Contact: Henry Reese 412-670-1202 rhreese@cityofasylumpittsburgh.org
Silvia Duarte 412-323-0278 silvia@sampsoniaway.org


Where: Alphabet City Tent (318 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, Northside)
When: JULY 2015, TBD.
Cost: Free. Tickets will be available online (cityofasylumpittsburgh.org/events) or call Karen Simpson at (412) 323-0278
Performers: Oliver Lake, Sean Jones, Tami Dixon, Terrance Hayes, Gia T., and more

March 17, 2015—PITTSBURGH, PA:
“Stoop is Verb” culminates 10 years of Oliver Lake’s creative work and residencies with City of Asylum on Pittsburgh’s Northside. Combining the community’s voices and talent, “Stoop is a Verb” will feature spoken word, poetry, music, and dance performance that captures the vitality and culture of life on the far side of the Allegheny River.

In February 2014, Lake and Marty McGough, a focus group moderator from Campos Research Strategy, met with numerous Northsider organizations to discuss what it’s like to live on the Northside. The groups spanned the diversity of the Northside—the Fair Housing Coalition, Gwen’s Girls, the Mexican War Streets Society, Allegheny City Central Association, Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association, residents and youth from the Allegheny YMCA, and residents from different areas.

During the next year, Lake worked with transcripts of the focus groups, sampling and juxtaposing phrases to make lyrics for songs he composed. “Stoop is a Verb” is thus a community conversation between Northsiders who have never spoken together. Through the performers, they will sing together about their perspectives on the good and the bad aspects of living on the Northside.

“There were a lot of overlapping comments and themes in the focus groups,” explains Lake. “By the fifth or sixth group, a rhythm emerged, and it flowed easily.” And thanks to the humor of the participants and the saltiness of their language, Lake added, “I also hope it will make them laugh.”

Silvia Duarte, Program Manager of City of Asylum Pittsburgh, is a native of Guatemala who has lived on the Northside since 2006. She found that residents responded in the focus groups with very different answers but shared a feeling that “the Northside is home for all of us.” Or as one focus member explained, “I think the same things that bind neighborhoods are the same things that tear it apart.”

Lake first composed the songs on the Northside during the summer of 2014. The title song—“Stoop is a Verb”—was debuted at City of Asylum’s annual Jazz Poetry Concert in September in a performance by Lake and Tami Dixon.

Lake has a long history of working with City of Asylum on the Northside: He has led the organization’s annual Jazz Poetry Concert since 2004 and was commissioned by City of Asylum to create “What is Home,” an evening of jazz and poetry, for Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. He also created the public artwork on the organization’s Jazz House at 320 Sampsonia Way.

The residency and the performance event are part of activities funded by a $100,000 grant to City of Asylum from the “Our Town” program of the National Endowment of the Arts.

Interviews with the performers are available by phone or in person during July.

Oliver Lake (Saxophone)
Gene Lake (Drums)
Robert Sabin (Bass)
Yoichi Uzeki (Piano)
Sean Jones (Trumpet) Gia Cacalano (Dancer)
Kendra Denard “Vie Bohemme” (Dancer)
Tameka Cage Conley (Poet)
Terrance Hayes (Poet)
Tami Dixon (Actress)

About City of Asylum

Founded in 2004, City of Asylum is a model for arts-based community development, bringing writers, readers and neighbors together through global literature and cultural exchange. Located on Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh’s Northside, City of Asylum’s campus of redeveloped houses serve both as homes for exiled writers and as public artworks. It has presented more than 250 authors and musicians from 42 countries in free readings and concerts. Sampsonia Way, the publishing arm of City of Asylum, specializes in banned books in translation and anthologies of contemporary writing from countries where free speech is under threat; www.SampsoniaWay.org, its online journal of free speech, literature, and justice serves as a virtual home for persecuted writers and serves a growing global audience online.

Bios of the Performers

OLIVER LAKE (Saxophone) is the musical curator of the Jazz Poetry Concert and has appeared in each concert since 2004, with different accompanying musicians– including the World Saxophone Quartet, his own Jazz Quintet, and Flux Chamber Quartet. Composer, musician, poet, painter, and performance artist, Lake is a featured artist on more than 50 recordings. He is an explosively unpredictable soloist, known for his piercing, bluesy saxophone trademark. He has created chamber pieces for the Arditti and Flux String Quartets, arranged music for Björk, Lou Reed and A Tribe Called Quest, collaborated with poets Amiri Baraka and Ntozake Shange, choreographers Ron Brown and Marlies Yearby, and actress/author Anna Devere Smith. He is co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet and Trio 3 and leads his Organ Quartet and Big Band.

SEAN JONES (Trumpet) is an American trumpeter and composer featured on the 2007 Grammy Award-winning “Turned to Blue” from Nancy Wilson. As a bandleader, Jones has released five albums under the Mack Avenue Records label. He performs with his own groups both nationally and internationally, in addition to being a lead trumpeter for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (which also features Wynton Marsalis). Jones often plays at music venues and jazz festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, Detroit International Jazz Festival, and Montreal International Jazz Festival.

GENE LAKE (Drums) is an all-around drummer who cut his teeth on funk and jazz. Gene Lake embodies the contradictions of modern music. His resume reflects his passion for the great funk icons of the 1970s and 1980s such as Parliament-Funkadelic and The Time, as well as his longstanding ties to the jazz world. Gene Lake has been playing for almost 10 years with a stunningly diverse range of artists: from R&B group Surface in the 1980s to the “new wave” of R&B acts such as Meshell Ndegeocello, Maxwell, and D’Angelo in the 1990s; from jazz innovators Steve Coleman and Henry Threadgill, to fusion legends Joe Zawinul and Marcus Miller; from jazz/rap group Opus Akoben to acts that defy categorization, such as the wildly original rock/funk/jazz fusion group Screaming Headless Torsos.

ROBERT SABIN (Bass) is an improviser and composer who has appeared alongside such artists as Jean-Michel Pilc, Dave Pietro, Dick Oatts, Donny McCaslin, Luis Bonilla, John Riley, Rich Perry, Matt Panayides, John Yao, Bruce Barth, Ivan Renta, Tony Moreno, Dee Alexander, Aaron Johnson, Kenny Werner, Brian Lynch, Killer Ray Appleton, Peter Bernstein, Chico O’Farril, Billy Taylor, The Turtle Island String Quartet, Vince Mendoza, and Roland Hanna. He has places in the 2001 and 2003 International Society of Bassist’s Jazz Competitions, and earned a Ph.D. in Jazz Performance from New York University.

YOICHI UZEKI (Piano) is a pianist, composer and arranger. A native of Tokyo, Yoichi Uzeki has received his bachelor’s degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and his master’s degree and the Sir Roland Hanna Award from Queens College, City University of New York. Yoichi played the piano on a historical recording session with Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Ornette Coleman in 2010. This “For The Love of Ornette” CD is available world-wide. Currently, Yoichi has several of his own projects from duo to big band in the United States and Japan, and he is part of the music faculty at York College, City University of New York. He has been a sideman for a number of ongoing projects by Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Oliver Lake, Jeff King, Webb Thomas, Carl Bartlett Jr., Hot Crescents (Co-led by Satoru Ohashi), Battle Jazz Big Band of Japan, and so on. Many bands throughout the world have performed his music and charts. In addition to musicians mentioned above, he has performed with Pharoah Sanders, Terell Stafford, James Spaulding, Tim Warfield Jr., Craig Harris, Bobby Porcelli, Cecil Bridgewater, Najee, Chanda Rule, Wolfgang Puschnig, and Tony Kofi to name a few.

TERRANCE HAYES (Poet) is the author of Lighthead (Penguin 2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books are Wind In a Box (Penguin 2006), Hip Logic (Penguin 2002), and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999). His honors include a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a United States Artists Zell Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. How To Be Drawn, his new collection of poems, is forthcoming from Penguin in 2015.

TAMEKA CAGE CONLEY (Poet) is a literary artist who writes poetry, fiction, and plays. She received a PhD in English in 2006 from Louisiana State University, where she was a recipient of the Huel Perkins Doctoral Fellowship. In 2010, she received the August Wilson Center Fellowship in literary arts. Her first play, Testimony, was produced at the Center in May 2011. An excerpt of the play is published in the anthology 24 Gun Control Plays and has been performed in Los Angeles and the Darlinghurst Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia. Her poems are published in Callaloo, The Portable Boog Reader, African American Review, Huizache: The Magazine of Latino Literature, and a special online feature of the Southeast Review in response to the Ferguson protests that spread across the nation. An excerpt of her novel-in-progress, This Far, By Grace, is also published in Huizache. She has received writing fellowships from Cave Canem, the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference and Workshops. In October 2013, she received the Eben Demarest Trust grant, awarded annually to an artist or archaeologist, to support the completion of her novel-in-progress. Last month, her poem “Losing” was chosen by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book as one of four featured poems for the Public Poetry Project in 2015.

TAMI DIXON (Actress) is entering her 10th season as Producing Artistic Director of Bricolage Production Company. In addition to her work with Bricolage, Ms. Dixon is a playwright, actor, director, theatrical divisor, and social justice activist. Ms. Dixon’s first play, “South Side Stories” received its world premiere and subsequent remount at City Theatre Company to critical and box office acclaim. As an actress she’s worked with Bricolage, barebones, City Theatre, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Quantum Theatre, The Rep, and The Pittsburgh Public Theatre. Ms. Dixon is a recipient of a TCG/Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, The Frankel Award from City Theatre Company, and the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Emerging Artist Award from The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation. http://www.bricolagepgh.org/content/staff

GIA T. CACALANO (Dancer), originally from NYC, is an educator, choreographer, improviser, and performer currently based in Pittsburgh, PA. Ms. Cacalano’s career spans 30 years. She has worked with and alongside dancers from the Martha Graham, Limon, Ailey, Katie Duck, and Mary Anthony Dance companies as well as many other renowned companies nationally and internationally. For the last twelve years, Ms. Cacalano has spent her time investigating, understanding, and presenting improvisation both nationally and internationally. Ms. Cacalano is adjunct faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of education, physiology, and physical activity (2005- present). She is the founder, administrator and artistic leader of “Gia T. Presents international music / dance ensemble” and Pittsburgh ensemble “Frameworks.” Gia T. Presents is a professional ensemble of dancers, musicians, poets, and visual and film artists. The ensemble collaborates through improvisation, creating thought-provoking events for the Pittsburgh community, surrounding cities, and beyond. Ms. Cacalano’s work in performance and master classes have been presented both nationally and internationally and has received many awards and nominations. Her work has made several top ten best dance lists in Pittsburgh among both national and international presenters.

KENDRA ‘VIE BOHEMME’ DENNARD (Dancer), a Detroit native and Pittsburgh- blossomed artist, is both a dynamic dancer and eclectic vocalist. As a vocal renaissance woman, she uses soul, funk, rock, and jazz elements in her music. She employs smooth transitions which allow her to flow between singing, dancing, and scatting rhythms. Her eclectic and inclusive lyrics ring of true of the American experience and take her audience on a beautiful, wondrous and high-energy journey. Her poetry serves as vivid imagery of familiar experiences that weave through her music. Professionally trained in dance at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University, Vie can’t help but to dance along the path that her musicians pave, engulfing her audience in an experience that excites the senses.

Organizations that participated in Focus Groups

The Northside Coalition for Fair Housing

The Northside Coalition for Fair Housing is founded on the premise that families and individuals have a responsibility to create for themselves living environments that are safe, livable, beautiful, and sustainable, with indifference to a resident’s income, race, or physical abilities. They develop and manage holistic, comprehensive, and, most importantly, respectful revitalization opportunities that provide homes, opportunity, and voice.

Allegheny YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh
The YMCA focuses on strengthening the community by working side-by-side with neighbors to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income, or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.

Gwen’s Girls
Gwen’s Girls strives to empower girls and young women to have productive lives through holistic, gender-specific programs, education, and experiences.

The Mexican War Streets Society
The Mexican War Streets Society (MWSS) was founded in 1969 as a non-profit organization. Its mission is to preserve the historic character of the Mexican War Streets and to promote the neighborhood through personal and community involvement.

Allegheny City Central Association
Allegheny City Central Association (ACCA), formerly Central Northside Neighborhood Council, is a community-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for all residents of Allegheny City Central, a neighborhood located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s historic Northside.

Kente Arts Alliance
Kente Arts Alliance is an African-American arts organization presenting high quality art of the African Diaspora. Kente’s aim is to present art with a purpose with programs that entertain, inform, and uplift the residents of underserved communities.

Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association
The mission of Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association, Inc. (YMWAHA) is to provide school-aged children and their families with the cultural, artistic and educational tools necessary to become positive and active members of society.

Questions Asked in the Focus Groups

What words or images come to mind when you hear the word “Northside?”
If the Northside was an animal, what would it be?
What type of music do you associate with the Northside?
How big is the Northside and what are its borders?
Is there consensus about what constitutes the North Side?
What’s it like living and working here?
Describe the feeling or emotions the Northside evokes in you.
What’s the best thing about living or working here?
What’s the worst thing about living or working here?
What activities in the neighborhood do you yourself like to participate in?
Why did you choose to live or work in the Northside?
What made you decide to stay?
What makes the Northside different from other places?
What makes it different from other parts of Pittsburgh?
Is there a strong arts culture here?
How would you describe the Northside “community?”
In your view, is there a strong sense of community?
Do neighbors talk to one another?
Do they attend neighborhood gatherings or events?
Do you yourself feel like you are part of the community?
What are the things that bind the community together?
What are the key issues dividing the community?
Which of these issues are the most important barriers to building a stronger sense of community?
What role can your organization play in addressing these key issues?
In your personal view, how would you address the issue(s)?
How else can people’s lives be made better or improved in this community?
How can organizations like yours engage residents and other organizations?






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