VALERIE TROUTT- Musical Director
Bay-area born and bred, jazz and gospel trained, and internationally respected, Valerie Troutt is a musical collagist, borrowing from ancestral centuries of sound, channeling spirits, and delivering the stories of our love, loss, and lives. There’s a light in this unapologetically unconventional artist/teacher/activist for whom art and activism are intertwined. Within this spiritual and social justice-driven performer is a lifelong hunger for craft, for connection, for cultural narratives and an indefatigable thirst to serve as an agape griot to a waiting and hurting people. The Sound of Peace, her long-awaited, full-length debut comes after a critically acclaimed EP and several wizening years culminating in Valerie Troutt’s acceptance of her own original artistic difference in a world of commercial carbon copies.
The daughter and now aunt of an Oakland-based family of artists, activists, teachers and spiritualists, both by blood and by community, the melding of Troutt’s creative and spiritual life emerged early, at the age of seven with her first church solo. Children’s choirs, holiday solos, and developing skills in piano and guitar as well as voice followed at the famed Walter Hawkin’s Love Center. By adolescence, at Berkeley High, Troutt’s world was being cracked open to the world of jazz at the same high school that produced jazz darlings Joshua Redman and Benny Green. Jazz camps, a Carmen McRae Scholarship, Stanford Jazz, Howard University Jazz program and ultimately the New School Jazz Performance program with contemporaries like Bilal Oliver and Tiombe Lockhart—always surrounded by teachers and learners, both vertically and horizontally, in her musical blossoming. After the requisite hand-to-mouth NYC grinds, lesson-rich production deals with labels like Oblique Sound (e.g., Gretchen Parlato), and a brief experience abroad as an ambassador for the International Association of Jazz Educators, Troutt ended up back in the Bay teaching music at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and performing for two years with the Grammy-nominated Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, most recently as a featured soloist on Still We Rise, Still We Sing.While New York offered dream actualizing experiences like performing at SOBs and The Knitting Factory, sharing stages with major recording artists like Les Nubians, and honoring legends such as Bobby McFerrin at tributes, it was in California that Troutt found herself most in-demand and coming into her own. Innumerable venues and festivals presented the unique Valerie Troutt experience including: Yoshi’s Jazz Club, Laurel Street Fair, The Mint L.A., CODA Jazz Supper Club, and the Art ‘n’ Soul Festival, among others. Troutt further found herself collaborating with singer-songwriters like Jennifer Johns, Maria Muldaur, Kimiko Joy, and Sister Monica Parker, and recording with modern composers like Gregory Del Piero, Emanuel Ruffler, Howard Wiley and Jaz Sawyer. For nearly two years, she also served as a principle singer in La Pena – Ayer, Hoy y Pa’Lante, an original suite of music by three-time Grammy nominee, Wayne Wallace with libretto by Aya de Leon.In the East Bay, Troutt established herself as more than an artist, but as a leader in the area’s famed creative community. Partnering on Bay area projects with Oakland Public Conservatory, the Museum of African Diaspora, Higher Ground Neighborhood Corp. and the Embodiment Project (where Troutt is Music Director). The latter project served as the genesis for MoonCandy, a band Valerie Troutt composes for while still gigging with another band, trumpeter Marcus Poland’s fronted group, The Congress. Collectively, these varied and disparate influences informs her recordings as much as Bjork, Dianne Reeves, Carmen McRae, Joni Mitchell, Walter Hawkins and Cassandra Wilson.
Amikaeyla Gaston is a force for change. She creates environments that support people in exploring themselves and uses creativity and strategic questioning to support people in addressing their fears, developing a place where everyone has an equal voice. She has led corporations, universities, government and nonprofit organizations through cultural competency & racial equity training. She has done expansive work in the health arena for over the past 20 years and travels the world extensively as a cultural arts ambassador for the state department bringing together artists and healers of all forms and from all specialties to promote healing and wellness through the arts & activism. Her programming and work with refugees and at-risk children, youth and families has been utilized and implemented by the Department of Health & Human Services, The American Psychological Association and US Consulate General’s Cultural Affairs office, taking her around the world to Israel, Beirut, Amman, Damascus, Palestine, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Nigeria & Sierra Leone just to name a few.
The creative force of gina Breedlove is as dangerous and delightful as this earth we share. Singer, Soniter, Sound Healer & Medicine Woma, gina was born i Brooklyn, NY.
She began performing at age 15, singing back up for the incomparable Phyllis Hyma. Since, ginahas toured all over the world with artists who, like herself, define and redefine genre; Harry Belafonte, Toshi Reagon, Ronny Jordan, Ani Difranco, Craig Harris, and Sekou Sundiata, to name a few.
She calls her music Folksoul, a coalescence of Rhythm & Blues, with story telling cadences of Folk, Soul, and the gospel truth. Folksoul is music that lifts the Spirit, opens the heart and allows one to find their way. Breathing into the Sound of this woman’s voice, gina embodies healing artistry. ctres as wel, gina created the role of “Sarabi” for the Broadway production of “The Lion King”, and recentl appears in Spike Lee films, ”Living Da Dream” for NBA 2k16 and “Chiraq“.