Celebrate Lunar New Year with Hao Bang-ah, Rabbit!

On Sunday, January 29th, Flushing Town Hall welcomes Chinese Theatre Works to its stage for two family-friendly performances at 1 PM and 3 PM to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with Hao Bang-ah, Rabbit!, featuring traditional budaixi-style puppetry and live music. Both performances will be followed by hands-on workshops for children. We talked with co-Executive Directors Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin about their production and the company’s general mission.

Could you tell us about Chinese Theatre Works’ history and mission? What kind of plays do you produce?

Chinese Theatre Works (CTW) was incorporated in 2001 out of the merger of two smaller cultural organizations, The Gold Mountain Institute for Traditional Shadow Theatre (founded in 1975) and Chinese Theatre Workshop (founded in 1990). Our mission is to preserve and promote the traditional Chinese performing arts; to create new performance works that bridge Eastern and Western aesthetics and forms; and to foster understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture in audiences, artists, students, scholars, and educators around the globe. 

CTW’s original productions incorporate a variety of traditional Chinese performing arts, including opera, puppetry, dance, and music. We start from a place of deep respect for these traditions– learning from those masters who understand the forms from the inside, and then applying that collective wisdom to our own experimental works. This way, we help these old classic forms continue to grow and adapt themselves to the new cultural and historical contexts here in NYC and in America. We do this by telling traditional Chinese stories through contemporary Western styles, telling well-known Western stories using traditional Chinese forms, and mixing together different cultural performance styles within a production.

On January 29th, you are performing the traditional puppetry show Hao Bang-ah, Rabbit! at Flushing Town Hall. Could you please explain to our readers what budaixi-style puppets are and why they are so important in Chinese culture? What can audiences expect from your show?

The art of glove puppetry, “budaixi,” is a beloved performance tradition that has been enjoyed by Chinese audiences for centuries. The small (8” tall), beautifully hand-crafted figures are superbly flexible and capable actors. The puppet’s head and hands are beautifully carved out of wood and attached to cloth bodies into which the puppeteer slips his hand like a glove. The costumes and headdresses are gorgeously embroidered miniature copies of the traditional costumes worn by Chinese opera actors. On the hands of a master puppeteer, animated by only his five fingers, these wonderful puppet figures can vividly portray the wide range of human emotions as well as any human actor. This style of puppetry was most popular in Southern China and Taiwan and, in contemporary times, has continued to develop and evolve. 

“Hao Bang Ah!” is a common Chinese expression meaning “Great!” or “Well done!”  Each year, CTW celebrates the Lunar New Year season with an original “budaixi” production that features the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. This year’s production stars the Rabbit, who will preside over a jolly selection of wild puppet skits, dances, popular songs, and well-known Chinese sayings celebrating the wit and wisdom of the Zodiac animals. Audiences will be introduced to traditional Chinese New Year customs and food (red envelopes, fish, and “nian gao”). Special guests include the Jade Rabbit on the Moon and other all-star members of our Zodiac puppet ensemble. Sing-alongs, games, and hands-on post-show demonstrations will make the Chinese bi-lingual cultural experience accessible to even the youngest audience members.

Audience members have the option to sign up for a workshop after the show. Which activities are planned, and what age groups can participate?

After the show, we will be hosting a shadow theater workshop. Shadow theater is an Asian contribution to the performing arts. Chinese shadow performance (“Pi Ying Xi”) has a history going back 2000 years and is unique as the world’s oldest motion picture medium. In China, the first written records tell about a Taoist magician using shadow images to comfort the great Han Emperor, who was grieving the death of his beloved wife. In succeeding centuries, the Chinese shadow theater tradition evolved into a sophisticated art form.

In this workshop, participants will learn techniques for making their own shadow figures. CTW teaching artists will guide participants step by step, from choosing a design to bringing that figure to life. All designs are based on figures from the Paulin Benton Collection – the same puppets CTW uses in its performance. This workshop is best suited for kids ages 5-12 but is fun for family members of all ages.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in an acting career, or someone who may want to become part of Chinese Theatre Works?

Chinese Theatre Works is always on the lookout for volunteers who are excited about our mission. Whether you have a background in performance, non-profit work, or are just passionate about Chinese Culture, we’re always thrilled to welcome new people into our community. Come speak to us during one of our events or send us an email at chinesetheatreworks@gmail.com


Flushing Town Hall Celebrates Annual Native American Social

On Saturday, December 3, Flushing Town Hall, in partnership with NativeTec, Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio Inc., and Niamuck Land Trust, will host its annual Native American Social. The event will feature artwork, dancing, drumming, singing, and story sharing to build community. We caught up with Gabrielle M. Hamilton, Director of Education and Public Programs at Flushing Town Hall and organizer of the Native American Social, ahead of the event to learn about the importance of celebrating Native American culture, the process of organizing this event, and what attendees can expect on Saturday.

The Native American Social is an annual event at Flushing Town Hall. Why is it important to you to regularly host an event that highlights Indigenous culture?

Flushing Town Hall’s mission is to provide global arts for a global community and our community began with the first people of Queens, the Matinecock. Flushing occupies their original, unceded territory and it is only fitting that FTH provides a gathering space for the Native American Social and other events celebrating Native people. From its inception under FTH’s founding director, Joanne Jones, FTH has hosted meetings, socials, ceremonies and pow-wows celebrating Native Americans, especially the first people of Long Island.

Take us through the process of curating this program. How do you select the artists and tribes that participate?

Curating the social is a collaborative process with Native leaders from Long Island. Flushing Town Hall is privileged to work with Tecumseh Ceaser, and his father Reggie Ceaser, Chief of the Matinecock Turkey Clan; both are wonderful arts educators with FTH. As a wampum carver, a cultural consultant, with kinship to the Montaukett, Shinnecock and Unkechaug nations, Tecumseh leads the process of selecting participating artists for the social. While I am have worked with the Diné (Navajo), Kainaiwa (Blood Tribe, Blackfoot) as well as Native people of the South Pacific— I’m still learning about the first people of Long Island. Tecumseh and I seek to present range of different art forms from Native artists who are creating new work.

What can attendees expect from this event?

Firstly, you can expect a warm welcome! A Native American Social— is just that— a time to socialize and gather old friends and new. The artists will have their handcrafted items for sale— such as jewelry made of wampum and seed beads, as well as books by Native authors, paintings, and more. The drum is led by Genew Benton, and his group Youngblood. They will open the event with a song and an intertribal dance. Tecumseh and Shane Weeks (Shinnecock) will co-MC the event, and they will inform audiences about cultural protocols. We’re also thrilled to have Jennifer Kreisberg (Tuscarora) of Ulali to sing a few songs. And everyone is invited for a tasting of Native American food by Deana Smith. We encourage everyone to come — Native and non-Native people and enjoy, learn, dance, and maybe even make new friends and buy a few holiday presents too!

Join us on Saturday, December 3rd, for our Native American Social at 12:00 PM. RSVP HERE. SUGGESTED DONATION: $10 Adults, $5 Children.

Flushing Town Hall Honors the Late NEA Jazz Master Barry Harris

On Friday, December 2 at 8:00 PM, Flushing Town Hall will pay tribute to one of the greatest NEA Jazz Masters with Songs for Barry Harris, featuring NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, bassist Harvie S, and jazz guitarist Roni Ben-Hur. We talked to Harvie S about the upcoming concert and his relationship with Master Harris.

On December 2nd, Flushing Town Hall is paying tribute to the great NEA Jazz Master Barry Harris. Please tell us a little bit about your connection with Master Harris.

I have been a Barry Harris fan since my early years. He was always one of my favorites. We played together a few times over the years, and we used to teach together at the Manhattan School of Music when they had the summer program.

Do you have a favorite moment or an anecdote about Barry Harris you’d like to share with us?

Barry was so creative. He sat in on a gig one time and started playing a tune. I did my best to follow him. I later asked him what tune it was, and he said “I don’t really know that tune either.” Always being creative was Barry!

Why is a tribute concert to Master Harris important, and what can audiences expect when they join on December 2nd?

This is a special event because Sheila Jordan knew Barry since High School. Roni Ben-Hur played in his band and recorded with him. There will be lots to tell.

Are you working on any new projects?

We just recorded a CD for High Note Savant with this combination coming out in early 2023.

Join us on Friday, December 2nd at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $40/$32 members/$20 students w/ID. Table packages for 2, w/ refreshments are available for $130/$110 members. For those unable to attend in person, the performance will also be live streamed online on YouTube for $10. Purchase your tickets HERE.

From Addis Ababa to Queens: QWANQWA Graces the Stage at Flushing Town Hall

On Saturday, October 29th, Ethiopian group QWANQWA will perform at Flushing Town Hall. We caught up with the group to learn more about their work and their debut tour in the United States.

Congrats on your first U.S. tour! How has performing in the United States been different from performing in Europe and Africa?

Well, the drives between the shows are longer, for one! After starting in New York, we’ve now driven across the country twice, and boy, have we had some long driving days! One difference is that you can tell that world music, in general, is challenging to bring to audiences, and because of that, every show feels so special. There are not a lot of Ethiopian bands on tour, so we get to bring a brand new experience to our audiences.

Your group’s musical style is described as intersectional—combining elements of rock, psychedelic, and regional beats from Addis Ababa. Can you tell our American audiences a bit about the regional beats? What characterizes those local rhythms? 

Each regional beat has a dance associated with it. They are in 2/4, 3/4, 5/4, but they all have slight accents to them on top of that counting. We encourage audiences to come to our Dance Workshop at 7:00 for a great insider look into the rhythms, instruments, etc. It will enrich your experience at the 8:00 pm concert!

QWANQWA’s mission is to “create a dialogue between cultures.” How do you go about this? What is the dialogue you are hoping your music will start?

Mostly it’s a message straight from Addis Ababa, modern times. As a result of experiencing our show, we want people to ask, “What is tradition and what is new? What is evolving tradition? What is Ethiopia really like, and what does it really sound like through the music? How can people from different backgrounds find a unified voice together, and what does it take? How does this music make me feel and what about it do I respond to physically, intellectually, and with my heart? How can I know more?”

What projects do QWANQWA have planned after the tour is finished?

First, we will all relax and reconnect with our families and daily life— and probably go on a health kick! When we spruce back up, there is a lot to do for QWANQWA. We’ve already recorded new material for an album, and next is the mix, master, and sorting out the artwork. We also have many invitations to come back to the U.S., so we plan to be back in Spring 2023!

Join QWANQWA on Saturday, October 29th for a dance workshop at 7:00 PM, followed by their concert at 8:00 PM. Purchase your in-person tickets HERE for $18/$12 for Members, Seniors, and Students.

NEA Jazz MAster Terri Lyne Carrington is Making Her Debut at Flushing Town Hall’s NEA Jazz Master Concert

On Saturday, November 12th, Flushing Town Hall will host the 16th annual NEA Jazz Masters concert, “The Blues Feeling,” led by Master Jimmy Owens and featuring an incredible lineup of musicians. We spoke with the newest NEA Jazz Master, Terri Lyne Carrington, who will make her debut at Flushing Town Hall that night.

Please tell us when and how you first got interested in drumming and jazz. Who inspired you most?

I first started at seven years old. My dad and grandfather played, so it was in the family. My dad knew pretty much everyone in jazz at the time, so he took me around so all the musicians could hear me. My first professional gig was with Clark Terry at ten years old. As far as who inspired me, Jack DeJohnnette, another NEA jazz master, has always been my biggest mentor. Also, Leanne Shorter and Herbie Hancock have been big influences on me, as I spent a lot of time playing with them.

You are a three-time GRAMMY-winning artist, and just last year, you became an NEA Jazz Master. What does this honor mean to you?

It means a lot, as it is the highest accolade and jazz. So many of my mentors have received this honor, so to be included in this legacy is more than amazing. The only people younger than me that were honored by NEA this way were Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins. So I am beyond thrilled.

You recently published the book “New Standards.” Please tell us a little bit about it.

“New Standards: 101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers” is my first book publication. The reason for doing this is that there is a huge lack of women composers represented in the canon. If you look at the “real books,” which are the “go-to” for learning jazz standards, there are very few women. So this is part of the corrective work needed as an effort to help to transform the culture in jazz, which is not equitable for women performers and composers. The book spans compositions over 100 years and spans styles with and chairs, so there’s something for everyone.

You are the founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. What is your main mission and message to your students?

The institute started simply to create a space at a college for women and non-binary students to be able to let their guard down, be their authentic selves, and learn the music in an egalitarian setting. Our mission is to teach and advocate for students at the college, and more widespread to performers, composers, etc., outside of the college, with gender justice and racial justice as guiding principles, and to be a part of transforming the culture within jazz education and the professional world.

Why do you think cultural venues like Flushing Town Hall are so important for the jazz scene in New York?

Any venue that is promoting jazz is important. And any venue promoting it with equity in mind is even more important. I have never performed here before, but I look forward to the experience!

Join us on Saturday, November 12th  at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $40/$32 members/$20 students w/ID. Table packages for 2, w/ refreshments are available for $130/$110 members. For those unable to attend in person, the performance will also be live streamed online on YouTube for $10. Purchase your tickets HERE.

 A Virtuoso Syrian Clarinetist and Indigenous Musical Powerhouse TO “Mash up” at Flushing Town Hall

On Sunday, October 16th, Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh will join Indigenous musical powerhouse Charly Lowry for a performance at Flushing Town Hall. We caught up with both Kinan and Charly ahead of their performance to learn more about their respective musical journeys, inspirations, and artistic processes.

Meet Kinan Azmeh

Tell us what drew you to the clarinet. What do you love about this instrument?

I started on the violin when I was five, but that didn’t go very well because I am left-handed, and holding the bow with my right hand is an incredibly hard task for me. My father, being the curious man that he is, went to the Britannica and asked them for the options for a six-year-old violinist trying to play with his left hand. They suggested switching to an even-handed option, and the clarinet was one of the options. One of the other options that was available for me at the time in Damascus was the piano, but as a little boy, I always associated being a musician with traveling, and I thought that pianists would have to travel with their pianos so I chose a lighter instrument. That’s how I chose the clarinet at the age of six or seven.

What I love about the instrument is that it has incredible similarities with the human voice in terms of dynamic range with how low and high and how soft and how it can play. It became my most direct voice. I’m a much better player than a talker. I can communicate best when I play. 

As a composer, what influences inspire your pieces?

I think every piece has a different influence. As a composer and artist in general, to make meaningful art, you have to have three things: an idea you want to convey, the tools to convey it, and the skills to use the tools to convey what you want. The idea is the most important part.

Some pieces are inspired by life at large. Some pieces are more conceptual. Sometimes, there are a few different philosophies when it comes to art making. Some people suggest it’s the artists’ role to document the world around them; other people suggest that art is there for the artist to recreate the world in the most ideal way according to them. My philosophy has always been that we create art to experience emotions we don’t have the luxury of experiencing in real life, and I think that’s where most of my compositions come from. They come from me because I wanted to tap into a part of my brain, the emotional mix that I didn’t experience before. 

The most inspiring part for me is when I write music, it moves me. If it moves me, I hope that it might move somebody else.

What are you most looking forward to in your collaboration with Charly Lowry?

I have never met Charly before, and I am really excited to be experimenting with her on stage with witnesses. We have to try to communicate. I think two artists meeting for the first time on stage without any prior rehearsals is fun. We have to see how it goes.

I am doing my own set, she’s doing her own set, and then we have to do something together. This togetherness is the same way life happens: you meet somebody, have a few introductory remarks, and suddenly you are engaged in a very deep conversation. I am looking forward to a very deep conversation with Charly musically.

What projects do you have on the horizon?

I just finished my first opera that premiered in Germany this past summer. It was fully sung in Arabic. I am doing revisions now because I am hoping that this show will have a life and come to the U.S. soon.

I am writing another string orchestra piece for Palaver Strings in Portland, Maine. I’m also touring with my quartet, The Kinan Azeh City Band, and we have a number of performances. I also have a number of solo appearances with orchestras where I play a few of my compositions.

I  am also looking forward to my UK premiere with the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing my clarinet concerto which I premiered with Seattle Symphony a few years ago.

Meet Charly Lowry

I understand that women in your cultural community are usually barred from playing the hand drum and instead take on singing or dancing roles behind the men. What inspired you to defy this tradition and perform as a lead?

Truthfully, I was first inspired by listening to Pura Fé sing traditional songs while accompanying herself using the hand drum. Pura Fé is a legendary Tuscarora/Taino artist and a very good friend of mine; she has mentored me since the age of 12.  Watching her defy this tradition empowered me to pick up the drum and become one with the instrument. Now, the sacred connection, groundedness, and connection that I feel with my ancestors when singing and playing the drum inspire and give me the courage to carry on.

How would you categorize your music? What genres do you straddle, or what styles inspire you?

I was the lead singer and principal songwriter of a band called “Dark Water Rising” for over a decade. We categorized our sound as “rocky soul.”  I would say that my music travels through the same vein of rocky soul.  The “industry” labels it as Americana/Roots.  I can understand why folks would say that- as Indigenous people, we have learned to survive through adaptation in all facets of life. That same notion carries over to help me create rock, blues, country, gospel, folk, hip-hop, and Indigenous music.  My songs touch on life, love, triumph, and survival. As an artist, I feel that it is important to also use my music to address issues pertaining to our tribal communities, environmental rights, women’s rights, and human rights in general.

Your music honors your ancestors while also speaking to today’s youth. How do you strike a balance of serving as a voice for two generations?

Well, I try to pull out common threads and ideas to create music that is intergenerational.  I am able to serve the younger generations through my outreach, which consists of performing for and speaking with younger generations during visits to their schools and universities—also teaching songwriting workshops. So, a song like “BrownSkin,” which seeks to empower all women, may be of particular interest to young women and girls who are still trying to find their way. I am also very mindful of the messages that I am conveying in each song because I work with the teachings of the seven generations in mind. Years from now, when I am gone, I want the seven generations in front of me to have a positive listening experience that will hopefully propel them to make positive life decisions.

What projects do you have on the horizon?

I am currently writing my debut solo album with plans for a Spring 2023 release date.

Join Kinan Azmeh and Charly Lowry for our Mini-Global Mashup on Sunday, October 16th at 1:00PM at Flushing Town Hall. Purchase your in-person tickets HERE for $15/$12 Members.

Lew Tabackin Delivers “The Swinging Sounds of Coleman Hawkins”

On Friday, October 14th, Flushing Town Hall will present “The Swinging Sounds of Coleman Hawkins” featuring Lew Tabackin and his ensemble. We chatted with the great jazz saxophonist about his career and upcoming performance.

Could you please tell us how you got your start in music and why you picked the saxophone as your instrument of choice?

I actually started on the flute, since that was what my elementary school in South Philadelphia had available. At 15, I decided to play the tenor since I could participate in jam sessions. That is when I actually became serious about music.

Who are some of your favorite musicians with whom you’ve shared the stage?

I was fortunate through the years to play with many amazing players. Some of my favorite horn players include Clark Terry, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Knepper, and Randy Brecker; great drummers like Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins, Shelly Manne, Dannie Richmond, amazing bassists, such as Dave Holland, Ray Brown, Wilbur Ware; and pianists like Hank Jones, John Lewis, and on and on.

Why did you choose to pay tribute to Coleman Hawkins? What do you admire most about him? And what can audiences expect from your performance on October 14th?

Coleman Hawkins is our father. He was the first serious improvising jazz tenor saxophone player. He paved the way for BeBop, encouraging and embracing the young players like Monk, Dizzy, Bud, etc. He was the first to play unaccompanied solos. Bean, as Coleman Hawkins was called, was a truly avant-garde musician. His incomparable contribution to our legacy is unfortunately often overlooked by the younger generation. I will humbly try to employ some of these elements at the concert.

What’s on the horizon for you? Do you have any new projects planned?

For now, I am just continuing on my path of trying to “getting it right,” both on tenor and flute – not an easy endeavor!   

Join us on Friday, October 14th  at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $40/$32 members/$20 students w/ID. Table packages for 2, w/ refreshments are available for $130/$110 members. For those unable to attend in person, the performance will also be live streamed online on YouTube for $10.
Purchase your tickets HERE.

Colombia’s Bazurto All Stars Take Center Stage at Flushing Town Hall

On Friday, September 30th at 8 PM, The Bazurto All Stars, known as the Latin “party machine,” will travel from Cartagena, Colombia to bring the energy of champeta to the stage at Flushing Town Hall. We spoke with the group to learn more about their background and wonderful music.

Can you tell us what champeta music is, and what is special about your group’s music style?

Champeta is a musical style born in Cartagena, Colombia that started in the 1980’s and which, over the years, has become more and more popular on the Caribbean coast and across Colombia. It is a mix of different Colombian and African rhythms including Soukous, Calypso, Reggae, and Soca that we turned into a new sound with a different interpretation.

Some of the things that make champeta special are:

1. The “Espeluque,” which is a change of rhythm in the middle of the song which brings the energy to a higher climax, making it impossible not to dance. Champeta involves a series of verses, choruses, and “espeluques.”

2. There is an instrument that is not used in any other genre of music. It is a small Casio SK5 keyboard that accompanies the songs rhythmically instead of melodically and gives a very unique and different feel to this genre.

What are your songs mostly about? What stories do they tell? 

Our songs are principally based around parties, dancing, love, and having fun. Our signature song, “La Pupileta,” is the story of a young woman who doesn’t like champeta, because it is a style of music listened to primarily by the common people and she is from the privileged class. Her friends prefer electronic music and international pop stars, but in spite of everything, she is a very extroverted person and falls in love with champeta. It becomes her favorite music.

What can audiences expect from your performance at Flushing Town Hall on September 30th?

The public can expect a show with tons of energy and dancing. We expect that they will enjoy every second of it. They will also hear fusions of champeta with cumbia, salsa, African rhythms, and other Colombian rhythms.

What will participants learn during the champeta workshop you’re offering before the performance?
We are going to show everyone the most important steps in champeta dance and the role of the drums, congas, guitar, bass, and saxophone in the music.

What new projects are on the horizon for you? Where are you heading next?

In the second week of September, we are launching a new single that we are going to promote in Colombia, and that everyone can listen to on various music platforms including YouTube. This U.S. tour ends on October 1st in Chicago and we will head back to Colombia where we will continue to tour. We are also planning our subsequent tours to Europe and the U.S. for next year.

Don’t miss this evening of energetic champeta music with The Bazurto All Stars! Get your tickets for the concert HERE for $18/$12 Members, Seniors, Students. The workshop is FREE, but participants need to RSVP HERE. For those unable to attend in person, the performance will also be live streamed online on YouTube for $5.

An American Jazz Pianist and a Venezuelan Bandola player set to collaborate at Flushing Town Hall

On Sunday, September 18th, American jazz artist Amina Claudine Myers and Venezuelan bandola llanera player Mafer Bandola will come together for an exciting performance at Flushing Town Hall. Check out the interviews below to learn more about their musical journeys and collaboration.

Meet Amina Claudine Myers

You are well versed with so many different instruments. When did you start learning music?

I started learning music around four years old when my great Uncle Bufford, who graduated from Tuskegee with a degree in Carpentry but really was a musician who played woodwinds and sang, taught me how to count time 4/4 by marching in time around the dining room as he counted 1-2-3-4. I also sat in my little chair counting as I did heel and toe alternately. At the age of six, I walked 7 miles by Trailways to take piano lessons at Sacred Hearts Church/School by the white nuns.  Later I started playing in various settings. I played the electric organ in Jazz clubs while I was in college, and I played at Rhythm and Blues clubs and at church.  I started playing the pipe club while playing Mozart’s Requiem in the college choir and later began playing it at concerts after I moved to NYC.  I studied European Classical piano in college. I was also singing during this time. I was a soloist in Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem and took vocal lessons with Italian Arias and German Lieders. 

I was studying all this great music but deep down, I was always thinking about being a concert pianist. I realized that I could not practice 8 hours a day.  Jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel were where I belonged. I learned them all by playing, singing, and emulating those that came before me by ear.

Which is most rewarding for you, performing, composing, or directing— and why?

The most rewarding is definitely performing because I am communicating with the audience with the hope that I am inspiring them and passing on the love that has been given to me.  

I definitely do love conducting (love choral/choirs) though.  As a teen, I formed several gospel groups, directed choirs, and even gave voice and piano lessons to adults voice and piano.  There is a great feeling in conducting, seeing voices develop sounds that can touch people in different ways. 

Composing can be – well let’s just say difficult.  There are compositions I end up loving when the spirit or spirits come.  They speak to me.  Once I was in bed and a melody came, I got up went to the piano and wrote an outline but the whole composition came later.  Other times I must work and make it happen.  One has to try and keep inspired.

What projects do you have on the horizon?

I will be finishing up my symphonic work on Harriet Tubman. I have been working on it for years. The Nathaniel Dett Chorale will be performing my ‘IMPROVISATIONAL SUITE FOR CHORUS, PIPE ORGAN AND PERCUSSION’ piece in Toronto, Canada on September 30th. AACM composer’s music will include my chamber orchestra composition in the play “INTERIORS’, with the S.E.M. Ensemble on October 15th at Demena Center NYC.

Meet Mafer Bandola

Can you describe the bandola instrument for our audiences who may not be familiar with it?

The Bandola is a Venezuelan instrument born from the transculturation during the European colonization and its enslavement to both the native population of Venezuela and the population forcibly brought from Africa. It is an adaptation of instruments such as úd, bandurrias, and vihuelas. This resulted in the country’s different types of bandolas and cuatros. 

I play Bandola llanera; it has four strings, two nylon strings, and two of wound metal. The tuning is similar to a violin, G, D, A, E; unlike in the violin, in which lowest string is G, the lowest string in the bandola llanera is A. It is shaped like an avocado or a pear. It is played with a plectrum and is mainly melodic, although the harmonic and rhythmic possibilities with only four strings are infinite.

You are one of a few female artists who play the bandola professionally. Why do you think that is, and what attracted you to this instrument?

I think there is more than one variable for this to happen; First, the culture in the region of the high plains of Venezuela had clear and rigid roles for women and for men. 

Men could have recreational time playing their instruments after a day of hard work, while women had to stay home taking care of the house or even the kids. 

When I started performing, there were no visible role models of female instrumentalists that made me think it was possible to do it, so I became my own musical role model. 

Working with the right people is another aspect that helped me develop my career. My band LADAMA and our manager house, Modiba, have been a blessing in my life to help me enter the music industry confidently. I am a better person, educator, composer, and artist because of them. Lara, Daniela, Sara, and Pat are incredible instrumentalists who know much about production, education, and the music industry. I improve myself around them, and I am always learning.

Most importantly, the support of my parents from the beginning to now has been and still is vital for me. Being able to proudly say that I made a life out of Venezuela as a musician and specifically in New York as a bandola player is amazing.

What attracted me to the bandola is that I have such a versatile musical tool in my hands. The limitations are on me, not the instrument. Experimenting with electric effects on my compositions and lyrics gives me the reaffirmation I sought. I want to build my career as a composer from the traditions of Venezuela to the international scene. 

I am happy people use “Bandola” as my last name to recognize the girl that plays the bandola. 

How has your experience performing in LADAMA, a group with women from different countries and cultures, prepared you to share the stage with Amina Claudine Myers at your upcoming Mini-Global Mashup concert with Flushing Town Hall?

Performing with LADAMA for the last 7 years has prepared me to be a professional artist on and off the stage, respect and honor other female composers/instrumentalists, and recognize multicultural collaborations as a safe space to give and receive knowledge. 

This is how I  will share a stage with Amina Claudine Myers at our upcoming Mini-Global Mashup concert with Flushing Town Hall. 

What projects do you have on the horizon?

In October, I will be working with other  musicians on new music and planning to release it during the spring of 2023. 

In November,  my  LADAMA bandmates and Iwill begin working on our third album. 

In December, I will be working on the second season of a musical called Papá Cuatro produced by Miami New Drama in Miami beach. I will be acting, singing, dancing, and playing music in the show.

For the next few months, I will be performing at Pipiris Nights, a monthly event that gathers the community around the Venezuelan Joropo (Venezuelan traditional music), in Brooklyn.  This is a space where everyone can come to dance, sing, play and improvise around the Joropo. 

For more information on Mafer Bandola’s upcoming projects and events, join her mailing list by texting  “Keyword: BANDOLA” to  66866. You can follow Mafer Bandola and LADAMA on Instagram at @MaferBandola and @LadamaProject.

Join Amina Claudine Myers and Mafer Bandola on Sunday, September 18th at 1:00PM at Flushing Town Hall. Purchase your in-person tickets HERE for $15/$12 Members.