2019-2020 Artistic Leadership
TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON , Co-Artistic Director
With technical wizardry and profound creativity, Terri Lyne Carrington, has become one of the giants of today’s jazz music. A three-time GRAMMY Award-winning drummer, composer and producer and received a 2019 Doris Duke Artist Award for her demonstrated commitment to her craft; as well as recognizing her future potential contributions to the field of jazz.
Carrington began her professional career at only 10 years old and received a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music at the age of 11. She is the first female artist to ever win the GRAMMY Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Over her forty year of her career, she has played with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Pharoah Sanders and Esperanza Spalding, among countless other jazz luminaries
Carrington has also collaborated with acclaimed visual artists Mickalene Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems, and has curated musical presentations at Harvard University, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the John F. Kennedy Center.
RODNEY WHITAKER, Resident Artist
Rodney Whitaker is a Carr Center Resident Artist and Artistic Director of the Gathering Orchestra. He is an internationally renowned bassist and an award winning Mack Avenue recording artist. Building on his Detroit roots and enormous talent, Whitaker has gone on to earn an international reputation as one of the world’s finest performers and teachers of the jazz double bass in the United States. He completed a seven-year tenure as bassist with Wynton Marsalis’ Septet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In addition, Mr. Whitaker has toured the world over the last twenty-five years, collaborating and performing with legendary jazz artists such as Pat Methany, Terence Blachard, Marcus Belgrave, Regina Carter, Cassandra Wilson, Donald Byrd, Diana Krall and over 100 other jazz luminaries. He currently holds the titles of Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University where he has built one of the leading jazz degree programs and performing faculty in the United States.
Debbie Allen, Resident Artist
Debbie Allen is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, actress, director, and producer whose legendary career is filled with brilliant performances and triumphs.
After early career struggles with racism as she attempted to breakthrough barriers while studying to be a ballet dancer, Debbie Allen hit it big in 1980, starring in a Broadway revival of West Side Story. Her performance earned her a Tony nomination and landed her a role as a dance instructor in the movie Fame (1980). That film evolved into a successful television version in 1982. Allen co-starred in the TV show and won three Emmy awards for choreography.
After Fame was canceled, Allen headlined Bob Fosse’s revival of the musical Sweet Charity, for which she received a Tony. In 1988, Allen stepped behind the camera to direct The Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World. She produced and directed the iconic sitcom until its finale in 1993.
She also made other appearances on TV, starring in the sitcom In the House (1995-99), alongside LL Cool J. and since 2005, Ms. Allen has also held a recurring principal role on ABC’s #1 hit drama Grey’s Anatomy.
In 2001, she opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in Los Angeles, California. A nonprofit school, DADA offers a comprehensive dance curriculum for students ranging in age from 4 to 18. This summer will be the third year Ms. Allen partners with the Carr Center and brings her world class teachers from DADA to live in Detroit for two-weeks and teach our Summer Dance Intensive.
Ms. Allen has received several other honors for her work, including an honorary doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts—where she had been originally rejected as unsuitable for their ballet school. She also recently earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Women in Radio and Television.
George Shirley, Resident Artist
If there is one person who can be credited with opening the doors for modern black tenors it would have to be Professor George Irving Shirley and his prodigious career of remarkable firsts.
Recently retired as a Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan, Mr. Shirley, is known as one of opera’s most versatile tenors and he has enjoyed a trail blazing international career.
Raised in Detroit and a graduate of Wayne State. In 1955 George became Detroit’s first black high school music teacher. The following year, drafted into the Army, he became the first black man to sing with the U.S. Army chorus. In 1961George Shirley became the first black male to receive a contract from the Met and the second black male to perform there.
George performed 28 major roles in 26 operas during his 11 seasons with the Met, appearing more often than any other tenor. He also performed for the Royal Opera (Covent Garden), the Chicago Lyric, Netherlands, Scottish, San Francisco, New York City and Michigan opera companies
He also received a Grammy Award in 1968 for his role (Ferrando) in the prize-winning recording of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte and his solo performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was nationally broadcast on CBS in 1990. In 2014, he was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest artistic award for demonstrating a lifetime of creative excellence.
Damien Sneed, Artist – In – Residence
Damien Sneed is a multi-genre recording artist and a 2014 recipient of the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence honor, which is presented annually to emerging Black and Latino leaders in classical music.
He has garnered attention in a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, gospel, pop, R&B, opera and musical theatre. Mr. Sneed has been featured in The New York Times multiple times for his work. He was the chorus conductor of the original tour of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass with the Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra , and during his residency with the Carr Center last season he mounted a Detroit production of that same masterpiece featuring The Gathering Orchestra and gospel legend, Karen Chark-Sheard.
A pianist, organist, vocalist, conductor, composer, producer, arranger and arts educator, Mr. Sneed has worked with legends such as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and many more.