[ Concerts Students & Alumni ]

“Home Grown on Common Ground” concert features local stars

March 30, 2010

St. Luke’s Steel Band and Christian Sands, along with Yale performers Andy Akiho and friends

St. Luke's Steel Band

For the spring concert on the Ellington Jazz Series, artistic director Willie Ruff has gathered together an unusual array of talent from the New Haven area and Yale University for an exciting program. The concert is called “Home Grown on Common Ground,” and takes place on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 8 pm in Sprague Hall. The cast of local performers includes the remarkable 25-member St. Luke’s Steel Band and the Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Christian Sands with Thadeus Exposé on bass and Arti Dixson on drums. Among the Yale performers is composer and steel pan virtuoso Andy Akiho, who will perform with the St. Luke’s Steel Band and with a large ensemble of woodwind, string, and brass players from the Yale School of Music.

The program will include music by steel pan players Liam Teague and Andy Akiho, Yale graduate composers Sam Adams and Richard Harrold, and the piece Fire Down Below by popular steel pan composer Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. Teague, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who serves on the faculty at Northern Illinois University, has been called “the Paganini of the steel pan.” Akiho is a composer and percussionist who “shreds on the steel pan, defying stereotypes about what kind of music that instrument is intended for” (Hartford Advocate). Akiho, Adams, and Harrold are all students in the Yale School of Music’s graduate program in composition.

Tickets to the concert are $12 to $20, $7 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Yale School of Music website or call 203 432-4158.

About Christian Sands

Christian Sands is a rising star in the world of jazz. He takes a fresh look at the entire language of jazz: stride, swing, bebop, progressive, fusion, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. He says, “My music is about teaching the way of jazz and keeping it alive. It’s unfortunate that the older styles, like stride, are starting to drift away.” True to his word, Sands develops the past while providing unusual and stimulating vehicles for the present and for the future. Born May 22, 1989, Christian began playing the piano at age 3 and composing at age 5. His meteoric rise in the jazz world already includes two appearances at the 2006 and 2007 Grammy Awards, including an outrageous, highly publicized duet with legendary pianist Oscar Peterson. He has also been featured as a special guest of jazz adjudicator and pianist Dr. Billy Taylor for his 2006 and 2007 “Jazz at the Kennedy Center” Series and 2008 NSO Pops Salute to Jazz in Washington, DC. He has performed with jazz luminaries such as Lou Donaldson, Kirk Whalum, Avery Sharpe, Rufus Reid, Bill Summers, Chip Jackson, Phil Woods, James Moody, and Wycliffe Gordon, to name a few.

He has been as invited guest to play at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz venues and festivals. He has three CDs so far to his credit: Footprints (which was recorded when he was 12), Harmonia, and Risin’.

About Andy Akiho

“Frankly, he shreds on the steel pan, defying stereotypes about what kind of music that instrument is intended for.” –Hartford Advocate

Andy Akiho is an award-winning composer and performer whose broad interests stretch from steel pan to western classical music. Recently featured on PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer, his compositions have been recognized by such organizations as Meet the Composer, Bang On a Can, The World Steelband Music Festival, and the 2009 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Awards. Akiho currently studies composition at the Yale School of Music and is an active member of the Claremont Ensemble, TACTUS, and the Andees Trio. As a percussionist, Akiho has performed with numerous ensembles, including the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, Djoliba Don West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Gamelan Lila Muni (Eastman School of Music), and many chamber ensembles throughout New York City. Akiho won Second Prize in the 2002 World Steelband Music Festival solo competition and has participated in the world’s premier steel pan event, Panorama.

About the St. Luke’s Steel Band

The St. Luke’s Steel Band is based at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in New Haven. Under the direction of coach/arranger Debby Teason and assistant director Donna Johnson, the band has gained a reputation as one of the area’s most unique and exciting performing ensembles. The band’s achievements were recognized in 2003 by an Artist’s Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and they have won two gold medals at the Panorama Caribbean Music Fests in Virginia Beach. In 2008 the 25-member ensemble performed with tenor pan virtuoso Liam Teague for a standing-room-only crowd in New Haven, and April 2009 featured a joint concert with the renowned Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra from Washington DC. The band’s repertoire includes soca and calypso, reggae, classical, sacred, jazz, popular, and island folk music.