innova Recordings, ACF record label, is pleased to introduce you to these artists. Enjoy exploring this selected playlist of tracks that belong to albums released by innova Recordings, curated by our staff for the 2024 CMA National Conference.

Check out innova Recordings entire catalog and our National Call for projects.

Innova Recordings seek to foster an artist-centric cooperative model where both label and artist work closely to achieve the artist’s goals. We seek to support artists in their creative process as well as promoting their project. We facilitate a support network of selected artists to provide guidance and feedback to each other throughout the process. We are a collective of open-minded listeners who welcome all kinds of musical expression.

Jump to artist:

Josh Henderson

Josh Henderson is enjoying a multi-faceted career as a cross-genre violinist, violist, and composer. As a classical soloist, he has performed with many ensembles, including the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, China Performing Arts Broadcasting Troupe, and Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra. His compositions include a full length Ballet for Caliince Dance company, “Marie: Embroidering Survival”, premiered at Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a concerto-grosso for the Cavani Quartet, “A Bop for Bridge”, and his piece, “Veni: A Dystopian Cowgirl Fantasy for violin and fixed electronics” was a winner of the 2022 Tribeca New Music National Competition. Josh has recently released “One More Night”, his debut album featuring an evening length composition for nonet, under the Innova Record Label as a winner of their national call for projects.

Josh studied at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with Prof. Kurt Sassmannshaus, and at New York University with Prof. Naoko Tanaka. He has served on the faculty at the University of Iowa (Grant Woods Visiting Professor), and currently is on the artist faculty at NYU, and The Longy School of Music in Cambridge.

Julie Herndon

Julie Herndon is a composer, performer, and sound artist exploring the body’s relationship to sound. Her work combines musical instruments and personal technologies and has been described as “truly brilliant and utterly affected” (Kulturpunkt), “like a signal from another world” (Tages-Anzeiger), and “blended to inhabit a surprisingly expressive space” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Her compositions and installations have been presented at MATA Festival and National Sawdust in New York, Artistry Space in Singapore, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca (MACO) in Mexico, Music Biennale Zagreb (MBZ), Sogar Theater in Zurich, and by Forest Collective in Australia. Recent collaborations include andPlay, the Decoder Ensemble, JACK Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, and Kukuruz Quartet.

Julie is the recipient of the Elisabeth Crothers Award for Music Composition, American Composers Forum Bay Area Residency, Chamber Music America Commissioning Grant, New Music America Creator Fund, National Sawdust New Works Commission, and Georges Lurcy Fellowship. As an artist in residence, she has collaborated with institutions such as the Cité Internationale des Arts, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Center for Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) at Berkeley, Djerassi, and I-Park artist residency programs.

Herndon is currently Assistant Professor of Music Technology and Composition at Polytechnic State University. She previously taught composition and electronic music production techniques at San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford. She holds a DMA from Stanford University, MA in Music Composition from Mills College, and BA from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Her writing, “Embodied Composition: Composing the Body with Sound” can be found in Leonardo with MIT Press.

J.E. Hernández

Composer and cinematographer J.E. Hernández (b.1993) is a Mexican-born, Houston-based composer focusing on elevating personal and cultural narrative through his work. J.E.’s music has been featured by distinguished ensembles and organizations such as the Kennedy Center for the Arts, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Houston Grand Opera, American Opera Project, Performing Arts Houston, Apollo Chamber Players, Foundation for Modern Music, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, American Composers Forum, the Brazil National Orchestra, and in a wide variety of films. He holds a degree from the University of Houston. Past teachers include Marcus Maroney, Gregory Spears, and Gabriel Pareyón. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Music Composition at the University of California, San Diego.

J.E.’s work focuses on both traditional and multi-disciplinary mediums, and he has collaborated with directors, choreographers, and playwrights. His process cultivates creativity through stewarding tangible life experiences through an intensive, multi-narrative process that is mathematical, philosophical, and historical; these include environmental displacement, anthropologic self-assessments, and non-artistic life narratives. His interest in incorporating his cultural heritage from both his native Tabasco, Mexico, and Houston, Texas led J.E. to create ConcertiaHTX (, a non-profit arts organization for social causes. Its mission statement reads: “To empower social causes through the prism of new music and multi-media art,” resonating with his goal as a composer to engage communities at large.

Cecilia Smith

Cecilia Smith is a leading vibraphonist of 4-mallet technique. Cecilia is an avid composer and has released seven recordings. Her recent recording, THE MARY LOU WILLIAMS RESURGENCE PROJECT – Small Ensemble Repertoire, Volume 1, was funded through a CHAMBER MUSIC AMERICA PROJECT GRANT and the AMERICAN COMPOSERS FORUM, INNOVA RECORD LABEL. The recording has been at the top of the JAZZ RADIO CHARTS for more than six months and has received rave reviews.

She has appeared or recorded with artists: Gary Bartz, Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Randy Weston, Milt Hinton, Marian McPartland (“Piano Jazz” NPR), Donald Harrison, Mulgrew Miller, and Cecil Bridgewater. She has received many commissions and grants including, several CHAMBER MUSIC AMERICA Grants, two NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS AWARDS, JOYCE AWARD, ELIZABETH SWADOS Award for her work as a teaching artist, and has presented a TEDx TALK on her work as a multimedia artist. Cecilia is the Artistic Director for the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project which includes small ensemble, big band and choir repertoire. Cecilia is a graduate and former faculty member of Berklee College of Music. She is currently a Teaching Artist Guest Professor for a North Carolina Central University online course, Teaching Artist Certificate Program. Cecilia is also a teaching artist for a number of nonprofit social service and arts organizations. Cecilia Smith hails from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and lives in Park Slope Brooklyn.

deVon Russell Gray, Nathan Hanson, Davu Seru

Performed and recorded in a church just across the street from the Minnesota State Capitol on December 28th, 2020, only weeks after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, We Sick is a record of staggeringly emotional improvised music, full of contemplation, fear, and fury. deVon Russell Gray’s (aka dVRG) piano haunts the corners and cornices and interweaves with Nathan Hanson’s lyrical saxophone. Davu Seru’s drumming finds its place masterfully everywhere outside of and in between these two other elements, propelling, pulling, and singing. We Sick is a dance and a statement; it will appeal to fans of any work associated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), of which Seru is an affiliate. Certainly Roscoe Mitchell’s playing comes to mind, as do certain selections from Muhal Richard Abrams’ Things to Come from Those Now Gone. But We Sick is not simply an echo of musics of the past. It is in fact made, fundamentally, from the materials of the present moment.

The music made that day reflects the feelings of isolation from community, hunger for justice, and the weariness of the wait. We offer it to you as a humble confession and renewed covenant.

Lewis Jordan

saxophones and poetry

Born in San Francisco, I grew up in Chicago with the blues of the South Side and an appreciation for a broad range of music from my parents.

I’m a musician, poet, actor and playwright, who has toured and recorded nationally and internationally. I focus on creative structures, working with artists from a range of disciplines, including dancers, poets, painters and actors, exploring intersections of creativity through improvisation. Over the years I’ve been honored to perform with some exceptional people, including Charles Tyler, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Donald Robinson, Mark Izu, Genny Lim, devorah major, Jimmy Biala, John-Carlos Perea, Francis Wong, István Grencsó, and Sandra Poindexter. Many of these collaborations have been presented in my Music at Large series.

Music at Large, now a performing unit, plays to scale walls and works to build bridges. It represents my commitment to bringing artists together to shape challenging and liberating performances. I produce interdisciplinary and multicultural events and seek performers who strive for modes of expression that honor our traditions while speaking to the urgency of the present. Our words and our improvisation evoke a spirit of resistance to outlived authority, whether external or internal.

As for being an artist in times like these, there is no time like the present. Recognizing the moment, and being in it, is the call. I create and recreate in response to the reality I’ve experienced throughout my life. I will speak truth to power, especially the power within us. I choose to find a way to say what I think needs to be said, for the first time or again, or needs to be said in a different way so that we hear it more clearly. It is always time to speak directly. Finding a way to do that is in itself a creative act.

Laura Sewell

Minnesota cellist, Laura Sewell, has had a distinguished career as a chamber musician. She was the founder and cellist of the Lark Quartet, which was the bronze-medal winner in the Banff International String Quartet Competition and served as teaching assistants to the Juilliard String Quartet at the Juilliard School. Later in her career, she was the cellist of the Artaria String Quartet from 2007-2016. From 2004-2008 she served as chair of the board of Chamber Music America.

As both a soloist and chamber musician, Laura has premiered works by such distinguished composers as Libby Larsen, Stephen Paulus, Paul Schoenfield, Jon Deak, Peter Schickele, Steve Heitzeg, Andrew Waggoner, and Stanislaw Skrowacewski. Radio appearances have included the “Dame Myra Hess Recital Series,” “Saint Paul Sunday,” and several times on “A Prairie Home Companion.” She is featured on the Centaur, Bridge, and Innova recording labels, as well as solo cellist throughout the soundtrack for the American Playhouse docudrama “A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz” starring Jane Alexander and Christopher Plummer. As a recipient of a 2020 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Laura recorded a CD of works for cello and piano by Minnesota composers.

In her native Twin Cities, she is a member of the Isles Ensemble and performs as a substitute cellist with both the Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras. She serves on the Leadership Team of the International Cello Institute, an intensive program for serious young cellists held every summer at St. Olaf College. Laura has degrees from the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Leonard Rose, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Alan Harris. At the age of 17, she had the unique opportunity to study with legendary cellist, Jacqueline du Pré, which was a truly life-altering experience.

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