Meet the Fellows

McKnight Fellowships for Musicians are intended to recognize and support mid-career musicians living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained level of accomplishment, commitment, artistic excellence, a distinctive musical voice, and a significant performing career over a period of time. The program’s musicians are committed to honoring the breadth of Minnesota musicians of all genres; aesthetically, geographically, and culturally. If you are a performing musician in any genre, MacPhail Center for Music invites you to apply for a McKnight Fellowship for Musicians.

2022-2023 Fellows

MacPhail Center for Music is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022-23 McKnight Fellowship for Musicians: Jaye Sinkfield aka DIVAJ, Rebecca
Merblum, Paula Gudmundson and Lewis McCaleb, aka Lewiee Blaze.

DIVAJ is a Minnesota twin cities based live performer, writer, and recording artist. They are Black Femme Queer hip-hop artist with the talent and skill to rise to the top of the entertainment industry, a business mindset to impact the culture of both consumer and community, while intentionally healing black wounds, protecting feminine bodies, and valuing queer authenticity through their art. They stand tall in their blackness, bloom effortlessly in their femininity, and embrace their authentic queerness.  

Rebecca Merblum

Rebecca Merblum is a cellist based in Minneapolis, originally from Connecticut, who has woven her musical life around chamber music, collaboration and teaching. She plays as a frequent guest with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Bach Society, among many. During the pandemic Rebecca  crafted collaborations with the James Sewell Ballet and composer, Chad Hughes exploring the evolution of dance forms from the 18th century to the present. Driven by the interwoven nature of the artistic process Rebecca also held a Target Center Residency at the Weisman Museum entitled Cello Conversations. The final panel ‘What Do You Hear’ inspired the project to continue into its second phase and it is now supported under the umbrella of Springboard for the Arts Fiscal Incubator Program. Early in 2020 she was awarded a grant for her initiative ‘Your Dance’ by Springboard for the Arts as they addressed Artists Combating Isolation. Rebecca is also very much involved in mentoring and working with students in Nairobi as a part of the Art of Music Foundation. She is the Co-Artistic Director of the Kenya International Cello Festival coming in May 2022 along with her newly launched Chamber Music Series in partnership with the Fueled Collective – ‘Sound Dialogue.’ Most recently Rebecca was awarded an Artist in Residence Grant in connection with the Global Music Initiative at MacPhail. Her chosen project is entitled Threads and speaks to the invisible nature of connection as represented in sound, language, and visual art.

Paula Gudmundson

Paula Gudmundson focuses on centering her work around collaboration, community engagement and bringing voice to the absent narratives in the arts.  This includes creating recordings, editions, commissions and collaborations which push our field beyond the concert stage. Gudmundson has performed at numerous music festivals and events, including regional, national and international conferences of the College Music Society, National Flute Association conventions, Minnesota Public Radio’s Class Notes Artist, International Flute Festival of Costa Rica, and La Côte Flûte Festival.  Recordings include La Flauta of Buenos Aires (2012), Breaking Waves (2019) and Melodies of the Forest (2022). Gudmundson is Associate Professor of Flute and Music Department Head at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Lewiee Blaze

Lewis McCaleb aka Lewiee Blaze is a Universal Artist & Visionary. He co founded N4 Collective, an Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation cooperative that provides personal, professional, and economic opportunities to artists and entrepreneurs. N4 represents New Mindsets, New Media, New Leaders, and New Narratives, a philosophy created to promote self care, self expression, self confidence, and self-worth. Born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, Lewiee has overcome life’s challenges and aspires to inspire others by providing content about truth, love, peace, freedom, and justice. 

2023-2024 Fellows

MacPhail Center for Music proudly announces the four recipients of the 2023-24 McKnight Fellowship for Musicians: Shaiwna Adams aka The Lioness, Rascal Miles, Evelyn Speers aka EVV and Ann DuHamel.

The Lioness is a native of North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having started her
hip-hop career 19 years ago, she has inevitably become one of the Twin Cities’
premier homegrown artists’. The conscious lyricist speaks to the souls of
marginalized populations by addressing issues of racial inequalities and social
justice, in efforts to encourage and empower Black bodies, bodies of culture,
queer bodies, and women across the country.

The Lioness’s solo projects include: The Most Anticipated (2011); Lost Tapes
(2012); Queen (2013); Growing Pains (2016); Greater Vision (2018) and her
latest, gemINI (2021).

Taking her passion and skills to a broader audience, The Lioness has completed six national and two international tours. With her rapidly growing fanbase and mission to encourage and inspire, it is only a matter of time before she becomes a global headliner.

Rascal Miles (he/they) is a songwriter, one-man-band and multi-disciplinary artist
based in Minneapolis whose work always revolves around three things: sound, storytelling, and emotion. To talk about Miles’ music, think Radiohead’s creativity meets Andrew Bird’s curiosity, but with a healthy dose of tender authenticity that only an underdog could know. Originally from a small town in Florida, Miles spent over a decade growing roots in the indie, folk & DIY punk scenes in the Pacific Northwest, recording in friends’ living rooms and touring the West Coast, both solo and in other bands. When the pandemic hit, Miles was 6-months-sober, had recently come out as trans and had top surgery, lost his job, and was living alone in a tiny basement studio, events which together became the perfect storm for Miles to dive headfirst into audio engineering and write his self-recorded (including full instrumentation), debut full-length album Tailor-Made. Fueled by the fundamental truth that representation in art and media create the change we want to see in the world, each song on the record is a chronological chapter of his trans experience throughout his life. His story has gone on to earn the stamp of approval from NPR Music, including a special feature by indie icon Phoebe Bridgers, to award him two Make|Learn|Build grants from the Regional Arts & Culture Council, and to provide performance opportunities with queer musical heroes such as Chris Pureka and Esmé Patterson. Miles continues to craft his songs from the perspective of misunderstood characters, like the monsters in his 80’s New Wave-inspired Halloween EP Songs for the Graveyard, as well as the robot surviving the human apocalypse in his upcoming dystopian (more-electronically-focused) concept
album. As a highly sensitive, neurodiverse sound nerd with ADHD, Miles is always exploring new ways to manipulate sounds and build worlds for his characters, often blurring lines between genres, learning new techniques for sound design and production, adventuring on nature trips to collect textural field recordings, designing plugins to use while recording, implementing the element of chance into his writing process, searching for what is lingering in the air but isn’t being said, and then saying it with his distinctive musical voice.

EVV is a Minneapolis-based musician that refuses to claim a genre. Drawing influences from Blues, Jazz, Metal, and rock, the solo project of Ev Speers is one that is years in the making. With each song, EVV sings about heartbreak and their experiences as a black femme in today’s society. EVV hopes to inspire young black folks to pursue the art that inspires them, and to let their voices be heard.

Praised as poetic and “… a delight for the ears and the soul” (Encuentro Universitario Internacional de Saxofón, Mexico City), pianist Ann DuHamel delights in a multi-dimensional and eclectic musical career. Her performances have spanned 18 countries and 37 of the United States, including Carnegie Weill Recital Hall. 

Hailed as a “forward thinking classical pianist” (Midwest Record) and applauded for “the depth of programming and playing” (Piano Magazine) for her debut album Rückblick (Furious Artisans, 2020), Ann actively champions contemporary composers, commissioning all of the works for this release. She can also be heard on Tyler Kline: Orchard (Neuma Records, 2022); Fanfare Magazine praised her performance as “alive … [played with] aching expression.” Tracks from Rückblick and Orchard have been featured on radio stations across the U.S. Ann’s project “Prayers for a Feverish Planet” responds to the climate crisis with 60+ new works from composers around the world. In the spirit of eco-artivism, the program asks urgent questions of the listener: how can we live more mindfully as global citizens? How can we use our artistic talents to make a difference? Featured in interviews on Modern Notebook Radio (WSMR) and Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered with Tom Crann, Ann has been awarded artist residencies at Tofte Lake Center (MN) and Everwood Farmstead Foundation (WI), in addition to grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Lake Region Arts Council, and the University of Minnesota. She currently serves as Associate Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota Morris, where she devotes herself to the mission of sharing high quality traditional and contemporary classical music with students and the greater community. She is Immediate Past President of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association.

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