Past Recipients of McKnight Fellowships for Musicians


 José A. Zayas Cabán, saxophone—new/classical, Minneapolis has presented performances and taught master classes throughout Europe, the Caribbean and North America. A native Puerto Rican and musician activist, José is building an artistic career focused on developing projects, albums and collaborations that address, respond and raise awareness about current events and social issues. José is currently collaborating with multiple Grammy Nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón on a work titled El País Invisible (The Invisible Nation, 2019), that reflects on the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States Empire. In addition, he is developing a project with Angélica Negrón that will result in a new composition, by Angélica, titled Pedacito de Tierra (Little Piece of Land). Influenced by the work of Rafael Tufiño, and photographer Erika Rodriguez, Pedacito de Tierra will celebrate Puerto Rico’s stories and struggles. The collaboration with Angélica Negrón and Miguel Zenón is part of a larger, long term, project called Puerto Rico se Re-Inventa. José is developing this project to schedule annual residencies in Puerto Rico and bring free music concerts to the communities of Puerto Rico and, by documenting these visits to the island, raise consciousness and awareness about Puerto Rico in the mainland United States. His upcoming debut album, Centennial, commemorates the women’s suffrage movement and the ratification of the 19th amendment in August 1920.

José is the co-founder of the Chamber Music Trio {Trés}, which was started as a collaborative project by José and Colin Young with the purpose of creating transcriptions and commissioning new works for a two saxophone and piano ensemble to perform. The trio has since performed chamber music by a wide range of composers in Central America, the Caribbean and throughout the United States. In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and María, {Trés} finished a national tour (2018) titled A Tribute to Puerto Rico to help raise funds and awareness about Puerto Rico and the island’s efforts to recover from the hurricanes. In November 2019, the trio completed its first residency in Puerto Rico.

PaviElle French, voice—soul, Columbia Heights is an interdisciplinary artist, Emmy Award and Sage Award winner. Ms. French is Minneapolis City Pages “Best R&B Vocalist of 2015.” As a Voice-Over artist, she has done national commercials for Pepsi and Boston Market. She has two documentaries, TPT’s “Lowertown Line,”(2015) and “MN Original” (2019). She has written and performed two one-woman shows: Runnin’ (2014); Ovarian Fortitude (2016). She is a recipient of the ACF Create Grant and received a commission by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, writing a symphony about her Mom’s service to the Rondo Community entitled, “A Requiem For Zula,”(2019). PaviElle began her career as a child with City Songs, Penumbra Theatre Company and, SteppingStone. As a teacher, she has worked at Maxfield Magnet and Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts. She has facilitated creative writing workshops and residencies in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools. Currently, she is a faculty member at MacPhail Center for Music.


Diane Miller, a.k.a. D Mills, voice—Hip-Hop, folk, alternative, rock, Minneapolis, is a singer, rapper, looper, beatboxer, songwriter and guitarist who infuses a variety of influences into her music. For nearly a decade Miller has fronted the band D Mills & The Thrills, a 6 piece hip-hop/rap group originated in Fargo, ND. A devout fan and follower of classic hip-hop, Diane pays stylistic homage to the genre accompanied by lyrics authentic to her worldview. Miller raps and sings about love, personal growth and struggle related to growing up as a shy outcast in the rural Midwest. Miller and the band also powerfully showcase songs of legendary hip-hop/rap groups such as Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest, Rage Against The Machine, Beastie Boys, Wu Tang Clan, TLC and more.

Diane has gone on to become a fixture in the state of North Dakota, performing music and/or emceeing big events such as TEDxFargo, Celebration of Women and Their Music, Woodstock 50th Anniversary Celebration, DylanFest, Back is Black (Tribute to Johnny Cash), Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Fargo Theatre, Alley Fair and much more. Diane’s work has also been covered by nearly every major news source in the Red River Valley, including Forum News Service, High Plains Reader, MPR, Prairie Public, Fargo Monthly, WDAY, KFGO and others.

Since moving to Minneapolis in September 2018, Diane has been focusing on solo performances and collaborating with a variety of different musicians, including Kiss The Tiger, Haley (f.k.a. Haley Bonar), Greg Schutte (Mickey Hart Band, Ryan Bingham), Jeremy Ylivsaker (Alpha Consumer, The Suburbs, Andrew Bird) and JG Everest (Roma Di Luna). On January 1, 2020, she released her first solo hip-hop single “What Gets Ignored”, which has been receiving airplay and praise from MPR’s The Current.


Kirsten Whitson, cello—classical, St. Paul, performs extensively as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician.

She has played throughout the US, Cuba, Europe and Japan with Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Milwaukee Symphony, Florida Orchestra and Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic. She has also performed at the Festival of the Lakes in Alexandria, the Grand Teton Music Festival and with Zeitgeist New Music.

Kirsten has presented solo cello concerts throughout the Twin Cities and has been featured on programs broadcast by KFAI and Minnesota Public Radio. She is passionate about the extensive repertoire available for solo cello and has premiered several commissioned pieces.

Composers Timothy C. Takach, David Evan Thomas, Carl Witt and Jocelyn Hagen have written music for her. One of Jocelyn Hagen’s pieces for her involved live digital looping.

Kirsten received a B.M. and an Artist Diploma from Indiana University, where she studied with Fritz Magg and Janos Starker. Kirsten received Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2002 and 2018.


Sedra Bistodeau,
violin and fiddle, Princeton
Gao Hong, traditional Chinese music, Northfield
Maria Isa, Afro-Latin hip-hop, St. Paul
Will Johnson (W/ILLS), post genre, St. Paul

Jonatha Brooke, singer-songwriter, Minneapolis
Kill the Vultures, hip-hop artists, Minneapolis
MaLLy, hip-hop artist, Minneapolis
Clara Osowski, vocalist (mezzo-soprano), Brooklyn Center 

Tonia Hughes, 
voice, Minneapolis
Aida Shahghasemi, voice and composition, Minneapolis
Carrie Henneman Shaw, voice, Saint Paul
Tim Sparks, guitar, Burnsville

Francesca Anderegg – 
Javier Santiago – jazz
Pooja Pavan
 – composer 
Tracey Engleman – voice

Atlantis Quartet – Zacc Harris, guitar; Brandon Wozniak, tenor saxophone; Chris Bates, double bass; Pete Hennig, drums
Troy King (King Fuvi), emcee and songwriter
Pat O’Keefe, clarinet and bass clarinet
Wilhelmina Smith, cellist

Danami Maurice Champion, songwriter, musician; from St. Paul
Ignacio Nachito Herrera, pianist, arranger and musical director; from White Bear Lake
Siama Matuzungidi, guitar; from Minneapolis
Jacqueline Ultan, cellist, composer; from Minneapolis

Haley Bonar, voice, guitar, piano, keyboard, from St. Paul
Cléa Galhano, recorder, from St. Paul
Paul Metzger, banjo, from St. Paul
Maiya Papach, viola, from St. Paul

Christopher Atzinger, piano, from Dundas
Gao Hong, pipa, from Northfield
Laura MacKenzie, flutes/pipes/whistles/concertina/voice, from Northfield
Karen Mueller, autoharp, from Minneapolis

Orkestar Bez Ime, Colleen Bertsch, violin/vocals; Dee Langley, accordion/vocals; Katrina Mundinger, clarinet/percussion/vocals; Natalie Nowytski, vocals/percussion
The Roe Family Singers, Quillan and Kim Roe
John Snow, oboe
Noah Hoehn, harmonic/marimba/voice/percussion

Bryan Nichols, pianist
Nirmala Rajasekar, veena player
Parker Quartet, Daniel Chong, violin; Karen Kim, violin; Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello
Carrie Henneman Shaw, voice

Asako Hirabayashi, harpsichord
Bernhard David Scully, horn
Christopher Marshall, bassoon
Fora Baltacigil, double bass

Linda Chatterton, flutist
Sarah Kwak, violinist
Gao Hong, Chinese pipa player
Arek Tesarczyk, cellist

Noah Hoehn, harmonica player
David Karr, saxophone player
Charles Lazarus, trumpeter
Matthew Young, violist

Katja Linfield, cellist
Patrick Harison McPeck, accordionist
The Minneapolis Quartet, string quartet

Connie Evingson, vocalist
Amy and Sara Hamann, piano duo
Ross/Rapier Cello Duo
Voice Trek, vocal ensemble

Stephanie Arado, violinist
Artaria String Quartet
John Snow, oboist
Thomas Turner, violist

Steven Copes, violinist
Noah Hoehn, harmonica player
Dean Magraw, guitarist
Stephanie Wendt, pianist

Leibundguth-Witt Duo, flute & piano duo
Neal and Leandra, voice/guitar duo
Nina Tso-Ning Fan, violinist
Soyulla Duo, violin & cello duo

Dare to Breathe, vocal ensemble
Gao Hong, Chinese pipa player
Prudence Johnson, vocalist
Anthony Ross, cellist

The Bakken Trio, piano trio
Rosalyra Quartet, string quartet
Timothy Paradise, clarinetist
Connie Evingson, vocalist

Duologue, flute & guitar duo
Jorja Fleezanis, violinist
Diane Jarvi, vocalist & instrumentalist
Peter Mayer, vocalist/guitarist

Linda Chatterton, flutist
Laura MacKenzie, Celtic multi-instrumentalist
Ruth MacKenzie, vocalist
Sunita Staneslaw, harpist

Ensemble Capriccio, string trio
Gao Hong, Chinese pipa player
Shank-MacLaughlin Duo, violin & piano duo
Tadeusz Majewski, pianist