Bios

ARTIST BIOS

Ivy Austin performed leading roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway, at New York City Opera, was a regular on A Prairie Home Companion on NPR, sang with The Muppets on Sesame Street, appears at Symphony Space in Selected Shorts, Wall-to-Wall concerts, and Bloomsday, and is now in her eighth season as lyricist/performer in The Thalia Follies political satire. She is a graduate of Performing Arts and Colgate University, and mother of two wonderful sons.
Hasan Bakr studied with the great masters: Baba Feami Akinlana on conga, Chief Bey on shekere, Nana Vasconcelos on berimbau and body percussion, the legendary Little Ray Romero on timbales and Mbemba Bangoura on djembe. Hasan has performed throughout the United States and for Amsterdam Public Television. He is a founding member of the Spirit Ensemble, and has recorded numerous CDs ranging from percussion music for dance, for multi-media and for meditation.
Ballet Los Pampas, thehusband and wife team of Laura Valdes and Pedro Escudero, was founded in 1990.They have performed and taught throughout the United States, specializing in Tango, Milonga and the folkloric dances of Latin America. Their choreography for the multi-media production, Carlos Gardel-Retro Nuevo, debuted at the Spectrum Theatre of Montreal. They toured Spain with the “Tango Revue” of Argentina, and perform annually in the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, the largest national festival in Argentina. In New York area they have performed at Repertorio Espanol, Queens Theatre in the Park, the Westchester Performing Arts Center and the Thalia Spanish Theatre. Laura received her B.A. in Dance from UCLA and Pedro was educated at Escuela Andres Ferreyra in his native Argentina.
Barbara Barr focuses on historical Renaissance and Baroque dances, as well as American dances from the 18th C to the present, re-creating, performing and teaching dance at such places as the Amherst Early Music Festival, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Great Hall at the Library of Congress and Symphony Space. Barr is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in English and with honors in Creative Writing.
Barbara Barry is a certified national educator and director in the field of therapeutic recreation. She has conducted private art classes for institutions such as the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York, Northern Jersey City Services for Battered Women, and Continuing Education at William Patterson University. She is the founder of Art for Self-Discovery, a center for art-making practices focusing on the personal experience of the creative process. She received her B.S. in Education and the Arts with honors from the University of Akron in Ohio.
Swati Gupte Bhise was born and raised in New York City began learning Bharatanatyam, at the age of 5 and has performed Bharatanatyum at Lincoln Center, Asia Society, Symphony Space and the Danny Kaye Playhouse. A graduate of Brearley and Johns Hopkins University, she is fluent in English, Hindi, Marathi, Spanish and Italian. Devika produced a documentary film entitled “Hijras: The Third Gender”which won the award for Best Social Documentary at the Independent Film Festival in New York City and Los Angeles. Devika also a singer has performed solo jazz concerts at the Plaza hotel, Essex House, The Select City Walk in New Delhi and The Goa Literary Festival.
Pablo Bilbraut was born in Arroya, Puerto Rico and began playing music at a young age, trained by his father Pablo Bilbraut. As a percussionist he played with the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to later join the Arturo O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. He teaches and plays for Arturo O”Farrill’s “Risa Negro” music education program and collaborates with Jazz musicians Luis Bonilla and Mario Rivera. Pablo began as a teaching artist for Symphony Space’s Education programs, Global Arts: Cultural Literacy and Heritage and CAP in Latin American Studies in 2005. He has also recorded several albums with the Arturo O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.
The Capoeira Foundation was founded by the much acclaimed master and teacher of capoeira, Mestre Jelon Vieira, with the purpose of spreading the unique art of capoeira and Afro-Brazilian culture across the globe. In addition to the work his team of capoeiristas conducts in schools and cultural institutions across New York, Jelon Vieira has worked with such prestigious institutions as Yale University, Stanford University, Columbia University, Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey. He and his team are deeply committed to the emotional development of children and young adults through the art of capoeira and incorporate the values of self-esteem and self-discipline into their programs.
Charles Moore Dance Theatre, founded in 1974 by the late Charles Moore withartistic director Ella Moore, is the oldest professional dance company in Brooklyn. The company creates and reconstructs dances, most notably “Shango,” the signature dance of world-renowned choreographer Katherine Dunham. The company’s African, Carribean and African-American dance and drumming programs have been seen on the stages of Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Riverside Church and Central Park, and on the PBS series, Great Performances. Additionally, they are part of “Rhythm Journeys: Masters of World Music and Dance,” a project supported by the NYS Music Fund. Ms. Moore holds a B.A. in Arts and Education from Howard University.
Madeline Cohen, Symphony Space’s Education Director has been working in the arts and arts education for over thirty years at such institutions as the Lincoln Center Institute, the UFT, and Teachers College, among others. She has authored curriculum guides for the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the Nashville Institute for the Arts in Education. Ms. Cohen is a founding member of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, and on the advisory committee for the development of the Leonard Bernstein Center for Learning in Nashville. She was a Reviewer for the NYC Department of Education’s Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Theater and facilitated many of the professional development sessions offered by the DOE. She is also a costume designer, receiving a BA from Brandeis University, and a MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has designed costumes for numerous theatre and opera companies in New York City and around the country.
Bill Cwikowski has been an actor for 40 years and is a founding member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York where he serves as actor, writer, teacher, producer, dramaturg, archivist, and producer. His work has resulted in the development of hundreds of new American plays. He is a film, television and stage actor and is an instructor at many institutions. Bill can be seen on numerous episodes of Law & Order. Bill holds a B.A. in Speech and Drama from Monmouth College and an M.F.A. in Acting from Smith College.
Karen Farnum works with various churches and their dance ministries, and teaches African, modern, jazz, and ballet techniques in local dance schools. Karen is co-director and one of 10 choreographers of the Allen Liturgical Dance Ministry, in Jamaica, Queens. As a member of P.R.E.C.I.S.I.O.N. Drum Corp, she plays both the tenor and the bass drums. Karen has created a line of Liturgical Dancewear. In 2004, she founded Kaphar Dance Company which is a professional dance ministry. She received her B.F.A. Magna Cum Laude at Adelphi University, and she received an M.A. in Arts Administration from NYU.
Juanita Faulkner’s voice has been described by critics as “the perfect Verdi instrument.” Equally at home with popular and concert music, sheis a classically trained soprano who has studied with renowned performers from the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. Numerous awards include the Frank Colasanto and Grace E. Long award, the Connecticut Opera Award, the Baltimore and Metropolitan Award, and the honor of participating in the Consecration of the Right Reverend Oland Lindsay as the Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies. She has performed extensively in recitals, musical theater, operas and church services in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and Canada.
Bobby Gonzalez, fluent in Spanish and English, is a nationally-acclaimed multicultural motivational speaker, storyteller, and poet. He draws on both his Native American (Taino) and Latino (Puerto Rican) roots to offer a unique repertoire that celebrates his dual heritage. Bobby has made presentations at many institutions including Yale University, the University of Alaska, and the University of Alabama. As a storyteller he has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Radio and Television and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The author of “The Last Puerto Rican Indian: a Collection of Dangerous Poetry,” his poetry has been published in numerous periodicals and performed at the National Museum of the American Indian, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Nuyorican Poets Café and the University of Michigan at Flint.
Tammy Hall, a former New York City teacher and advocate for literacy, has been called “StorytellerSupreme”, a “Master.” A native of Clarksville, Tennessee, she draws on her African-American southern rural heritage to deliver an unforgettable tale. Tammy has traveled to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Central America to study those cultures, collect stories and perform folklore. Her storytelling has been broadcast on both public radio and television. Tammy received her B.S. at Harding University in Arkansas.
Nicole Haroutunian is a fiction writer and artist living in Woodside, Queens. In addition to working as a teaching artist at Symphony Space, she is a museum educator at the Museum of the City of New York, the Morgan Library and Museum and the American Folk Art Museum. Nicole is an editor at Underwater New York, an anthology of writing, music and art inspired by the objects submerged in the waterways around NYC.
Kevin Nathaniel Hylton isa founding member of Spirit Ensemble, Kaleidaphonic, and Heritage OP. He pioneered the use of mbiras on the New York world music scene, having trained with legendary Zimbabwean mbira master Ephat Mujuru. He has composed and recorded mbira for the audio version of Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy, and the film Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey. His music can be heard on numerous albums. Kevin was a Scholar of the House at Yale University, where he received a B.F.A. Cum Laude.
Regina Larkin spent two decades as arepresentative of the United States Information Agency’s Goodwill Missions and is internationally recognized for her teaching and performances around the world. She is also renowned for introducing choreographer Lester Horton’s style of dance to Taiwan. Her career highlight was receiving the key to the city of Rosario, Argentina for “mesmerizing performances.” She trained for seven years at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival School, and was a professor of dance at Adelphi for twenty five years. Teaching credits also include Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Elliot Feld Ballet Tech, Peridance International School, Fordham University, LaGuardia High School, and colleges and universities throughout the United States. She is a nationally known teaching artist, performer and choreographer in both urban and rural settings, running consistently-funded creative youth programs. Regina graduated magna and sum cum laude from Adelphi University with a BA in Dance and MA in Fine Arts
Christopher Lea provides an experiential context for learning by engaging students through inquiry. He creates a comfortable environment for them to express themselves and develop problem-solving skills. Through various creative activities that encourage observation, reflection and interpretation, he enables students to grasp the complexity within a work of art.Born in Beverly, England, He has exhibited his works Petra Bungert Gallery, Littlejohn Contemporary and Julian Pretto Gallery, all in New York City
Leaf Arrow Storytellers, featuring Joe Crossof the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma and Donna Couteau Cross ofthe Sac and Fox Nation, are a married couple belonging to the American Indian Registry for Performing Arts. Independently their theater and dance credits include the Public Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, National Arts Theatre and more. As storytellers they have performed at the National Museum of American Indian, the Smithsonian Institute, the United Nations International School, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Newark Library, Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, Symphony Space, and are guest artists in residence at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Khris Lewin is known for his performance in a new translation of Bertolt Brecht’s Fear and Misery in the Third Reich. He has collaborated with several well-known playwrights, been seen on television, and in both independent and documentary films, notably Wallstrip on CBS. Khris is also a SAFD certified teacher in Stage Combat. He holds a B.A. in Theatre from Duke University and an M.F.A. in Acting from the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver, Colorado.
Richard Mannoia A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Richard is a professional clarinetist who performs all over the world. He is a consultant, project director and/or senior teaching artist at such institutions as Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, the 92nd Street Y, and Education Through Music.
Misha McGlown is a multi-media artist specializing in wearable art, jewelry design, and metalwork that reflects her deep interest in African culture and other ancient civilizations. A prolific and multitalented artist, Misha publishes an Internet magazine that covers art, fashion, fun, and social consciousness. “Travels Study,” Misha’s recent work in oils and acrylics, celebrates indigenous life around the world. She has exhibited at Columbia University and curated “Evolution: The Changing Face of Harlem” there, featuring the works of 25 Harlem artists. She attended Wayne State University and the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, and studied jewelry design and metalsmithing at the Pratt Institute and at F.I.T. in New York.
Yusef Miller is an emerging independent theatre producer and project director. Yusef graduated from The Juilliard School, Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellowship and received his MFA at University of California, San Diego. He facilitates in-school workshops for Lincoln Center’s Open Stages Program and Medgar Evers College, The Center for Black Literature. He has worked Off-Broadway and in film and television and is a member of SAG-AFTRA and the Actors Equity Association.
Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, under the direction of Nai-Ni Chen, has won national critical acclaim, receiving a Choreographer’s Fellowship from the NEA and the NJ State Council on the Arts. Formed in 1988, her works have been commissioned by the Joyce Theater Foundation, the Lincoln Center Institute, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. She has taught master classes at colleges and universities throughout the United States and at dance festivals in Russia, Poland, Taiwan and China. Ms. Chen is a frequently-featured artist on PBS/NJN’s “State of the Arts.” The company’s residency program for Chinese-American heritage has been selected by the Chinese Language Teachers Association as a model for collaborative language and arts education. Nai-Ni received her B.A. in Dance at the Chinese Culture University, an M.A. in Dance and Dance Education at NYU.
Abby Newton has been on the forefront of the folk music revivalsince 1973. Abby plays both the cello and fiddle and performs regularly with the Ferintosh Celtic Trio, a crossover ensemble that combines traditional and Baroque music. She has recorded two CDs that introduce the cello as a solo instrument in traditional music, and fifteen albums of the music of Scotland with Jean Redpath. Abby has toured throughout the United States and Scotland and has been featured on both A Prairie Home Companion and Thistle and Shamrock on National Public Radio.
Arturo O’Farrill, 2009 GRAMMY Award winner, alsowon the Latin Jazz USA Outstanding Achievement Award in 2003. Born in Mexico and raised in New York, O’Farrill’s development as a solo performer included working with such greats as Dizzy Gillepsie, Harry Belafonte and Wynton Marsalis. In 2002, Arturo created the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra for Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra is now in residence at Symphony Space Arturo has received several commissions including Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Philadelphia Music Project.
Lance Paladino is an expert in graphic design, illustration, studio art, visual essay, and the Old Master painting technique known as Fantastic Realism. He has exhibited his work in various media throughout New York City, Chicago, and Austria. His commercial work includes illustrations for museum diorama and poster design for the underground music scene. Lance is an adjunct Professor at York College. He received his B.F.A. in Graphic Design, Illustration and Studio Art from Kent State, and received an M.F.A. in Illustration and Visual Essay at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Rose Pearlman has exhibited her works at the Vermont Studio Center, The Red Mill Gallery, Johnson State College, Tisch Hall and her photos have been printed in Smithsonian Magazine and F-Stop Magazine. She was an art teacher at Johnson Elementary School, and at the Clarina Howard Nichols Center in Vermont. Rose has developed effective strategies for overcoming social and economic barriers in her teaching of at-risk teenagers and K-12 students in public schools. Rose has also developed neighborhood wellness programs teaching yoga and art for abused children and women. She holds a B.F.A. in Photography from New York University, TISCH School of the Arts.
Ricky Rodriguez is a bass player and composer. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. he received a Bachelor of Music in classical bass at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. There he had the opportunity to perform with some of the giants in Latin Jazz today, including Giovanni Hidalgo, Jerry Gonzalez, Chuchito Valdez, Erick Figueroa, and Miguel Zenon , Visoso. In New York City, he has played with distinguished musicians such as the David Sanchez Quartet, Branford Marsalis, the Chico O' Farrill Afro-Cuban Big Band and others. Ricardo Rodriguez has recorded albums with R.I.P Alvin Batiste (Marsalis Music Honor Series,) Ricardo Pons and Causa Comun ( Segunda Piel,) among others.
Linda Russell uses voice, mountain and hammered dulcimer to explore history through music. She has appeared in schools and festivals nationwide including Lincoln Center and the Carnegie Hall Folk Festival with Tom Paxton and Mike Seeger. Having been the official balladeer at Federal hall National Memorial for 16 years, she has recorded eight albums of traditional and popular music of the 18th and 19th centuries and was reviewed as “a majestic voice that makes stirring renditions of old English hymns, French carols, Welsh tunes and American compositions.” She has a B.A. in Speech from the University of Wisconsin and an Associate Degree in Theatre from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City
Sounds of Brazil Liliana Araújo, born in Ceará, in the northeast of Brazil, is a singer, dancer and researcher of Brazilian folk dance and music, focusing primarily on the rich, multi-cultural nordeste. Scott Kettner is a master percussionist, bandleader, producer and songwriter and guiding force behind Nation Beat, a band whose teeming vibrant rhythms find common ground in the primal Maracatu du Baque Virado of Brazil’s Pernambuco region. Uri Sharlin, who was born in Tel Aviv and received his BFA at City College of New York, is a pianist and accordionist.
Marsha Perry Starkes is a multifaceted musician who combines traditional African instruments and musical forms with contemporary influences. Marsha can be heard on Women of the Calabash’s recording of The Kwanzaa Album. She is a featured soloist with The Neo-Bass Jazz Ensemble singing bebop, swing and big band music. Her recordings include Bird Lives! Through the Neo Bass Ensemble, Hit It! and Bebop meets Bass. She sings and plays the music of Africa, Latin America, North America, and the Caribbean. Marsha holds a B.S. in Theatre Arts from Marygrove College in Detroit, MI.
Steel Impressions is a 3rd generation family steel pan band with Caribbean roots in St. Lucia, Barbados and South America's Guyana. Performing both nationally and internationally, they have also appeared on many TV features, including “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” They perform authentic Caribbean music from calypso to reggae, as well as European classical, rhythm and blues, jazz, and contemporary popular tunes. The family behind Steel Impressions is deeply committed to the use of steel pans as educational and social tools, using the instruments as a means of engaging young people in music.
Taikoza was founded by Marco Lienhard in 1995. Since that time, the company has toured extensively throughout the USA, Japan, Mexico and Europe. With 3,000 concerts to their credit, Taikoza has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Boston Symphony Hall, Symphony Space, Hong Kong Cultural Center and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. They have appeared on ESPN, at the Sumo tournament at Madison Square Garden, and have recorded music for a Nintendo wii game: “Red Steel”. They have presented programs at Grand Central Station as a promotion for the city of Tokyo, and at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the cherry blossom celebration. Marco has underscored many movies and documentaries and has two critically acclaimed shakuhachi recordings. Masayo Ishigure, a member of Taikoza, is a master performer of the koto, an ancient 12-stringed instrument.
Vickie Tanner creates workshops that teach everything from the African influence in American music to conflict resolution through theater arts. In Running Into Me, her recent one women show, Vickie plays over a dozen characters. Her work has been seen at the Kitchen and Playwright’s Theater. She has been in the Off-Broadway, National and European casts of STOMP. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre Arts from California State University at Long Beach, is a graduate of the Professional Theatre Training Program at the William Esper Studio and currently studies at the Art Students League.
Thunderbird American Indian Dancers was founded in 1963 by Louis Mofsie. The company has been key to the preservation and perpetuation of American Indian culture through national performances highlighting the traditions of American Indian peoples. Thunderbird specializes in the songs and dances of the tribes of the Northwest Coast, Woodlands (Iroquois and Winnebago), Plains (Sioux) and the Southwest (Hopi and Santa Domingo.) Louis Mofsie and his troupehave presented numerous guest lectures and dance appearances at colleges, universities and schools throughout the nation and regularly at the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Theater for the New City, Symphony Space and the National Museum of the American Indian. They sponsor a monthly powwow and have produced an album of songs of native people. Mofsie holds a B.S. from SUNY College for Teachers at Buffalo and an M.A. from Hofstra University
Laurine Towler made her Broadway debut in Lettice and Loveage, starring Dame Maggie Smith and subsequently did the national tour starring Julie Harris. She toured nationally in The Tap Dance Kid, and has acted in several films including Celebrity and Small Time Crooks, directed by Woody Allen, and People I Know, which starred Al Pacino. Laurine is a graduate of Stanford University and received her M.F.A. in Theatre from the University of California, San Diego.
Tung Ching Chinese Center for the Arts, with Agnes Ho as the artistic director, promotes the arts and culture of China. Ms. Ho provides opportunities for mainland Chinese actors who studied with masters of the Beijing Opera to work in the United States. Through Tung Ching, she has presented hundreds of Chinese operas, martial arts performances, and workshops for colleges and universities, such as Columbia University, Barnard College’s World Theater Program, and Yale University; at K-12 schools; and at various locations in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
Kevin Craig West is an actor, director andaward-winning filmmaker. Soon to be released are UnCivil Liberties and Get a Grip, both featuring Kevin as actor, producer and director. He has his own production company, MoBetta Films. He is the co-founder of an on-camera training company for actors, and he is a member of the Barrow Group in New York City, board member of UpState Independents and frequently works in productions at Capital Rep, most recently in To Kill a Mockingbird. He was recently named Best Actor at the Knickerbocker Film Festival for his work in Mike Feuerstein’s film, The Greatest Man Alive.
Women of the Calabash with Madeline Yayodele Nelson as the artistic director has shared billing with The Temptations, Richie Havens, Philip Glass, Odetta and more. Founded in 1978, Women of the Calabash has performed for former Presidents Tomas Sankara of Burkina Faso and Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Cited as “Musicians Extraordinaire” by the National Council for Culture and Art, the group received the prestigious Monarch Merit Award, Blue Ribbon for Best Music Video from the American Film Festival and the CINE Golden Eagle Award. HBO featured Women of the Calabash in a Black History month profile in 1997.

YUSEF MILLER an emerging independent theatre producer and project director, Yusef graduated from The Juilliard School, Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellowship and received his MFA at University of California, San Diego. He facilitates in-school workshops for Lincoln Center’s Open Stages Program and Medgar Evers College, The Center for Black Literature. He has worked Off-Broadway and in film and television and is a member of SAG-AFTRA and the Actors Equity Association.