SPHINX MEDAL OF EXCELLENCE RECIPIENT
ARTIST | COMPOSER | CONDUCTOR
As a multi-genre recording artist and instrumentalist, Damien Sneed is a pianist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer, and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres. The Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient has worked with jazz, classical, pop, and R&B legends, including the late Aretha Franklin and Jessye Norman, which he is featured on Norman’s final recording, Bound For The Promised Land on Albany Records. He also worked with Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, J’Nai Bridges, Lawrence Brownlee, and many others. Sneed has served as music director for Grammy Award-winning gospel artists The Clark Sisters, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole and Kim Burrell, among others. Sneed is a featured producer and writer on the Clark Sisters’ newly project, “The Return”, released on March 13, 2020.
In January 2020, embarked on his 40-city North American tour, “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featuring Damien Sneed.” The 2020 tour kicked off on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at Joe’s Pub in New York, NY, and made stops at concert halls and universities in the U.S. and Canada. The tour concluded on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at the College of Southern Idaho Fine Arts Center in Twin Falls, ID. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sneed brought his brand of classical, jazz, and sanctified soul to venues across the country during Dr. King’s holiday, Black History Month, and Women’s Month. “We Shall Overcome” is a joyous celebration reflecting on the triumphant and victorious moments during our history.
On Friday, January 10, 2020, Sneed released the deluxe edition of the 2019 CD, Damien Sneed: We Shall Overcome on his boutique label, LeChateau Earl Records, which was established in 2009 to reflect his varied musical interests. In September 2019, he released his new offering, Jazz In Manhattan. Previous recordings included Damien Sneed: We Shall Overcome (January 2019), The Three Sides of Damien Sneed: Classical, Jazz and Sanctified Soul (July 2018), Broken To Minister: The Deluxe Edition (March 2015), Spiritual Sketches (June 2013), and Introspections LIVE (January 2010).
Sneed is the founder and artistic director of Chorale Le Chateau, which has gained a global reputation for its vivid interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance period pieces to art songs to jazz, spirituals, gospel, and avant-garde contemporary music. He is featured on the recording of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass as a conductor, with Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau.
The composer and pianist recently premiered his new opera, “We Shall Overcome -- Our Journey: 400 Years from Africa to Jamestown,” at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage for the Sphinx Organization Performance and Gala, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Robert F. Smith. Sneed also wrote the libretto, which showcases musical styles from the African American diaspora from African rhythms to spirituals to gospel to jazz, all interwoven in the classical genre. He was joined by fellow Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipients and Metropolitan Opera’s J’Nai Bridges (mezzo-soprano) and Will Liverman (baritone), along with Sneed’s chorus, Chorale Le Chateau, and the Sphinx Virtuosi Orchestra, who brought to life his ground-breaking opera during the evening’s finale performance.
Sneed was also commissioned to compose a new chamber opera titled MARIAN’S SONG about the life of Marian Anderson for Houston Grand Opera, which had its world premiere on March 5, 2020, at the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center. In addition to MARIAN’S SONG, he was commissioned to compose a symphony in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen with its world premiere in September 2020 in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.
Sneed recently joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches graduate-level courses in conducting, African American Music History, a singer/songwriter ensemble, a gospel music ensemble, and private lessons in piano, voice, and composition. A graduate of John S. Davidson Fine Arts School in his hometown of Augusta, GA., Sneed studied at some of the finest conservatories and universities, including Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Music – Piano Performance; the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University; New York University, where he earned a Master of Music in Music Technology: Scoring for Film and Multimedia; and the Manhattan School of Music.Sneed will also graduate with his doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from USC in 2020. Sneed was a member of the faculty at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Nyack College. His other professional affiliations have included The Juilliard School as a staff accompanist, Jazz at Lincoln Center as an artistic consultant, and the City University of New York (CUNY) as a professor of music. In 2015, Sneed established the Damien Sneed Performing Arts Institute, a division of the Damien Sneed Foundation.
WRITER | ACTOR
KAREN CHILTON is a New York-based Actor/Playwright. A native of Chicago’s South Side, Ms. Chilton received her M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She received her undergraduate degree from Bradley University in Economics. She has extensive musical training fromThe Chicago Conservatory of Music in classical piano.
Her dramatic works for the stage include: HEIRLOOM, a Semi-Finalist selection in the 2019 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference; CONVERGENCE, winner of the New Professional Theatre Writers Festival. A staged reading of the play was produced at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theatre. Her short playSWITCH! was produced in The Fire This Time Festival (2017). BROTHERMINE, a one-act play, is currently in development with PLOWSHARES THEATRE in Detroit; and her solo performance piece entitled, SAYING GRACE was produced in the Women of Color Theater Festival at Henry Street Settlement in NYC. She is currently working on a full-length play with music centered on the issue of voter suppression, entitledAFRODISIAC.
She is the author of the critically-acclaimed biography HAZEL SCOTT: THE PIONEERING JOURNEY OF A JAZZ PIANIST FROM CAFÉ SOCIETY TO HOLLYWOOD TO HUAC (University of Michigan Press), which she has recently adapted for the screen. She was awarded a month-long writer’s residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts to support her work on the book. She is also the co-author of I WISH YOU LOVE, the jazz memoir of legendary vocalist, Gloria Lynne (St. Martin’s Press). The autobiography was a critical success, receiving an outstanding review from the industry journal, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, which stated: “Full of gossip, exclamation and vernacular, it’s a book that demands to be read out loud. This is a moving tribute to the crucible of Harlem jazz.”
Ms. Chilton’s acting credits include the New York stage, episodic television as well as featured roles in numerous independent films. She had a supporting role in the award-winning independent film, HALF NELSON, directed by Ryan Fleck and starring Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie. Her performance garnered outstanding reviews in the U.S. and abroad. “Karen Chilton projects limitless compassion and depth...” wroteINDIEwire. Critic Andrew Sarris wrote in The New York Observer: “The key to the direction of all the performances is tactful restraint and nuanced modulation. This applies to...Karen Chilton.” She was also a principal in the short film version of that feature, GOWANUS, BROOKLYN, winner of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Jury Prize. For her lead role in the film short, STRUGGLE, she received New York Magazine’s “First Run Film Festival” Craft Award for Acting. The film is based on the 1970s police interrogation of black civil rights activist, Assata Shakur; it was also screened at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and has won numerous awards.
She wrote the libretto for THE SOUL NOW SINGS in collaboration with profilic pianist/composer Damien Sneed; a commission for New York Public Radio (WNYC/WQXR) and produced before a live audience in The Greene Space, the work was part of their holiday programming and continues to broadcast annually on Christmas Day.
An accomplished voiceover artist and narrator, her voice can be heard on numerous national network television, radio and internet advertising campaigns. She has narrated dozens of audiobooks, including THE NEW JIM CROW by Michelle Alexander, GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness by Jennifer Berry Hawes. and I’VE GOT A HOME IN GLORY LAND by Karolyn Smardz Frost for which she received the AUDIOFILE Magazine's Golden Earphones Award.
Her affiliations include membership in the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Actors Equity Association (AEA), The Dramatists Guild, Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), The Toni Morrison Society, and New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT).
Ms. Chilton’s affiliations include membership in SAG/AFTRA, Actors Equity Association, The Dramatists Guild, The Toni Morrison Society and the Association for the Study of African Life & History (ASALH).
AUTHOR | ENTREPRENEUR
The versatile American soprano Karla Scott, who possesses a voice of remarkable clarity and beauty of timbre has been described by the Washington Post as "a vividly expressive soprano." Equally comfortable performing in various musical genres, Dr. Scott recently performed the soprano solo in Mozart's Vesperae Solennes de Confessore with the Maryland Summer Chorus and Orchestra under the baton of Dr. Cindy Bauchpies. In the spring of 2014, Karla performed the soprano solo in Verdi's Requiem with Annapolis Symphony and combined choruses of the United States Naval Academy.
Also in 2013, Karla along with collaborative pianist Dr. Alexei Ulitin premiered from Slavery to Freedom, a song cycle by American concert pianist and composer Alan Mandel at the University of Maryland, College Park. Mr. Mandel's settings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Poems on Slavery were juxtaposed with songs by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, the Anglo-African composer best known for his choral cantata, Song of Hiawatha. Scott has performed as a soloist with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor society based in Portland, Maine and was included in the documentary film featuring the composer's works.
The 2012-13 season included performances Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with Annapolis Symphony, the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (transcribed for 8 basses rather than 8 celli) and a filmed masterclass with famed mezzo-soprano Fredericka (Flicka) von Stade where Ms. Scott's performance drew rave reviews from von Stade.
In earlier seasons, Dr. Scott was soprano soloist for Mozart's C Minor Mass, in Annapolis; Maher Symphony No.4 in College Park, MD; Fauré Requiem in College Park, MD; Serpina in Pergolesi's La Serva Padronna in Greenville, NC; Clorinda in Rossini's La Cenerentolain Greenville, NC; Kathleen in Vaughn-Williams' Riders to the Sea in College Park, MD; Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in Rome, Italy. Ms. Scott sang alongside Metropolitan Opera soprano, Carmen Balthrop, a special performance of the African National Anthem for the late South African President, Nelson Mandela, and performed for the funeral services of Rosa Parks held in Washington, DC. She has appeared at the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and in a film about the life of African-American composer, Jester Hairston.
Dr. Scott's choirs have appeared at the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC, on a goodwill tour of South Korea in 2011, at the 2008 Inauguration concert for President Barack Obama. Her choirs have performed in Zimbabwe, Africa with then President Mugabe in attendance, and in Washington, D.C. for a United Negro College Fund celebration with former President Bill Clinton. In 2013 Karla partnered with Jazz at Lincoln Center to create a touring workshop introducing Mr. Marsalis' landmark work, Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration to hundreds of secondary and college students in the east coast and mid-western states. A tireless advocate for fostering connections between young people and the arts, Karla is an in-demand workshop and masterclass clinician. In 2018, she served as guest clinician in Cullera, Spain for a week long choral festival sponsored by Fede Gospel.
As a worship leader and workshop presenter, Karla has served numerous churches and national and international conferences in the United States and the Caribbean allowing her to fulfill the mandate on her life to make Jesus known through worship. She has shared ministry settings with many notable pastors, psalmists and recording artists in the body of Christ including Twinkie Clark, T.D. Jakes, Smokey Norful, Alvin Slaughter and had the opportunity to serve President Barack Obama and the first family as the worship leader during MLK worship services in 2012. In 2017, Scott launched The Power of Your Voice interactive vocal coaching series which allows her to serve and support singers in the Body of Christ all over the world.
Ms. Scott has an earned BM in Vocal Pedagogy (the science of voice training) from East Carolina University, MM in Vocal Performance (opera concentration) from the University of Maryland. In 2016 she earned a doctorate in music (vocal pedagogy concentration) from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has served as an instructor of Music at Bennet College, adjunct faculty at the U.S. Naval Academy, as adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park and beginning in 2018, as adjunct faculty at Eastern, University in St. David, Pennsylvania. Karla's doctoral dissertation research was interdisciplinary in nature and examined the intersection of gospel music, leadership development, and American nationalism.
In 2017 Scott released her first book Steady Faith: Navigate the Detours, Live your Purpose, Make a Difference. The book supports leaders, influencers, and creatives in the healthy examination of the state of their souls as they continue to lead others.
Dr. Scott is the Founder and CEO of The Vocal Spa, a music training company which provides classes, workshops, books, group and private training for singers. Her podcast, CreativeTalk features interviews with creative women of color. Her publishing company, Iddo Publishing is the imprint responsible for her recording projects and literary publications.