Jazz Leaders Fellowship

Click here for info on BKCM’s 2023-2024 Jazz Leaders Fellowship.
Applications open March 15 – May 15, 2023.

We are thrilled to announce the winners of our second year of the Jazz Leaders Fellowship (JLF) program. Congratulations to musicians Jasmine Wilson (left) and Melvis Santa (right)!

The Fellowship | Our 2022-2023 Fellows |

Our 2021-2022 Fellows | The Committee

Official Press Release (6.28.22)

The Jazz Leaders Fellowship

The Jazz Leaders Fellowship provides Black women and Black non-binary jazz musicians with resources to further develop their craft and pursue projects that advance their careers.

The Mission of the Jazz Leaders Fellowship is to

  • To support emerging jazz musicians in creating original music.
  • To support the careers of Black women and Black non-binary jazz musicians to help increase their representation in the field
  • To broaden the presence of BKCM in the jazz community
  • To expose BKCM’s students to diverse emerging teachers

Click here to learn more about the 2022-2023 fellowship package.

The program was conceived by BKCM Board member Daniel DiPietro and developed by the Jazz Leaders Fellowship Committee, led by musician and educator Fay Victor (learn more about the committee below). 

The fellowship is made possible by the generous support of DiPietro and his wife Alexis and includes a $12,500 award. Additionally, BKCM will empower and aid recipients in their paths toward music leadership through teaching and performance opportunities, access to BKCM’s rehearsal spaces, participation in BKCM’s Jazz Program advisory panel and more.

Our inaugural Jazz Leaders Fellows, Jordyn Davis and Charenée Wade, completed their fellowship from August 2021 to June 2022. Scroll down to learn more about Jordyn and Charenée and their year with BKCM.

Applications for the 2022-2023 JLF cycle are now closed. We will update this page with future news about the Jazz Leaders Fellowship.

The 2022-2023 Jazz Leaders Fellows

Melvis Santa is a multi-disciplinary singer, creative pianist, composer, actress, educator, and cultural ambassador who has spent the last two decades performing and teaching worldwide with an emphasis on folk arts education. Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Melvis came to performance early through her family lineage and various cultural traditions. As a bandleader, she has performed with her bands Ashedi, Ellas-Son, Melvis Santa Quartet, and La Rumba de Santa at  Birdland, Minton’s, the Jazz Gallery, Bronx Museum, Lincoln Center, The Jazz  Museum in Harlem, and Aaron Davis Hall. Melvis is a member of Kenny  Garrett’s Sextet playing keyboards, percussion, and singing at Detroit,  Pittsburgh, and Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festivals, Blue Note New York, and many other venues across the US.

Jasmine Wilson is a singer, composer, poet, educator, and producer who combines jazz and classical music with free improvisation and poetry. Jasmine is a Dream Unfinished Activist Orchestra member, singing in concerts for Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Museum, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is half of the improvisation-based musical duo Chez Cherie with pianist Joey Chang. Jasmine has performed and collaborated with artists such as composer/musicians Aakash Mittal, Anjna Swaminathan, Joel Ross, Maria Grand, Sean Mayes, and Stephan Crump. Internationally, she has appeared with Canadian funk/R&B bands What It Is, the Morphtet, Freak Motif, and Kalmunity.

The 2021-2022 Jazz Leaders Fellows

Charenée Wade is a critically-acclaimed singer, composer, arranger and educator who took first runnerup in the 2010 Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition. A recipient of the 2017 Jazz at Lincoln Center Millennial Swing Award, she has worked with greats including Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride and Robert Glasper, among many others. Wade is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Jazz Standard, The Apollo, and at festivals worldwide including Montreux, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival and more. Wade has taught around the world, including at the Aaron Copland School, the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University, and the Juilliard School. chareneewade.com | Facebook: @chareneemusic | Instagram & Twitter: @chareneewade

Jordyn Davis is a bassist, composer, songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who was the first African-American woman at Michigan State University to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition and the first student to earn degrees in Music Composition and Jazz Studies concurrently (she also recently earned her Master’s from the university). She has composed and arranged over 20 works for film, contemporary classical chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras, wind ensembles, and jazz ensembles. She has also performed and worked with artists such as Rodney Whitaker, Micheal Dease, Bruce Barth, Wycliffe Gordon & The Black Excellence Trombone Choir, Ingrid Jensen, Rick Roe, Etienne Charles and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Davis is the founder of an indie rock/neo-soul project called “Composetheway.” composetheway.com |Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Soundcloud: @composetheway

The JLF Committee

This initiative was conceived by the Jazz Leaders Fellowship Committee, whose members play a key role in the selection process.

Fay Victor (Chair)
Ramona Candy
Felisha George
Lezlie Harrison
Marika Hughes
Chiwoniso Kaitano
Toya Lillard
Liliahn Majeed
Rohit Oomman
LaFrae Sci
For additional information, please contact JLF@bkcm.org

The Jazz Leaders Fellowship Committee

Fay Victor (JLFC Chair) is an improvising vocalist, composer, lyricist and educator who has released 10 critically-acclaimed albums as a bandleader. She has taken her distinctive style – rooted in the jazz vocal idiom and infused with global influences – to venues around the globe, including Symphony Space, The Whitney Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Hammer Museum, The Kolner Philharmonie, The Earshot Jazz Festival, and the Bimhuis. Currently on the faculty at The New School of Jazz & Contemporary Music, Victor has worked with luminaries including William Parker, Archie Shepp, Marc Ribot and Tyshawn Sorey, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Rolling Stone, among many other outlets.

Brooklyn-born artist Ramona Candy uses color, movement and texture to create vivid, choreographically inspired collages, which often celebrate her Caribbean heritage. Her latest series is a reflection on Sankofa/Black history. Candy’s work captures the heart and soul of people, places and situations, making her not only a visual artist, curator, writer, performer, speaker, mentor and producer, but something beyond – a motivational artist. She enjoys working with her community and is currently Director of the Council for the Arts at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn.

Felisha George is a recording artist, performer, lyricist and conjurer of rhythmic color. She has taught songwriting and performance in elementary, middle and high schools across the tri-state area, using hip hop as a source. She is committed to serving, affirming and uplifting the youth in the communities around her by being an active listener, an engaged mentor and a source of inspiration. George is an embodied learner, honoring lineage to create allusive duality and soulful flows, a pure rooted story teller.

Lezlie Harrison is a vocalist both bold and subtle, who brings her distinctive sound to all that she sings – be it jazz, blues, gospel, soul, the Great American Songbook or original compositions. She is a presenter and curator for premier jazz station WBGO, and launched the world-renowned Jazz Gallery along with the late Dale Fitzgerald and trumpeter Roy Hargrove.

Cellist and singer Marika Hughes has worked with artists including Whitney Houston, Lou Reed, David Byrne, Adele, D’Angelo and Taylor Mac, and held the cello chair at the Broadway show Hadestown. She was a founding member of the Bay Area bands 2 Foot Yard and Red Pocket, leads the bands Bottom Heavy and The New String Quartet, and has self-released three albums. Hughes is the co-founder and co-director of Looking Glass Arts – an artist residency and youth education program in upstate New York – is a master teacher and director for Young Arts and a teaching artist at Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project.

Chiwoniso Kaitano is the Executive Director of Girl Be Heard, a global NGO that develops, amplifies, and celebrates the voices of young women. She has had a long nonprofit career – including time as the Executive Director of Brooklyn’s Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy – and is dedicated to helping organizations at the forefront of arts and culture, social justice, youth education and social services. Chiwoniso has long been involved in the arts scene and serves on the Board of Trustees for The Center for Fiction, International Contemporary Ensemble and the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance. 

Toya Lillard is a theater director, artist, activist and educator who has worked extensively in developing curricula and implementing teaching artist training programs in schools. Before becoming the Executive Director of viBE Theater Experience, a nonprofit that empowers young women and nonbinary youth of color, she was the Director of School Programs for The New York Philharmonic’s Education Department. Lillard teaches at The New School and CUNY CityTech, serves on the Board of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable and is an Affiliate Representative on the Board of the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance.

Liliahn Majeed is the SVP, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Officer at the Universal Music Group where she promotes innovative and diverse recruiting and retention programs for artists, fans, team members and partners. A 15-year veteran of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) team marketing and business operations group, she developed meaningful community programming as the Vice president, diversity and inclusion for the NBA.

Rohit Oomman is a jazz guitarist from Brooklyn, NY. He is a freshman at Princeton University who intends to major in Economics and pursue a certificate in Jazz Studies. A former student of the Brooklyn Conservatory, he is excited to be involved with the organization as it continues to expand its resources for a widening array of students and musicians.

LaFrae Sci is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, band leader, educator and composer who has created music for film, theater, and jazz and classical orchestras. While Sci’s career is rooted in everything from the blues to spirituals to Afro-futuristic soundscapes, she is a conceptualist whose compositions transcend genres, cultures, and boundaries, and is able to write music for myriad instruments. Her career spans 30 years and 38 countries.