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Jazz and Social Justice: A Salon with Music Volume 11—Jen Shyu: What Mentorship Means Now

July 21, 2020 @ 7:00 pm CDT

In times of turmoil and transformation—a locked-down present and an uncertain future—how do artists share wisdom and experience? How do they foster growth? As a vocalist singing in ten languages, as a composer straddling genres and styles, as a musician playing instruments whose histories span continents and centuries, and as a dancer and writer of compelling grace and power, Jen Shyu transforms wisdom from masters and stories gathered from communities around the world into fresh and original expressions. Her work off the bandstand focuses on fighting inequity and helping create new mentorship networks.

For this virtual edition of the “Jazz and Social Justice” series, Shyu will sing, play Taiwanese moon lute, piano, and percussion in her performance of past and present protest songs, and she’ll present excerpts from Living’s a Gift, her first work composed for a cappella choir, commissioned by American Composers Forum for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade choirs at Brooklyn’s MS 51 William Alexander Middle School. Following the music, she’ll join series host Larry Blumenfeld, along with Mimi Broderick (choir director at MS 51), vocalist-composer Sara Serpa and multi-instrumentalist Eden Girma.

Meet the Artist

Guggenheim Fellow, USA Fellow, Doris Duke Artist, multilingual vocalist-composer-multi-instrumentalist-dancer Jen Shyu is “one of the most creative vocalists in contemporary improvised music” (The Nation). Born in Peoria, Illinois, to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrants and the first female and vocalist bandleader on Pi Recordings, she’s produced seven albums, performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is a Fulbright scholar speaking 10 languages. Her Song of Silver Geese was among New York Times’ “Best Albums of 2017.” Larry Blumenfeld wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “her voice, a wonder of technical control and unrestrained emotion, tells a story dotted with well-researched facts and wild poetic allusions. She claims both as her truths.” She’s was touring her solo Zero Grasses (commissioned by John Zorn) and giving free creativity workshops in schools and homes across all 50 states before the pandemic lockdown. She is also a Paul Simon Music Fellows Guest Artist and a Steinway Artist.

Jazz and Social Justice

This ongoing series connects the music we love with the social and political issues that matter to us all. Each salon blends live performance with conversation between artists, activists, and experts. Curated and hosted by journalist Larry Blumenfeld, whose NJMIH programs during the past dozen years have considered Afro-Cuban influence within New York’s jazz scene and contemporary New Orleans.


July 21, 2020
7:00 pm CDT