As a recent citizen in this country, I wrote this piece in the midst of the pandemic that has disproportionately taken so many lives here, especially those of the de-centered; as well as the growing unrest around the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many more. At a time of great division in the country, I was moved to honor those people who work hard and struggle daily — together yet apart — for the common good of all of us. This piece is dedicated to the unhoused, the incarcerated, the black, brown and yellow, the trans and gender non-conforming, the domestic workers, the food gatherers, delivery people, essential workers and underdogs that make these United States.
Leila Adu is an astonishing force in the space where electropop, avant-classical and singer-songwriter meet. Exploring her roots in New Zealand, Britain and Ghana, Adu is an international artist who has performed at festivals and venues across the world. Compared to Nina Simone and Joanna Newsome by WNYC, Adu has released five acclaimed albums, and has given visionary solo BBC and WQXR performances. Adu’s credits include Ojai Music Festival, Bang on a Can, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Late Night with David Letterman, and composing for a Billboard charted album. Adu holds a Princeton University music composition PhD.
She has composed for Bang on a Can, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Brentano String Quartet, So Percussion, Gamelan Padhang Moncar, Orchestra Wellington, as well as performing and having compositions performed at Ojai Music Festival and acted as a co-composer on the 2020 opera Magdalene. She received a BMus from Victoria University of Wellington, and her doctorate in music composition at Princeton University, and is currently an assistant professor in the music technology program in the music and performing arts professions department at Steinhardt, New York University. Adu taught music to prisoners at Sing Sing Correctional Facility as a faculty member of Musicambia – music for social change, and currently sits on the board of directors for Die Jim Crow Records the country’s first record label for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon