Photo of summit poster

Watch the summit here.

Each year ACF hosts an Artist Equity Summit that centers music creators and examines themes related to equity that impact the field and beyond. Our theme in 2022 was “Lifting Up our Youth.” Keep reading to discover how we met artists, learned about the ways they are creating music with young people, and engaged in dialogue about achieving greater racial equity across generations.

This event was the culmination of artist PaviElle French’s residency with six St. Paul-based arts organizations working together as a group for the first time. Liberation! Lifting Up our Youth was PaviElle French’s vision, and comes out of our collective need and responsibility to empower our young people and give them a platform. Performances by students from Purple Playground and TruArtSpeaks took place at the convening – all original works created in workshops with PaviElle French and other collaborators.

We also presented on our new intergenerational commissioning partnership with The Juilliard School’s Pre-College and the New York Philharmonic – Composing Inclusion – and other examples of lifting up our youth through the creative process with composer Jessica Mays, arts leader Stanford Thompson, and PaviElle French. 

We were excited to have one of the residency partners hosting this in-person and live streamed event! Walker West Music Academy’s mission is to create a music learning community rooted in the African-American cultural experience. Claim Our Space produced the event for us.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Generous support has also been provided by Bill and Susan Sands, the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation, and the Lillian Wright and C. Emil Berglund Foundation.

Introduction from Vanessa Rose, ACF Executive Director, and Braxton Haulcy, Walker West Music Academy Executive Director

Performance: Purple Playground Students

Interview with Purple Playground by Scott LeGere, ACF Board Member and Recording Producer/Teacher

Performance: TruArtSpeaks Performers

Interview with TruArtSpeaks Performers by Tish Jones, TruArtSpeaks Founding Executive Director

Interview with PaviElle French, Resident Artist, by Stanford Thompson, ACF Board Member and Vice Chair

Presentation of the Racial Equity Report Card by Vanessa Rose, ACF Executive Director, and Garrett McQueen, ACF Board Member and Equity Committee Chair

Preview of the 2022/2023 NEA Big Read Series – Immigration, Identity, and the Arts – by Vanessa Rose, ACF Executive Director; Clarence White, East Side Freedom Library Associate Director; and Carolina Heredia, ACF Director of Artist Support

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Vanessa Rose (she/her)

Executive Director, American Composers Forum

Vanessa Rose joined the American Composers Forum (ACF) in January 2019. For more than a decade, Vanessa has been working with artists and organizations dedicated to living creators, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Lark Play Development Center, The Knights collective, the American Composers Orchestra, and Arco Collaborative. She has led organizations through significant transitions: establishing new leadership positions, guiding strategic transformation, and centering racial equity. She is Board Chair of the Performing Arts Alliance, a coalition of national performing arts organizations focusing on public policy and advocacy to ensure equitable participation in the arts.


Braxton Haulcy (he/him)

Executive Director, Walker|West MUSIC ACADEMY

Before arriving at Walker West, the music school started in 1988 by the Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West, Braxton Haulcy spent 35 years in the business world. But while the onetime music major held positions ranging from accounting to information marketing, he had never before been executive director of a nonprofit music school. And he’d never run a capital campaign. No matter. Haulcy, hired to lead Walker West in 2019, immediately embarked on a strategic plan and dove into transforming the school into more than a place where parents dropped off their kids for lessons. He’s helping it better connect with its Summit-University neighbors — and, in the process, making it a source of learning, music and pride for thousands. “My hope is to give our community joy,” he said.


PaviElle French (she/her)


PaviElle is an amazing interdisciplinary artist, Upper Midwest Emmy Award and Sage Award winner. She is known for her powerhouse vocals and performing with an equally powerful 6 piece band. PaviElle was voted as Minneapolis City Pages “Best R&B Vocalist of 2015”, her band was named one of First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2015 and, was a featured artist on TPT’s “Lowertown Line”, 2015. PaviElle hails from Rondo, a historically Black neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. She honed her craft as a teenager at Penumbra Theatre and with collective, EduPoetic Enyerbrainment. Growing up in a family steeped in music, she says that she wants to make music that honors and represents the Black aesthetic. As a songwriter, PaviElle always has a way she wants her songs to “swing,” and it’s this free-style emotion, in the scatting and vocalizing, that brings a millennial’s heart-born, contemporary vision to a classic soul music sound.


Siena Becchetti   Kimora Collins

Annika Lewis       Sophia Melancon

Rowan Nordin      Priscilla Opdahl

Sierra Rich           Natalie Tran

Tiahna Wolf Shields

Performers, Purple Playground

Heidi Vader & Willie Adams

Directors, Purple Playground

Purple Playground envisions a world where Prince’s legacy of positivity and giving continues in perpetuity. We formed our 501(c)3 nonprofit fan-based group to honor Prince’s legacy and inspire as he did – with funds from our events used to create our FREE Academy of Prince music program for teens.


Scott LeGere (he/him)

Board, American Composers Forum

Scott LeGere is an educator, musician, father, serial-entrepreneur, community builder, ravenous media consumer, and wannabe cyclist who continues to see abundant optimism throughout the world and music business. He also ardently believes that we can all do better when we all do better.



Founded in 2006, TruArtSpeaks is an arts & culture organization based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We provide development opportunities for artists and arts leaders through direct mentorship, workshops, residencies, public events, conferences, statewide initiatives, and more. Our primary audience consists of people with multiple marginalized identities and artists— with a special focus on youth and young adults. We believe that art & culture – especially Hip Hop – inspire connection, growth, and social transformation.

Athena Estimé


Vibrant Hues a.k.a Athena, is a Haitian American youth advocate, community organizer, teaching artist, and Multi-Disciplinary artist. Vibrant Hues seeks out to create artwork that sparks healing and a greater understanding of spirituality and her ancestors. Her practice is based in the city Minneapolis where she was born and raised.

Taiwana Shambley


Taiwana Shambley (she/her) is a freelance fiction writer, editor, abolitionist, and teaching artist from Saint Paul, living in South Minneapolis. She works to imagine and practice liberation for BIPOC youth in Minnesota. Currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Warren Wilson College, Taiwana is a 2021 graduate of Augsburg University in English and African American Studies. She was awarded a 2022 grant from the University of Minnesota’s Center of Urban & Regional Affairs to lead the editing of a collection of stories by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth in Minneapolis. Her fiction has won a 2020 Next Step Fund grant by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and she has prose poems published by the Academy of American Poets and Belt Publishing. She is currently working on a first novel. You can find Taiwana’s writing and learn more about how to support her work at

Isha Camara


Isha Camara is a writing, performance poet and visual poet from South Minneapolis and a proud Aries. She has earned her degree in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and stands First Wave Alumna.

She’s been writing and performing poetry since the age of thirteen and moves with the intention to always sharpen her blade. Her work has been featured of us forthcoming in the Southeast Review, Muzzle Magazine, The Boston Review, Wisconsin Life and the Overture Galleries. Isha has preformed for the Madison Public Library, Walker Art Center and MMoCA.

Isha’s purpose is to give a narrative that create conversations supple with empathy, driven by tenderness.


David Hamilton (he/him)

Managing Director, American Composers Forum

David Hamilton joined the ACF staff in March 2022 in a newly-created role of Managing Director, overseeing our core programs and the implementation of our strategic plan. David most recently served as Executive Director of The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. Previously, he was the Director of Operations for Augsburg University’s Center for Global Education and Experience. As a qualified administrator for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), David also served as a leader on Augsburg University’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and has worked on DEI efforts for 13 years. In his previous role as the Executive Director of Access Works, David led a cutting edge social service agency providing harm reduction services to injecting drug users and other at-risk populations. David is also a jazz piano player, and has played a variety of styles with numerous bands in the Twin Cities and has recently turned his focus to the study of Afro-Latin dance. David has an MA in African History, a BA in Political Science, and a Mini-MBA for Nonprofit Organizations.


Jessica Mays (she/her)


Jessica Mays is a composer, pianist and songwriter. Mays’s music has been performed both locally and abroad, including the New York Philharmonic, the Playground Ensemble, Nebula Ensemble, Ensemble Paramirabo, Ensemble Lunatik, Thin Edge New Music Collective, The Labo de musique contemporaine de Montréal, and many others. She has been featured by a variety of festivals as composer and performer including the Chelsea Music Festival, Loon Lake Live, and the Cluster Music Festival. She has also written arrangements for both large and small forces on a variety of projects with the Colorado Symphony. Her music has received praise from such major publications as the Boston Globe and the Boston Musical Intelligencer.


Stanford Thompson (he/him)

Vice Chair, American Composers Forum

Stanford Thompson is a musician and educator who serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Play On Philly and Founding Board Chairman of El Sistema USA and the National Instrumentalist Mentoring and Advancement Network. Recognized as a TED Fellow, Stanford believes that music is a powerful tool for positive personal and community change. Mr. Thompson serves on the faculty of the Global Leaders Program and regularly presents for major arts and business conferences, institutions, and stakeholders about leadership, entrepreneurship and social justice. As a principal of Goldsmith Strategies, he has guided the strategic development of dozens of organizations across the United States while collaborating with local and national initiatives to develop new strategies and programs that provide equitable access to the arts. As a professional trumpeter, Stanford has performed as a soloist and member with major orchestras around the world and continues to perform throughout the Philadelphia region. Stanford is a native of Atlanta, GA, a graduate of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program and holds degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellows Program.


Garrett McQueen (he/him)

Board/Equity Committee Chair, American Composers Forum

A proud native of Memphis, TN, Garrett McQueen is a bassoonist who has performed as a member of the South Arkansas Symphony, Jackson Symphony, American Youth Symphony, Memphis Repertory Orchestra, the Eroica Ensemble, and most recently, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. He has also collaborated with ensembles including the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Southeast Symphony, the Artosphere and Gateways Festival Orchestras, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Garrett’s musical career has also included solo recitals and chamber music performances across the country, master classes, guest instruction, and adjudication. Garrett has been heard as both a performer and guest host on APM’s “Performance Today”, and is featured in a number of commercial recordings of orchestral and “pop” music widely distributed across the music industry. On camera, Garrett has appeared in a wide array of television programs, including Oxygen’s “Snapped: Killer Couples”, TV One’s “Fatal Attraction”, and Fox’s “Glee”.


Carolina Heredia looking at the camera and smiling, wearing silver earring and necklace with blue and white blouse, standing in front of a brick wall

Carolina Heredia (she/her)

Director of Artist Support, American Composers Forum

Carolina Heredia is a composer of acoustic and electronic music, and an intermedia artist. She has a background in Argentinian folk and tango. As the ACF Director of Artist Support, Carolina is the liaison with the artists creating music today. In collaboration with other staff and Board, she helps to ensure that ACF is an inclusive space for diverse artists to feel welcome and connected to other artists and collaborators.

In her role as an arts administrator, Carolina served as the Associate Director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative overseeing music composition programs for composers of all ages and career stages. In this position, she contributed to the design of policies that ensure equitable practices in the selection processes, budget distribution, and the curation of concerts and annual guest artists, as well as to creating connections with the local community. She was a founding member and the Executive Director of the Khemia Ensemble, and is currently a founding member of ANTiCX, a collective of multimedia artists.

Carolina holds a Doctorate degree in Music Composition and was a Research Fellow for the Institute of Humanities at the University of Michigan. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Missouri and then was appointed as Assistant Professor in Music Composition. As a composer, she has received awards from the Fromm Music Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, the Missouri Music Teachers Association, and the Chamber Music OC International Prize, among others. Her works have been published by Hall Leonard and produced by Orchid Classics, Navona Records, and Alban Records.


Clarence White

Associate Director, East Side Freedom Library

Clarence is a writer, editor, typewriter poet, and arts organizer and administrator. He has worked for a wide range of organizations including the National Farmers Union (working in media in their Washington, DC Capitol hill office) the Minnesota State Senate, several nonprofits in the arts, community development, public policy and media, including the Minneapolis Urban League, the Twin Cities Daily Planet (news), Nonviolent Peaceforce (international civil society organization) and the Saint Paul Almanac, and as a bookseller with the Hungry Mind Bookstore. He taught management and organizational behavior at Metropolitan State University and North Hennepin Technical College. His publications are included in several editions of the Saint Paul Almanac, Suisun Valley Review, Public Art Review and the anthology Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota. He is a past Givens Foundation Retreat Fellow and was a finalist for‘s flash fiction contest miniStories. He is intrigued by baseball stories and how they are vivid touch points for American history. In his first paycheck job, he was a Teamster. He lives in Saint Paul.