Artist in Residence

The GMI Artist-in-Residence Program offers 8-month residencies at MacPhail Center for Music to foster cultural change in our communities through passion and creativity in music. Believing that supporting and investing in diverse voices challenges current ideas of music education pedagogy, this program is a commitment to become a deeply anti-racist organization by giving diverse voices a platform to share their creative stories, challenge ideas, and question the nature of existence.

Selected recipients are provided artistic and educational opportunities to promote a culturally thriving tomorrow.

Krysta's headshot

Project: Step Up to the Mic

This project use electronic music, hip-hop education, and recording arts as tools through school partnerships for students and professional development for educators. With an emphasis on multimedia workshops and presentations, this project will engage and empower students and staff in Minnesota with the intersectionality of recording arts education and the exciting future of music technology .

About the Artist

Krysta “K.Raydio” Rayford is a vocalist, producer and teaching artist based in Minneapolis, MN. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Krysta is an accomplished singer/songwriter who incorporates topics regarding social justice into her art and her workshops. Her music has been featured internationally on platforms such as VH1, BBC Radio, and Okayplayer. Krysta was a featured performing artist at Soundset Music Festival in 2014, one of the largest hip-hop music festivals in the United States. She has taught and led workshops for Minneapolis Public Schools, Kulture Klub Collaborative, Twin Cities Mobile Jazz, She Rock She Rock and many other schools and organizations in Minnesota. Krysta is currently an Ableton software instructor for Beats By Girlz MN, an organization that empowers women in sound production. Her introductory class was one of the only Ableton courses geared towards women and non-binary adults in the United States. She recently released her collaborative album …And The World Weeps with producer Shrimpnose, in addition to a series of self-produced EPs (The Sync Series) in 2019.

Krysta is an Electronic Music Recording Arts (EMRA) faculty instructor at MacPhail Minneapolis. She has years of experience as voice over talent with a unique background in Audio Description narration. Her credits include Empire (FOX), A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO), Independent Lens (PBS), Barbie’s Dreamhouse Adventures (Netflix), and Around The Way (Hulu).

Greg standing with an electric guitar and bass

Project: Video Game Music Orchestra for Middle and High School Bowed-String Students

This project creates and directs a Video Game Music Orchestra for Twin Cities metro area middle and high school bowed string students. Byers will recruit students from local string programs, arrange, and notate parts for each song, conduct rehearsals, and advise students on performing modern music in a non-classical setting. The culmination will be a live performance where every student is amplified, in costume and having fun! Last year’s iteration of the Video Game Music Orchestra was very successful. Greg is confident that he can build an even better ensemble by utilizing that previous experience.

About the Artist

Greg Byers uses his talents as a performer, composer, educator and producer to share the wisdom and beauty of great music with a diverse range of audiences and students. His relationship with music began at 2 1/2, when he first studied cello in the Suzuki method. In 2008 Greg became the first person in the history of University of Miami to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a double major in Instrumental Performance/Studio Music & Jazz on cello and bass.

Since then, he has performed on BBC Two (Later… with Jools Holland) and Univision (Latin GRAMMYs); he has also been a featured artist/clinician at New Directions Cello Festival, Creative Strings Workshop, and Mark Wood’s Rock Orchestra Camp. The winner of the International Journalists Award at the 2020 Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition, Greg was named a Global Music Initiative 2021 Artist-in-Residence at MacPhail Center for Music. He is also the recipient of numerous grants, including the 2017 Artist Initiative Grant, the 2020 Next Step Fund and 2022 Creative Support for Individuals.

Person standing facing to the left and holding a cello

Project: THREADS

This project will weave together process, sound, story, and community. A recording – including a new commission - will bring together to the works of Chad Hughes and Adolphus Hailstork. This recording will serve as a catalyst to engage with students from the Seward and Whittier communities to share the threads that weave the sounds together to historical context, personal narrative, and reflections of our world. Students will collaborate with me on the artwork for the CD itself and an accompanying exhibit of artistic reflections. 

About the Artist

Rebecca Merblum is a dedicated teacher and performing cellist currently based in Minneapolis. Originally from Connecticut, Rebecca has been dedicated to chamber music throughout her life. At the Hartt School, Rebecca worked with the Emerson String Quartet and Mitchell Stern (American String Quartet). She received her bachelor’s degree at the Cleveland Institute and her master’s from the New England Conservatory. Rebecca is a frequent substitute with St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Liquid Music Series. She is a former member of the Artaria Quartet (2016-2017) and a founding member of the Azmari Quartet, the Corbett Ensemble in Residence at Northern Kentucky University (2004-2009).

Rebecca enjoys performing engagements with the Cincinnati Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and has performed in the past as a guest artist with the Salastina Chamber Music Series, Sundays at LACMA, the Green Umbrella Series (Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Classical Encounters. Rebecca was a substitute with both the LAPhil and LAOpera from 2010-2016 and can be heard on several film soundtracks. A dedicated teacher, Rebecca served as the Chair of the String Department at the Pasadena Conservatory from 2014-2016 where she was a member of the cello and chamber music faculties. Her students have gained recognition in numerous competitions and festivals around the world. Currently, an instructor at MacPhail Center for Music, Rebecca also mentor’s students in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work in Kenya is through the Art of Music Foundation and her students are members of Ghetto Classics. The outgrowth of this work has become the Kenya International Cello Festival, of which she is the Co-Artistic Director.

Rebecca crafted recent collaborations with the James Sewell Ballet and composer, Chad Hughes, exploring the evolution of dance forms from the 18th century to the present. She also held a Target Center Residency at the Weisman Museum- ‘Cello Conversations.’ This project inspired a second phase and is now supported under the umbrella of the Springboard for the Arts Fiscal Incubator Program. Rebecca is currently working with Fueled Collective on a new Chamber Music Series- ‘Sound Dialogue.’

Photo Credit: Sharolyn B. Hagen

Project: Scratch Kitchen

This project creates a series of works demonstrating the turntable’s use as an instrument through “scratch compositions.” Using the technique of vinyl record manipulation, we can orchestrate music and produce songs that traditional musicians may also compose, but with a non-traditional method. By documenting the creative process, both visually and acoustically, we can show future artists another way of self-expression through music.

About the Artist

Kenichi Thomas (aka DJ Just Nine) has been exploring music without regard for genres from a young age. That expansive taste, plus a desire to perfect the craft of DJing has earned him notable achievements like touring with Rhymesayers Entertainment artist Atmosphere; serving as I Self Devine’s tour DJ for five years; and performing on high-profile stages such as Rock The Bells, SXSW, Low End Theory, Afropunk Festival, 2018’s Super Bowl Live, and numerous Soundset Festivals. Just Nine currently holds down the decks for Minneapolis hip hop artist Greg Grease, countless club nights throughout the Twin Cities, and as a founding member of the future-funk band Astralblak (formerly known as ZULUZULUU). Together with Astralblak, he has released three albums on Sound Vérité Records: 2016’s What’s The Price, 2018’s Seeds, and 2020’s Space & Time EP. As of Fall 2021, he is DJ instructor at MacPhail Center for Music as part of the Electronic Music Recording Arts program (EMRA).

Project: Gugak in Your School 

Gugak in Your School will create connections with public school music teachers who want to teach Korean songs or drumming while providing resources, such as videos and written materials via an online website. After students have learned a Korean folk song or drumming rhythms, Dr. Lee will visit the school and play with the students. A short gayageum recital will also be held for the students, teachers, and parents. A second project of Dr. Lee’s will include free Korean drumming workshops and gayageum classes at MacPhail Center for Music.

About the Artist

Dr. SooJin Lee is a professional performer and instructor on the gayageum (a traditional Korean string instrument- pronounced /ka-ya-kum/), Korean drumming, piano, and general music at MacPhail Center for Music. Dr. Lee has over 20 years of teaching experience, including general music instruction for high school students in Korea, private instruction of gayageum and piano, and a residency of Korean music and drumming in American schools. As a performer, her accolades include solo and ensemble work with western musicians in various venues. A special collaboration with soprano Dr. Mikyoung Park led to forming Duo VoGa (Voice and Gayageum). The duo has performed together for many years and released their debut album Yearning for Love: Reimagining Korean Traditional Art Songs in 2018. The Duo VoGa is currently working on a second album.

Dr. Lee’s passion is to introduce gugak (Korean music) help people to understand different cultures and values through musical experience. Dr. Lee believes that experience with and understanding just one musical culture can be a bridge to many different cultures and their musical traditions. For that purpose, Dr. Lee enjoys discovering new and accessible ways to teach and explain gugak while respecting its uniqueness.

Before coming to the United States, Dr. Lee worked for the National Korean Traditional Music High School as a gayageum and general music teacher. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Korean music (specialized in gayageum performance) from Seoul National University, South Korea and a master’s degree in Social Sciences (specialized in Ethnomusicology) from the University of California, Irvine. She received her PhD in music education (research interests are multicultural music education and pedagogy for teaching Indigenous music in formal education system) at the University of Minnesota.

Project: Breaking Circles: Reclassifying “World” Music

This residency opportunity will engage detailed conversations regarding music that resides outside the conventional circle of western music pedagogy and its continuous attempt to classify the unfamiliar as world music and present the so-called exotic as cultural commodities to be consumed as diversified content. A series of workshops and collaborative recordings will take place and be shared with the MacPhail and wider community as the project unfolds.

About the Artist

Aida Shahghasemi is a Minneapolis based musician with roots in Iran. She studied Psychology and Anthropology at University of Minnesota with a focus on the cultural aspects of Persian Classical Music and the restrictions imposed on the voices of Iranian female vocalists. She received her master’s degree from New York University in Arts Politics where she also served as an adjunct instructor teaching a course she developed on arts activism in Iran. She has worked with a number of different art and social advocacy groups in New York and Minnesota as a musician, graphic designer, and developer. Additionally, Aida has had the pleasure of serving as an Assistant Program Coordinator at Hamline University’s Making Waves Social Justice Theatre Troupe. She has been a touring member of Iron and Wine and Marketa Irglova’s band while also serving as a recording artist on two of Glen Hansard’s albums. Her two albums are “Wind Between the Horse’s Ears”, released in 2015, and “Cypress of Abarkooh”, released in 2019. She is a McKnight Music Fellow and has served as the co-chair of Growth and Sustainability pillar of the executive board for Student Affiliates of the American Psychological Association during the 2021 academic year. Aida is pursuing a second Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and currently serves as an adjunct faculty at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Project: L.A.’s MacPhail Jam

L.A.’s MacPhail Jam will expand the community jam session in multiple areas. The initial idea takes a few sessions outside the four walls of the building. Being that MacPhail is such a large community partner, one of the highlights of this project is to host a jam at Shiloh Temple International Ministries and at North Community High School both located in North Minneapolis. Doing this will make the jam sessions more accessible to the communities that mostly populate the jam. An additional expansion of the project will provide time for a themed group dialogue/discussion where musicians and artists share stories, life advice, and recommendations with one another.

About the Artist

L.A. Buckner is a performing musician, teaching artist, and producer from the Northside of Minneapolis. He holds a master’s degree in Percussion Performance from McNally Smith College of Music, and is a teaching artist at MacPhail Center for Music and the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. Currently, L.A. serves as co-host for the two-time Webby award-winning PBS music education YouTube series Sound Field.

In August of 2020, L.A. took iTunes by storm with the release of his project BiG HOMiE which reached the #1 Jazz position within 24 hours of its release.

Project: Echoes of Africa: An Experience with Iconic and Disappearing African Instruments 

This project creates collaboration with top-tier artists to amplify the sounds of disappearing African instruments through the MacPhail Global Music Initiative residency program. Chongo will develop and create a master class series on African improvisation, culminating in an original work of approximately 30-40 minutes performed with the faculty and students of MacPhail. In addition to this series, an EP of original, improvisational creative works featuring Mbira Dzava Dzimu, Mbira Nyunga Nyunga, Xitende, and Timbila of Mozambique. To support the master class series, twice-monthly “jam sessions” will be open to students and faculty for creative practice and musical experimentation with their own instruments or using traditional African instruments that Chongo will provide. Participants are encouraged to come as they are with an open mind to let go of their musical inhibitions, learn, and improvise from the examples shared.

About the Artist

Nyttu Chongo is a musician and composer from Maputo, Mozambique now living in Fridley, Minnesota. He builds, repairs, and plays traditional Mozambican and Rwandan instruments such as the Chopi Timbila, Xipendane,Xitende, Xizambe, Mbira Dzava Dzira, Mbira Nyunga Nyunga, Dju Dju, Timbila, Bombo, Ligoma, Hudo, Xocalhos, Djembe, Pwangue, Kora, and Inanga. A 2020 Minnesota State Arts Board Initiative grantee, his mission in life is to make the voices of his ancestors heard in these instruments and let their stories speak so that the world does not lose this essential musical and cultural heritage.

Since moving to Minnesota in 2016, Nyttu Chongo has made a local name for himself on both large stages and community settings across the Midwest, opening for the production of Familiar at the Guthrie Theater in 2018, leading workshops at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Spurlock Museum in 2020, and performing at numerous festivals, libraries, and schools. He is currently developing an original work for the 2022 Cedar Commissions (through the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, MN) called Nkovu Wa Xivavu, which means “A Celebration of Pain.” This piece weds the voices of Central, Southern, and West Africa through the inanga, xitende, and kora. These iconic and disappearing African string instruments from three distinct regions of the continent (Rwanda/Burundi, Mozambique, and Senegal) have never been played together in a single work. By featuring these instruments with deep African soul together at the heart of this improvised and spirit-led piece, Nkovu Wa Xivavu sings of an Africa divided with the opportunity to rediscover itself, illustrated through thin individual strings woven together to become a stronger, united continent.

Person looking up and to the right holding a small string instrument

Project: Music As a Language

The first part of this project is a series of masterclasses titled Music as a Language. It is designed specifically for K-12 students and will draw upon musical elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, pitch, tempo, and phrasing, using them as conduits for the teaching and learning of improvisation. The second half consists of a week long jazz violin workshop.

About the Artist

Ernest Bisong is a violinist, composer, educator, and teaching artist. Introduced to the violin at age nine in Nigeria, he has studied with several notable tutors and performers including Rachel Barton-Pine (American violinist), Sir Godfrey Amoah (Ghanaian violinist), Louis Jones (British violinist), Agnes Nagy (Hungarian cellist), and Thomas Kanitz (cellist of the Reger String Quartet and Dortmund Symphony). In July 2013, he became the first Nigerian to obtain performance diploma certification from the Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London with a distinction. He has a master’s in violin performance from the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul Minnesota where he studied with Randy Sabien (jazz violin), Daria T. Adams (violinist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), and Pete Whitman (saxophonist). He holds K-12 teaching licensure and a Master’s in Education from the from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul MN.

Ernest performed at the African Leadership Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the illustrious Bez (2011). He performed as part of the Nigerian contingent at the African Showcase of the SXSW in Austin, TX (2012). He’s opened for Richard Bona, Mike Stern, Marcus Johnson, Marsha Ambrosius, and Anita Baker. Ernest is a member of Minneapolis String Project, a high-energy string trio of violin, cello, and guitar which deviates from the standard repertoire of classical or bluegrass instruments and instead draws from jazz, fusion, rock, soul, folk, and Brazilian music influences. This group’s EP, Stone Arch Strings, was released in 2019.

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