2018 SESSION SPEAKERS
Zarouhie Abdalian is an artist based in New Orleans. Rooted in the particularities of site and context, Abdalian’s work typically responds to the specific attributes of a given location, architectural setting, or social landscape. Her sculptures and installations are exhibited widely at venues including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; MOSTYN, Wales; Kunstindustrie Museum, Bergen; Lulu, Mexico City; Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne; 2017 Whitney Biennial, New York; Prospect.3 Biennial, New Orleans; the 8th Berlin Biennale; 9th Shanghai Biennale; CAFAM Biennale, Beijing; and the 12th Istanbul Biennial, to name a selection. Abdalian is currently aritst-in-residence at the Coleman Center for the Arts, York, AL and her solo exhibition Production runs November 3, 2018-February 10, 2019 at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans.
Courtney Bryan is a internationally acclaimed composer, pianist, and Assistant Professor in Tulane's School of Liberal Arts, Newcomb Department of Music, Dr. Bryan is one of five 2018 recipients of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. She plans to work on a number of compositions and recordings in the upcoming year and was named the Mary Carr Patton Composer in Residence with the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida. Dr. Bryan has a DMA in Music Composition from Columbia University and her compositions, ranging from jazz and experimental music to gospel and spirituals, have been presented at Lincoln Center in New York City, the National Gallery of Art, and Bethany and Abyssinian Baptist Churches. Prior to accepting a position at Tulane in 2016. Dr. Bryan was Post doctorate Research Associate at Princeton University's Department of African-American Studies (2015-16) We are fortunate that Dr. Bryan will return home in December 2018 to be both a performer and panelist for our Tricentennial Conference on Improvisation.
Ben Burkett resides in Petal, MS where he cultivates a 250 acres farming operation, which consists of vegetable production, beef cattle, and timber. He has been active in farming since 1970. He serves on several boards relating to agriculture including Slow Food USA He is employed by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund which works with small farmers and cooperatives throughout the south. He has studied Cooperative Development in the United States, Africa, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East, in working and developing marketing processing cooperatives.
Mel Chin is an American conceptual artist whose rigorous work addresses serious, complex topics with beauty, humor and open storylines. NOMA mounted a retrospective of his work, Rematch, in 2014. Currently, visitors to Times Square can experience his multimedia, multi-reality work Wake: parts of a shipwreck, modeled on the USS Nightingale, rise up from the plaza of Times Square like the beached remains of a massive beast. A mysterious carved figurehead leads the wreckage. Though she seems eternally transfixed, through augmented reality (using your handheld device) she surprisingly comes alive to scan the sky above, and sighs.
Theo Eliezer is an artist living in New Orleans, where she is the Creative Director of Momma Tried, a transmedia art project focused on site-specific installations, emerging technology, and a print periodical by the same name. Rooted in constructivism and the confrontation of cooperative fictions, much of their work asks: “Are history and fiction interchangeable?” and “How do art and popular media program the future?”
Randy Fertel holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University and is the author of A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation (Spring Journal Books, 2015), the inspiration for this conference. As a scholar, writer and philanthropist and founder of the Fertel Foundation and the Ruth U. Fertel Dr. Fertel is dedicated to the arts, education, New Orleans, and the environment. He has a special interest in catalyzing initiatives from which new communities and new insights may emerge. This interdisciplinary conference, three years in the making, is such an initiative. Randy will frame the conference themes, present the keynote and interview some of the panelists during the conference.
Paul Goussot is the organist of the historic Dom Bédos organ (built 1748) of the Abbey of Sainte-Croix in Bordeaux, France, and professor of organ at the Conservatoire Reuil-Malmaison. Accepted into the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 16, he earned diplomas in a variety of disciplines: organ, harpsichord, harmony, counterpoint, fugue, improvisation, and pedagogy. In 2009, he was named the first young artist in residence at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. He is noted for his organ improvisations.
Hamilton Fish is a publisher, environmental advocate, and film producer. He is the editor and publisher of the monthly independent political periodical The Washington Spectator. During his tenure as publisher of The Nation, the magazine experienced steady growth, modernized its publishing operation, prospered in many respects during the Ronald Reagan years, and caused a measure of mayhem worthy of an independent political journal. From 1995 to 2009 Fish served as president of The Nation Institute, the foundation associated with The Nation magazine. Fish co-produced two of the epic documentaries from director Marcel Ophüls - The Memory of Justice (originally released in 1976 and currently available on HBO) and Hotel Terminus, which received the 1989 Academy Award for Feature Documentary. He also produced Asinimali, by Mbongeni Ngema - the first production by a black South African playwright on Broadway - and is now developing a musical with Ngema on the life of Nelson Mandela.
Chris Kaminstein is a writer, director, improviser, teaching artist, and co-Artistic Director of award-winning theater company Goat in the Road Productions. Goat in the Road's critically acclaimed shows bring history to life, using intensive design, ensemble writing, and remarkable collections of local talent. Chris' most recent directing credits for the company include Foreign to Myself, The Stranger Disease, and the upcoming The Monocle in Concert with Aurora Nealand. Chris is also a teaching artist and co-founder of the company's flagship educational program, Play/Write, which brings student plays to life with professional actors. He has taught in schools throughout New Orleans through his work with KID smART, and further afield at the Pennsylvania Governors School for the Arts and the Interlochen Summer Arts program in Interlochen, Michigan. He is a performer with the nationally touring improv duo Machine A, and was featured on the March 2013 cover of American Theatre with performance partner William Bowling.
As one of New Orleans’ most-in-demand artists, saxophonist, educator, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Khari Allen Lee has performed and recorded with Alvin Batiste, Ellis Marsalis, Edward ‘Kidd’ Jordan, Aaron Neville, Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, DeeDee Bridgewater, Stevie Wonder, Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane & more. Lead saxophonist & touring member of Delfeayo Marsalis’ Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Lee is on faculty at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA).
He is featured on recordings with DeeDee Bridgewater & The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Dr. John, The Treme Brass Band, & recently released albums by Bobby Rush, & Terence Blanchard.
He earned his BS in Music Education from Auburn University, was a scholarship recipient at the Berklee College of Music, graduating with an Artist Diploma in Professional Music, & earned his Masters from the University of New Orleans as a member of the Louis Armstrong Quintet.
Richard McCarthy embodies the phrase "think globally; act locally." He joined Slow Food USA as Executive Director in January 2013, having previously served as Executive Director of Market Umbrella, an internationally recognized non-profit mentor organization for farmers markets, community building and sustainable economic development. After Hurricane Katrina, Richard played a key role in restarting the local agricultural economy in the New Orleans area, aiming to help provide returning residents with a sense of normalcy and resilience through the revival of farmers markets. He earned his master's degree at the London School of Economics.
Stephen Nachmanovich, author of Free Play: Improv in Life and Art, performs and teaches internationally as an improvisational violinist, and at the intersections of music, dance, theater, and multimedia arts. Dr. Nachmanovich graduated in 1971 from Harvard and in 1975 from the University of California, where he earned a Ph.D. He was a pioneer in free improvisation on violin, viola and electric violin. He has collaborated with other artists in media including music, dance, theater, and film, and has developed programs melding art, music, literature, and computer technology. He has published articles in a variety of fields since 1966 and has created computer software including The World Music Menu and Visual Music Tone Painter.
Davia Nelson of NPR’s Kitchen Sisters is also Producer of the James Beard Award-winning NPR series, Hidden Kitchens, the two Peabody Award-winning NPR series, Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project and most recently, The Hidden World of Girls, a series on NPR that explored the lives of girls and the women they become. Her current project is The Making Of..., a production with KQED and AIR.
A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Mr. Pellera has been a jazz educator in New Orleans since 1989. He taught jazz piano and improvisation for fifteen years at Loyola University before joining NOCCA’s faculty in 2002. In the last 25 years, he has lived in New Orleans and New York, giving his music a unique perspective that draws freely from the influences of the two cities. As a composer he has created a body of work that encompasses modern jazz harmony, indigenous New Orleans rhythms, and elements of the classic American songbook of the 30’s & 40’s. He has released two critically acclaimed CD’s of his jazz compositions featuring a“who’s who” of the New Orleans modern jazz scene: Bill Huntington, John Vidacovich, Steve Masakowski, Tony Dagradi, Bill Summers, James Singleton, and Phillip Manuel. As an arranger and producer, he has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich, Branford Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, and Harry Connick Jr. Some of his former students include Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Jonathan Batiste, Troy Andrews, Rich Vogel and others who have created distinguished careers for themselves.
Jenna Sherry is currently based in London. A versatile chamber musician who also specializes in historical performance, Jenna has performed at venues including the Kennedy Center, Barbican Hall, the Schoenberg Centre in Vienna, and in the City of London Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, the Warsaw Autumn Festival, and the Salzburg Chamber Music Festival. Selected as Marshall Scholar by the British government in 2008, Jenna received a Masters in Performance with David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She previously received her Bachelor of Music and French from Indiana University. In September 2017, Jenna joined the faculty of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague’s School for Young Talent. Jenna previously taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School (UK), a specialist music school for students between 8-18 years old.
Gwen Thompkins is an award-winning journalist in New Orleans and host of the weekly public radio program Music Inside Out. A native New Orleanian, she began her journalism career at the Times-Picayune newspaper. Thompkins was the senior editor of NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, and was an NPR foreign correspondent and bureau chief, filing stories from Africa and Antarctica. Music Inside Out is a long-form interview program showcasing the varied cultural landscape of Louisiana and its impact on American and world music. Guests of the program talk in-depth about their histories and influences. They also demonstrate musical lessons and connections between genres. Thompkins is the show’s executive producer and host. The program also has produced documentaries on Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Danny Barker and Louis Armstrong. In 2016, Thompkins wrote the introduction to the reissue of Barker's memoir A Life in Jazz. Thompkins is a regular contributor to NPR Music and NPR’s Weekend Edition, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Rob Walker (robwalker.net) is a journalist covering design, technology, business, the arts, and other subjects. His newest book, The Art of Noticing, will be published by Knopf in Spring 2019
Since 2013 he has written the Workologist column for the Sunday Business section of The New York Times, and he contributes to a variety of other publications and media outlets. He is on the faculty of the Products of Design MFA program at the School of Visual Arts.
Previously, Walker was a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, where his Consumed column ran from 2004 to 2011. His earlier books are Buying In, Letters From New Orleans (co-edited with Joshua Glenn) AND Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things.
Writer, musician, and teacher Rob Wallace holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a Lecturer in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University. His teaching and research focuses on literature, improvisation, popular and “world” musics, globalization, the cultures of the American West, and intermedia arts, among other topics. Wallace is an active percussionist in a number of genres ranging from Hindustani classical music to free improvisation and he has performed and recorded with a variety of musicians and ensembles throughout North America. His solo poetry and percussion project "Humdrum" blends jazz and other improvised music traditions with written and improvised texts. Before returning to his hometown of Flagstaff, he taught at Bowling Green State University and The UCSB College of Creative Studies. His recordings can be found on the pfMentum and Ambiances Magnétiques record labels. Wallace is the author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism (Bloomsbury) and co-editor (with Ajay Heble) of People Get Ready: The Future of Jazz is Now! (Duke).
Alice Waters is the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, CA. She has been a champion of local sustainable agriculture for over four decades. In 1995 she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, which advocates for a free school lunch for all children and a sustainable food curriculum in every public school. She has been the vice president of Slow Food International since 2002. In 2015 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama, proving that eating is a political act and the table is a powerful means to social justice and positive change. Waters is the author of 15 books, including The New York Times bestsellers The Art of Simple Food I & II and Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea.
Matt Wuerker is the staff cartoonist for POLITICO. Part of the team that launched POLITICO in 2006, he provides editorial cartoons, illustrations, caricatures and Web animations for both the print and Web platforms.
Over the past 40 years, Matt’s cartoons have been used in The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, The Nation and The Smithsonian — to name a few.
In 2010 he was awarded the Herblock Prize at the Library of Congress and later that year won the National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012.