About the Artists
You and your students will meet New York City–based artists who represent three different musical genres and cultural traditions; many have reinvented these deeply rooted traditions to make them their own. Together, you will learn songs and dances that you will perform along with the artists during the digital concert experience at the end of your semester.
Fall 2021 Artists
Born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, Brianna Thomas made her singing debut at age six with her father’s band, performing a duet rendition of the jazz classic, “What a Wonderful World.” Since graduating from college in 2011, Brianna has performed with many jazz greats including Clark Terry, Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, Mulgrew Miller, Wynton Marsalis, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Michael Feinstein, and her longtime hero, Dianne Reeves. Brianna also continues to perform worldwide at venues such as the Apollo Theater, Ginny’s Supper Club, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha, Minton’s Playhouse, and Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, and at the prestigious Montreux, Umbria, Bern, and Sochi jazz festivals. Brianna was a 2014 musical ambassador for American Music Abroad as a guest vocalist with The Amigos Band, singing folk, bluegrass, gospel, and jazz. Everybody Knows is Brianna’s 2020 CD, which boasts a pleasing potpourri of reimagined standards and original compositions, played with a vibrant, Mississippi River–blend of blues, jazz, and R&B.
Browse Unit: Jazz with Brianna
Tanyaradzwa, Zimbabwean Mbira Music
Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa Nzou Mambano is a Zimbabwean gwenyambira (mbira player), scholar, composer, and singer whose creative practice centers African healing and self-liberation. Tanyaradzwa’s music is grounded in the ancestral Chivanhu canon taught to her by the generations of svikiro (spirit mediums) and n’anga (healers) in her bloodline. Her internationally performed opera The Dawn of the Rooster tells stories of her family during Zimbabwe's Chimurenga (Struggle for Liberation) from 1965 to 1980. Tanyaradzwa is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, and has held artistic residencies at National Sawdust and Castle of Our Skins.
Browse Unit: Zimbabwean Mbira Music with Tanyaradzwa
Haitian songstress Emeline Michel is internationally acclaimed for fusing pop, jazz, blues, and traditional Haitian rhythms into deeply moving, joyful music delivered through charismatic live shows. A master entertainer, Emeline has shared her message with audiences for more than 20 years, including appearances at the United Nations, Montreal’s International Jazz Festival, and MTV’s Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief. Hailed by The New York Times as a “diplomat of music” and “the dancing ambassador with a voice serene and warm like the breeze,” she is now based in New York City, where she was awarded a New York City Council Proclamation for outstanding activism in the community.
Browse Unit: Haitian with Emeline
Spring 2022 Artists
Juan and Julia, Bomba and Plena
Puerto Rican–born percussionist, composer, and arranger Juan J. “Juango” Gutiérrez was instrumental in helping to revitalize bomba and plena music in New York City and the rest of the US. In 1983, he met leading plena musician Marcial Reyes in New York; together they created Los Pleneros de la 21. Juan has remained at the helm of Los Pleneros de la 21 ever since as the mastermind behind its ongoing success, including a 2005 Grammy nomination. For his vision and contribution to music, Juan was named an NEA National Heritage Fellow. Julia Gutiérrez-Rivera is Juan’s youngest daughter. As Los Pleneros de la 21 formed when she was 10 months old, Julia was weaned on bomba and plena, and is now a guiding member of the group and respected bomba and plena dancer and educator.
Browse Unit: Bomba and Plena with Juan and Julia
Starr, Freedom Songs
Starr Busby (who accepts all pronouns said with respect) is a singing, writing, acting, and teaching artist committed to the liberation of all people. They may be seen playing solo shows with their loop station, Francis, or fronting the Brooklyn-based experimental soul band People’s Champs. Starr has also performed with The Gorillaz, Esperanza Spalding, X Ambassadors, Kimbra, and Alice Smith. Selected appearances include Moby Dick (American Repertory Theatre), the Drama Desk Award winner Octet (Signature Theatre), Where Love Lies Fallow (The Shed), Apollo Music Café: The Soul Cypher (Apollo Theater), #BlackGirlMagic Show, Mikrokosmos (Steirischer Autumn Festival and Nottingham Contemporary), and The Girl with the Incredible Feeling (Festival dei Du Mondi). They were an Ars Nova 2020–2021 Vision Resident. Starr also enjoys working as an arts educator at Carnegie Hall and Long Island University, where they teach as an adjunct faculty member.
Browse Unit: Freedom Songs with Starr
Falu, Indian Classical
Falu is a Grammy Award–nominated, internationally recognized artist who is known for her rare ability to blend a distinctly modern and inventive style with her formidable Indian classical vocal training. Originally from Mumbai, Falu moved to the US in 2000 and was appointed as a visiting lecturer at Tufts University. Since then, she has collaborated with a range of outstanding artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Wyclef Jean, Philip Glass, Ricky Martin, Blues Traveler, and A. R. Rahman, and has performed for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Her first album, Falu, was featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s exhibit Beyond Bollywood as a representative of the voice of an Indian American artist who transcends boundaries. In 2015, she was named one of the 20 most influential global Indian women by The Economic Times of India, and she won the Women Icons of India award in 2018. Falu’s Grammy Award–nominated project Falu’s Bazaar takes families on a musical journey through South Asia. Falu performs with the band Falu & Karyshma, which is known for its ability to weave together the intensity of rock, the improvisation of jazz, and the intricacies of India’s deepest musical traditions. It released its most recent album, Someday, in 2020.
Browse Unit: Indian Classical with Falu