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Akornefa Akyea, Singer-songwritter

Akornefa is a Ghanaian-American singer-songwriter, pianist and flutist, who was born and raised in Madison, WI. She played the flute with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) throughout middle and high school before going off to New York City, where she majored in music at Columbia University from 2008—2012. Since graduating, she’s lived abroad in Gabon, Central Africa on a Princeton in Africa Fellowship and finally relocated to Brooklyn, NY to work with Afropop Worldwide as a radio producer and director, with BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) as a content marketer, and on her original music. Her music can be described as alternative soul and showcases earnest songwriting with a minimalistic production, often with Akornefa accompanying herself with just a piano. Her latest music video release of “Livin’ It Up” is an expression of Black joy and culture during a time when Black people around the world are being inundated with images of violence and are experiencing a collective feeling of grief. For Akornefa, it was extremely healing to pair this song with images of happiness, community, and footage from her time in Ghana in December 2019.

Amira Caire, Visual Artist

Amira Caire is an emerging digital and traditional painter, illustrator, and designer based in Madison, WI. Her passion for art began at 6 years old when her parents would come home with art supplies to help her stay productive and find her interests. Over the years, she’s honed her skills and turned what used to be a hobby into a career. 


Amira’s expressiveness and love for change and freedom inspires her artistic and creative process. She creates whatever comes to her mind, and likes to experiment with many art materials to broaden her skills and experience. Her art consists of various styles, themes, color palettes, and mediums. Although digital art is her go-to, she also loves to create traditional sketches, mixed media, acrylic, and watercolor paintings. 


In June 2020, just a few months after she decided to post her art publicly, Amira took a leap and created murals commissioned by the City of Madison which helped jump start her career and her decision to take her talent seriously. Since then, she has completed commissions for local organizations and businesses including Tantra Wellness & Yoga, the Overture Center, Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center, Threshold, and Linville Architects LLC. Moving forward, she is determined to grow her portfolio and work to become a full-time freelance artist

Danielle Crim, Singer-songwritter

Danielle Crim is a recent graduate of Madison West High School where she was a captain of the varsity cheer team, Philharmonic Orchestra, Concert Choir and was in the school’s cast of Mamma Mia and 9 to 5. Danielle can play four instruments, piano, violin, guitar, and ukulele and is learning to play the flute. She also writes and produces her own music. As of August 2020, Crim has released two self-produced albums: Illuminate (2018) and Exploration of Life (2020).In 2018, she won the teen category in the Overture’s Rising Stars competition. Danielle Crim is a member of the NAACP and has competed in the local NAACP ACT-SO competition, winning gold in Poetry Written the past four years and Music Composition the past three, earning a place in the national competitions where she won silver in Music Composition in 2019. During her free time, Danielle usually finds herself performing, writing, playing, or volunteering locally. She will be studying music at Columbia College Chicago in the fall.

Deja Mason, Vocalist & Co-Host

Deja Mason has been a lover of the arts and a performer for as long as she can remember. She is a classically-trained vocalist of 10+ years who enjoys performing classical works, musical theatre and Gospel, R&B/Soul, Jazz, and Funk. 


Deja Mason is a graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in Management & Human Resources from the Wisconsin School of Business. During her undergraduate career, she served as President of Black Music Ensemble, following the retirement of 2014 NEA Jazz Master Richard Davis. Deja was also a member of the Mead Witter School of Music's Concert Choir under the tutelage of renowned conductor, Beverly Taylor, as well as singing and serving in leadership with the University Gospel Choir. 


Currently, Deja is the HR Coordinator for Overture Center for the Arts. In her spare time, Deja enjoys performing, exploring new music, watching anime, and reminiscing about her hometown Dallas, Texas.

Fabu Phillis Carter, Poet

Fabu Phillis Carter, is an artist professionally known as Fabu.  She is a poet, columnist, storyteller, and teaching artist who writes to encourage, inspire and remind.  Selected as the first African American Madison Poet Laureate (2008-2012), she continues to share the Black experience living in the South, the Midwest and in Africa.  She served as poetry editor for Umoja Magazine and Madison Magazine.  In 2019, she was poetry editor for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets annual edition.  She currently serves as poetry editor for the Capitol City Hues and is a culture columnist for the Cap Times newspaper.  For the past five years, Fabu has worked with Gary Glazner and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (New York) sharing poetry with seniors at six facilities.  Fabu is the author of four books of poetry, Poems, Dreams and Roses (Madison Arts Commission, 2009), In Our Own Tongue, (University of Nairobi Press, 2011), Journey to Wisconsin:  African American Life in Haiku (Parallel Press, 2011), and Love Poems (Ironer’s Press, 2016).  Journey to Wisconsin…won an Outstanding Achievement in Poetry award by the Wisconsin Library Association.  Fabu is currently working on Remember Me:  Mary Lou Williams in Poetry about the great jazz woman pianist, composer and arranger.  Her website is

Jamie Dawson, Writer & Performer

Jamie Dawson is a  writer, performer and black arts scholar whose talents range from spoken word, theatre and commissioned works on the topics such as black life, multiculturalism, women’s rights, healing, and connection to each other through Earth. Jamie was born and raised in Tampa, FL and developed her writing and performance skills with Heard Em Say Youth Arts Collective where she made history by appearing and placing in the Hillsborough County District Poetry Jam three consecutive times and qualified four times for the internationally competing Tampa youth poetry slam team. Jamie was active in the Tampa youth arts scene up until her matriculation to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she joined the 9th Cohort of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community. In her eight years as a writer and performance artist, Jamie has completed collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. The combination of the pillars of art, academics, and activism guide Jamie’s work, and are present in her two solo shows Goddess At Your Feet directed by Dana Pellebon and Feast of Flowers directed by Karl Iglesias. Jamie facilitates workshops with a lens of writing as healing and storytelling as community building. Find more at

Iva Ugrcic, Flute & Co-Host

Described as “a natural star on her instrument,” Serbian flutist Dr. Ugrčić has been featured as a solo artist as well as a chamber and orchestral musician at numerous music festivals and concerts, performing throughout Europe and North America.


After completing her studies in Paris and Belgrade, Iva moved to the USA to finish her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at UW-Madison as a recipient of a prestigious Collins Fellowship. Since then, Iva won the Shain Irving Competition, multiple concerto competitions, and received the James Smith Orchestra Award for excellency and leadership. Additionally, she won the C.R.E.A.T.E. Project Competition at the 46th National Flute Association (NFA) Convention, was awarded First Prize award from The American Prize, Second Prize at the UW Arts Business Competition, Silver Medal at the International Vienna Competition, was a finalist for the Pro Musicis International Award in NYC, and has been named the "Musician of the Year for 2018" by the Well-Tempered Ear.


Dr. Ugrcic currently serves as the Founder & Executive Director of the LunART Festival, Artistic Director of the Rural Musicians Forum, is a member of the Career & Artistic Development Committee of the NFA and holds the position of Board Liaison & Strategic Initiatives role at Overture Center.

Isabella Lippi, Violin

Violinist Isabella Lippi, called “A standout, even among virtuosos," has performed in numerous 

recitals and appeared as guest soloist with orchestras in the United States, Mexico, Europe and the Far East. She has performed with Chicago Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, Tulsa Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, the Mexico City Philharmonic, the San Diego Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Vermont Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica de Bilbao of Spain, and the Moscow Symphony.


Lippi has won numerous competitions and awards including the St. Louis Symphony Young Artist Competition, First Place in the Young Musicians Foundation National Debut Competition, Highest Honors in the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Talent Search, the Henryk Szerying International Competition, and the Illinois Young Performers Competition.


In addition to her work as a soloist, Ms. Lippi has participated in numerous chamber music festivals including those of Santa Fe, La Jolla, Mainly Mozart and the Aspen Music Festival. She was Concertmaster of the Charleston Symphony from 1999-2002 and is currently Concertmaster of the Elgin Symphony. She is featured on a CD on the Koch International label which contains complete works for violin and piano and the solo works by the late composer, Miklos Rozsa.

Karl Lavine, Cello

Karl Lavine is Principal cellist for the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. As a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Heartstrings Quartet Program, Karl performs in many special needs communities throughout the Madison area. Karl appears regularly at John and Rose Mary Harbison’s Token Creek Festival in Wisconsin. He has held faculty positions at Luther College, Illinois Wesleyan University and UW Whitewater. As a past member of the Milwaukee based contemporary music ensemble, Present Music, Karl has recorded compositions with the ensemble as well as solo repertoire. He is also a member of the Kepler Quartet, a string quartet which resulted from performances of works of American composer Ben Johnston. With the help of generous grants from the Aaron Copland Recording Foundation and support from New World Records, the Kepler Quartet has recently finished recording the complete string quartets of Ben Johnston under the New World Records label.

Kimi Evelyn, Dancer & Choreographer

Kimi Evelyn began dancing at the age of four. Her dance training began with ballet but, as she got older, she expanded her horizons to other styles including modern, contemporary and African dance. While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kimi had the opportunity to work with faculty like Chris Walker, Kate Corby and Collette Stewart. In her final year at UW-Madison where she earned a BFA in Dance, Kimi developed a short work that focused on the self-love and identity of African American women. Kimi recently moved back to the Waukesha area to continue to dance and develop work that focuses on the African-American experience specifically pertaining to the African-American woman. She’s danced with companies including Li Chiao-Ping Dance Company and Signature Dance Company. In her new work entitle Body Sweet Home, she explores what it means for the essence of a woman of color to be housed in a body filled with many emotions especially during a time such as this. She plans to continue her studies in dance and expand her knowledge so her work can impact others around the nation.

Magdalena Sas, Cello

Polish Cellist Magdalena Sas enjoys a unique and versatile career as a performer, teacher, music advocate and social entrepreneur. Prize winner of international competitions, she performs across Europe, Asia and the Americas, and appeared in renowned concert halls such as Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, BOZAR in Brussels, Witold Lutoslawski Studio in Warsaw, NCPA in Mumbai. 


A passionate teacher and  traveler, Ms.Sas presents masterclasses and workshops across the globe in collaboration with MusAid Organization, El Sistema, Global Leaders  Program, Neemrana Foundation Delhi, and Jeunesses Musicales Belgium. Since 2020, she is also the Global Outreach and Program Coordinator at the International Cello Institute in Northfield, MN. In 2015/16 Ms.Sas was head of the cello program at the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Mumbai, India, where she collaborated with acclaimed ensembles and musicians, such as the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, Zakir Hussain and Rakesh Chaurasia. 


Recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellowship, Magdalena is currently a doctoral candidate at UW Madison and a member of the Global Leaders Program pursuing an Executive Graduate Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship, Cultural Agency, Teaching Artistry, and Civic Leadership. Ms. Sas is a graduate of music conservatories in Poland, Belgium, and Austria, and was a member of the acclaimed European Chamber Music Academy (ECMA) in Vienna.

Marie Pauls, Viola

Marie Pauls (viola) is a versatile freelance musician, residing in Madison, WI.  Classically trained since the of age 3, she can be seen performing in venues ranging from the Overture Center to local wineries. She earned both the Bachelor of Music and the Master of Music degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received a full scholarship to study with Professor Sally Chisholm.  Marie is a founding member of Arbor Ensemble, a classical chamber music group dedicated to the promotion of women composers. A seasoned orchestral musician, she frequently performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and formerly held principal positions in the Illinois Valley and Beloit-Janesville Symphony Orchestras.  Beyond the classical realm, she performs with the acoustic rock group Evan Riley Band, with whom she has recorded two original albums. As a committed string educator, she maintains a private studio and has taught at the American Suzuki Institute.

Peter Miliczky, Violin

Peter Miliczky started studying Suzuki Violin at age six in Yakima, WA. While working towards an engineering degree at the University of Washington he continued studying violin with Ronald Patterson, and quickly realized he wanted to pursue music as a career. He then transferred to Central Washington University and completed his Bachelor of Music degree with Carrie Rehkopf in 2013. Peter continued his studies with David Perry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he completed a Master of Music degree in 2015. He has also attended many music festivals including the National Repertory Orchestra, Marrowstone Summer Music Festival, and Karios Lyceum Summer Chamber Festival. Peter is now an Associate Concertmaster of Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, and holds section positions with Madison Symphony Orchestra, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, and Portland Opera Orchestra. He also teaches private violin lessons in the Madison

Satoko Hayami, Piano

A native of Japan, Satoko Hayami​ is an active collaborative and solo pianist, also performing on harpsichord and toy piano. A versatile artist, Satoko has performed and taught piano chamber music and accompanied instrumental and vocal repertoire all over the world and in the United States, most notably, Canada, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Croatia, Hungary and Italy. Satoko has performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C.; Millers Outdoor Theater in Houston, TX; Harris Hall in Aspen, CO; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; as well as in unconventional performance spaces. She is currently on the piano faculty of Ripon College for the Spring of 2018 and in her third year pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree studying with Martha Fischer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Shasparay Lighteard, Performing Artist

Shasparay Lighteard is a Black, queer, performing artist from Austin, Texas, with a  B.A. in Theatre and a Minor African American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2018 they were the 10th Ranked Poet in the World. She was a recipient of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Full Tuition Scholarship, a speaker at the 2016 TEDxYouth Austin conference and is a National NAACP ACT-SO Gold Medalist. Shasparay has been a finalist in national and regional slam competitions such as Women of the World Poetry Slam, Southern Fried Poetry Slam, Texas Grand Slam and is the two-time Lip Stick Wars Poetry Slam Champion. Shasparay has been featured on Button Poetry, Youth Speaks, BuzzFeed, and Huffington Post. 

She has been an active member of the theatre community.  Shasparay last played the principal role of Clarice in a production of Twilight Bowl and the lead role of Tilly in Melancholy as well as other feature roles.  She has been published by Planned Parenthood and Our Lives Magazine. 

Shasparay is the Founder and producer of the Black Arts Matter Festival that they created to uplift Black artists in predominantly white areas.  The festival featured over 40 Black artists and had audiences of up to 400 people in its first year. Shasparay is currently working to hold a virtual Black Arts Matter Festival in the Fall.

Yana Avedyan, Piano

Yana Avedyan, pianist, is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she studied with Glazirina Tatiana majoring in piano performance. She studied with Dr. Karen Becker at SUNY Plattsburgh in 2007 and has participated in master classes with Evgenia Tzarov and Helen Huang. In the spring of 2011 Avedyan made her debut as soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 488. She completed her Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Music and Accounting in May 2012. In the spring of 2013 Yana Avedyan and Danielle Breisach (flute) won the Annual Shain Woodwind-Piano Duo Competition. In the Spring 2014 Avedyan won Annual Beethoven Competition. During her studies at UW-Madison Yana participated in masterclasses with Peter Miyamoto and Joel Hastings. In the Fall of 2016 she was one of the finalists of the UW-Madison Concerto Competition. She performed Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto with a UW student orchestra in the Fall of 2017. She attended festivals such as Brevard Music Festival and Bay View Music Festival. Avedyan is currently in the DMA program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she is a student pianist Christopher Taylor. She is working on her dissertation, promoting the solo piano works of the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk.  

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