel Johnson is ten years old and in fifth grade at George J. Peters Elementary School in Cranston, Rhode Island. He started taking piano lessons at age two at the Philharmonic Music School in Providence, Rhode Island, and currently sings with the Rhode Island Children’s Choir. At age five, he composed his first song, “Bright Light,” which he played at the Philharmonic Music School concert. He recently composed “Eye of the Storm,” which he wrote the day George Floyd was killed. He hopes this piece—and all his music—will spread a message of peace. Gabriel loves music; his teacher, Kelly House, who taught him how to play piano; his nana, Carole Calhoun; and his family.
Keon Jones is a Black American living in Brooklyn. Hard-working and intelligent, he loves fitness, his mother, and walking like he’s lost. Some would say he has an old soul, but when Keon is determined to accomplish something, he does. He is very caring, and values (and reciprocates) loyalty in his friends. He is also a skilled debater and likes to give his opinions and hear those of others. A student at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School, he takes pride in his high grades. He works to improve himself every day, and hopes to write poems that move his friends.
Skyy Jones was born in Kyoto and raised in Brooklyn. He is 14 years old and in the ninth grade. At the age of four, he started learning classical guitar, and at 11 he moved to Japan and started learning how to play jazz guitar. His father introduced him to jazz, and he has now learned about many jazz musicians and standards. He is currently inspired by Wes Montgomery, whose thumb technique he learned on guitar. Skyy returned to New York in 2019 and continues to practice jazz music. His weaknesses are chords and improvisation, which he is looking forward to improving, and his strengths are reading and learning songs. Skyy is honored to be part of Carnegie Hall’s festival and is looking forward to more opportunities like this one.
Ruth Kendall is an 18-year-old aspiring artist, accountant, and influencer. She is a high-achieving senior at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Born in Flatbush, Ruth’s musical talents flourished in Brownsville, where she currently resides. She is dedicated to Smith College, where she hopes to pursue her interests in math and finance, in addition to a minor in music. She is the youngest of four and cites her musical and academic passions as stemming from her household. Projects in which Ruth has participated include a study-abroad program in Morocco with the Student Diplomacy Corps and Carnegie Hall’s All Together: A Global Ode to Joy. She recently led an interview with Canadian singer Melanie Fiona, whom she considers a huge cultural icon, and she is currently partnering with HBO to document her college process during the pandemic.
Maxwell Lu is an 18-year-old young composer who attends Columbia University. His music explores and is inspired by various styles, from minimalism to impressionism, jazz, spectralism, and film. He seeks to bring out vivid imagery and ideas using harmonic and rhythmic concepts with abstract themes. His mentors include composers Yiming Wu, Sean Shepherd, Zosha Di Castri, and Annie Gosfield. In addition to composing, Max plays piano and violin. He was accepted into Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America as apprentice composer, for which he was invited to write a new piece to be premiered by the orchestra. He is a winner of the Sounds of Children’s Rights International Composition Contest and Metropolitan Youth Orchestra Competition, a semifinalist for The American Prize, and has received honors in the National Young Composers Challenge and NextNotes composition awards. Max’s other projects have included composing music for Columbia University’s podcast streams and creating sketches and soundscapes using ocean sounds for a game about climate change.
A versatile musician acclaimed for her expressivity and sincerity, Beata Moon is a composer, pianist, educator, impresario, and activist. An American of Korean descent, Moon was born in North Dakota and raised in Indiana, where she began studying piano at age five. She made her orchestral debut with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at age eight and concertized throughout the Midwest, giving recitals and appearing with orchestras in the region. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School, where she was a student of Adele Marcus.
Moon composes music in a variety of genres: orchestral, concert band, solo instrumental, chamber, and vocal, including children’s songs. Her four CDs of original music were enthusiastically received by press and public alike. She has created and performed interactive concerts for children for Musica Reginae Productions, a classical music collective based in Queens. She also works as a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, and Marquis Studios, where she has led workshops and designed curricula for participants of various backgrounds and ability levels. She has also worked with youth in homeless shelters and performed in community facilities. She is the recipient of an International Teaching Artist Conference grant, and in 2019 traveled to Seoul to work with the El Sistema–based Orchestra Dream and its teaching artists in Seongbuk.
New Bridges Elementary
The New Bridges Fifth Grade Choir was started in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic as a brave space for musicians to connect, create music, and be part of a community. When fifth graders graduated in 2020, the New Bridges Alumni Choir was formed, including musicians in the classes of 2020 and 2021.
“Be the Light” is an original piece composed by current student musicians (Afiya Broomes, Allison Echevarria, Kimora Harrison, and Moheisha Balgobin) and alumni (Ahmad Taylor, Nashla Baez, and Natacha Taveras Lopez) with Alice Tsui, founding music teacher at New Bridges Elementary, a public arts-integrated elementary school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Inspired by poet Amanda Gorman and the power of advocacy through lyrics and sound, the piece envisions a future where we light up our communities and our world. Through standing up and speaking up for each other, we celebrate ourselves because “our joy is revolutionary.” We matter, and as we continue our fight for justice, we will shine bright and be the light!
Dan Nuñez is 18 years old and was born and raised in the Bronx. He has always loved music, but his passion grew when he taught himself to play the drums in middle school. Soon after, he delved into the art of music production, and began teaching himself how to make beats and write songs on digital audio workstations. In high school, he joined his school’s tight-knit band club and the concert band, playing drums and percussion. He then joined Carnegie Hall’s Studio 57 and Future Music Project. As a member of the Future Music Project Ensemble, he had the opportunity to tour, perform at a semi-professional level, and grow as an artist. He works on his music just about every day and hopes to pursue a musical career.
Alexander Patrie and Fernanda Franco
Performers and educators Alexander Patrie and Fernanda Franco are an artistic duo hailing from New Haven, Connecticut. Their musical project Fernanda and The Ephemeral is a progressive-soul ensemble for which Alexander is the music director and Fernanda the lyricist. The group is modular and presents itself alternatively as a duo, trio, quartet, or full five-piece band. Their music focuses heavily on soul- and R&B-based grooves and intricate improvisation, but they include a wide variety of musical styles and influences in their compositions, ranging from opera to Brazilian bossa. A passion for using music as a healing balm drives them to tackle issues of social justice and change in their songs.
Julia Piccard is a 16-year-old native Brooklynite born and raised in Park Slope. She is a junior at Fontbonne Hall Academy in Bay Ridge. Julia composes and performs, and plays piano, ukulele, and guitar. She sang for many years with the Berkeley Carroll Lower School choirs under the direction of Carolyn Sloan; she now sings in the select chamber choir at her school under the direction of Anastasia Rege. In November 2019, Julia made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Fontbonne Hall Chamber Choir as part of the American Festival Chorus’s Ninth Annual Christmas Concert. Her song “Change the Game” was composed in May 2020. It reflects her teenage life experiences and anxieties during the COVID-19 lockdown and remote schooling, and the hope that the lessons learned from the pandemic will serve to “change the game” for a brighter tomorrow. Julia credits her loving and supportive family, teachers, and coaches for encouraging her to reach her goals. She aspires to write more songs that detail her personal experiences and vision for the future.
Javy Polanco is a Washington Heights–based musician and songwriter, currently a sophomore at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Queer and mixed-race, they were born to a Native Colombian mother and an Afro-Dominican father, and constantly consider their place in the world due to their mixed heritage. Trained as a jazz flutist and influenced by pop and Latin sounds, their music is an extension of their identity, and they strive to represent racial and queer identities in their music. They have studied at the Manhattan School of Music, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Neighborhood Music School, and Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School. Javy is committed to supporting their community and questioning their identity and place in society. Their artistry, activism, and community work were recognized by the 92nd Street Y with the Teen Arts Week Citizen-Artist Award in 2020. They are a devoted member of multiple queer pride clubs and have been active in fundraising for homeless queer youth.
Briony is a composer and recording artist based in Queens and the founder of the record label VOICES ON, producing music with emerging artists across New York City. She is a participant in Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Workshop and a grateful scholarship recipient at Columbia University, where she is pursuing her master’s in music. Briony was born in London and trained at the Arts Educational School, where she completed her bachelor’s in musical theater with honors. She was fortunate to be funded for all three years by the BBC Performing Arts Fund. She spent five years working in South Korea, where she co-wrote seven musicals, many of which are still being produced internationally. She also helped to raise more than $3,000 for Liberty in North Korea as part of Birds on the Wire, an independent music group that performed near the Korean DMZ. She is delighted to be featured in Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope alongside the incredible young people she works with at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School. She would like to thank her family and friends for their constant support and invites you to follow her upcoming music projects at brionyprice.com.
Amell Quezada is a 15-year-old native of Bushwick in Brooklyn. Her family emigrated from the Dominican Republic in the hopes of providing their children with a better future. She aspires to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and become a successful entrepreneur, with the goal of owning her own business. Music is her liberation: It helps her escape from reality and keeps her motivated when she’s overwhelmed, discouraged, or exhausted. Life before the pandemic was hard enough, and once it hit, Amell found herself dealing with depression and lack of motivation. It was music that kept her inspired when nothing else could. Amell’s goals are her primary focus, and she is determined to get through the pandemic stronger than ever. She is honored and delighted that her work has been acknowledged by the team at Carnegie Hall and hopes that all who listen are able to draw motivation and inspiration from the song that she helped create.
Imani Russell is a 15-year-old dancer attending Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School. She has always danced around her house, but she started taking classes at the age of nine. Since then, dance has become a huge part of her life. She aspires to become a well-known dancer and have other people appreciate her craft. Even though dance is an important part of her life, Imaani still maintains her grades. She pushes herself to make the honor roll every semester, while dancing on the side.
Amanda Seeley is an 11th-grade student at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Harlem. She has been writing songs since the sixth grade. In addition to receiving this Carnegie Hall premiere, Amanda’s piece “I Can’t Breathe” was featured in a master class with the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Amanda likes to game, play sports, and write songs based on real-life events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. In the future, Amanda hopes to attend college and study photography and music. She wants to work in the music industry, writing songs that express her opinions.
Skye Steele is the son of a violin teacher from Puerto Rico and an Army colonel from west Tennessee. Thanks to this early and ongoing education in communication across cultures, he has collaborated with artists ranging from household names like Vanessa Carlton and Willie Nelson to jazz legends Anthony Braxton and Henry Butler, indie-music darlings Jolie Holland and Deer Tick, Bollywood mega-star Arijit Singh, and Brazilian maracatu stalwarts Estrela Brilhante do Recife. Skye got his start playing his fiddle in the subways after moving to New York City from the west coast at 17. He studied at The New School, completing a BFA in jazz violin. In the past decade, he has self-released four albums and booked independent tours across the US and Europe, performing anywhere from hippie communes in Florida to oil-field honky tonks in North Dakota (as well as several-hundred better-known concert halls and clubs). A teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute since 2017, Skye has worked with adolescents and incarcerated adults on songwriting, string playing, and composition. He is also the creator of A People’s History of Strings, a narrative concert and curriculum designed to decolonize our understanding of the violin.
James T. is an artist and educator from Brooklyn. He has performed and written with artists who include Joyce DiDonato, Jeffrey Gaines, and Chris Washburne. He has been a member of Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections for more than a decade. His love of music is matched by his love of teaching and sharing. He is currently engaged in a graduate studies program that focuses on counseling and political activism. James’s piece “Prometheus” laments the lack of social progress being made in our country. It attempts to mirror the trajectory of our nation of supposed equals—and, like a good mirror, hopefully allows us see ourselves and correct our wrongs before it’s too late.
Elijah J. Thomas
Elijah J. Thomas is a Black Philadelphia-born and Harlem-based wind player, multi-instrumentalist, educator, and composer. He began his musical journey at a very young age under the direction of pianist John Zisk. A graduate of Temple University and Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance, Elijah has a master’s in music education and a bachelor’s in jazz arranging and composition with an instrumental concentration in flute and single-reed instruments. He has studied woodwind performance and improvisation with Dick Oatts, Tim Warfield Jr., Walter Bell, and Cynthia Folio, and studied composition and orchestration with Kevin Rodgers, Maurice Wright, and Norman David. As an educator, Elijah has held teaching positions at Temple University Music Preparatory Division, Settlement Music School, Tune Up Philly (of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra), Education Through Music, and BASIS Independent Schools. As a composer, he creates what he calls “enuff music”: music intent on Black healing, spiritual awareness, and selflessness. His two solo records include enuff music, vol. i (Off Latch Press) and Our Search, available for free listening on Bandcamp. Two full-length projects—Diversity and The Unity of Sound—were released with his former group, The NeW Quintet.