JLF: Jazz Leaders Fellowship

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (BKCM) is thrilled to announce that after a two-month selection process Jordyn Davis (composer, vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) and Charenée Wade (singer, composer, arranger, educator) have been selected from a highly competitive pool of 50 applicants as the inaugural recipients of the Jazz Leaders Fellowship (JLF).This program is made possible by the generous support of Dan & Alexis DiPietro.

Charenée Wade and Jordyn Davis, JLF Fellows


Jazz Leaders Fellowship Mission

  • To support emerging jazz musicians in creating original music.
  • To support the careers of Black women and 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

Fellowship Package

The fellowship takes place from August 1, 2021 – July 31, 2022, and aims to empower and aid the recipients on their paths towards music leadership through several benefits and opportunities, including:

  • $12,500 unrestricted award
  • Opportunity to teach a master class or workshop for BKCM
  • Paid teaching opportunities at BKCM or one its affiliates
  • Opportunity to lead performances at or connected to BKCM (supported by additional funding)
  • Access BKCM’s rehearsal spaces
  • Mentorship and support from BKCM faculty and staff.


Fellowship responsibilities involve live performances, workshops and projects in collaboration with the Amy Winehouse Jazz Program, which allows pre-teens and teens to explore the world of jazz and improvisation. Fellowship recipients will support this program through two or more of the options below (up to a total of 10 hours):

  • Mentorship of students in the program
  • Propose and develop a 2-hour workshop for program students
  • Participation as an advisor to the program
  • Develop a special project in support of the program
  • Outreach to promote the program


Applicants for the Jazz Leaders Fellowship must meet the following criteria:

  • Black women and non-binary jazz musicians (vocal/instrumental)
  • 21-years and older
  • Applicants from all career stages are encouraged to apply
  • Currently enrolled full-time students are not eligible

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

Fay Victor (Chair)
Ramona Candy
Sarah Elizabeth Charles
Sophia Davis*
Felisha George*
Lezlie Harrison
Sarah Hanahan*
Marika Hughes
Chiwoniso Kaitano
Toya Lillard
Lilian Majeed
Sam Newsome
Rohit Oomman*
LaFrae Sci

*Youth Members

For additional information, please contact JLF@bkcm.org

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-bred artist Ramona Candy uses color, movement and texture to create vivid, choreographically inspired collages and hand-pulled prints, which often celebrate her Caribbean heritage. Her current project was inspired by an exploration of social media posts celebrating Black history, and creates visual stories with paper, acrylic, texture and color. 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.


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.


Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a vocalist, composer and educator who has worked and studied with artists like Christian Scott, George Cables, Geri Allen, Nicholas Payton and Sheila Jordan. Described as a “genre of one” by Downbeat magazine, Charles has released three critically-acclaimed albums with her band, SCOPE, and is a vocalist for a number of other groups. She has performed at venues including The White House, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and the Rose Theatre with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and her commissioned composition was performed at The National Gallery in Washington D.C. for The Canales Project “Hear Her Song” initiative.


Chiwoniso Kaitano is the Executive Director of Girl Be Heard, a theatre-making organization 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 Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Willie Mae Rock Camp.


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.


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.


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.


Saxophonist and composer Sam Newsome gained notoriety with 2009’s Blue Soliloquy, which he followed with six other critically-acclaimed releases – including The Straight Horn of Africa (2014), called “a modern masterpiece” by Downbeat magazine. He leads a trio with Hilliard Greene and Reggie Nicholson, is a frequent collaborator with drummer Andrew Cyrille and vocalist Fay Victor and tours regularly with Pepperland, a music and dance tribute to The Beatles by Mark Morris and Ethan Iverson. His numerous accolades include a 2020 Instant Award in Improvised Music, a 2018 New Music USA Grant, and the 2016 NYFA Fellowship for Music Composition.


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.


Youth Members

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.


Sarah Hanahan is an up-and-coming jazz saxophonist pursuing her Master’s degree in Jazz Performance at The Juilliard School, where she is studying with renowned artists including Bruce Williams, Ron Blake, Kenny Washington and Marc Cary. She is also working with Sherrie Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra, as well as Jason Moran as part of a collaboration with the Kennedy Center. Hanahan studied on full scholarship at the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford), where her professors included well-known jazz saxophone performers Javon Jackson and Abraham Burton.


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.

Sophia Davis is a singer, pianist, aspiring guitarist and community advocate from Brooklyn. Over the past few years, she has participated in several local musical and volunteer opportunities, including being a vocalist in Carnegie Hall’s Future Music Ensemble and an intern and performer at Brooklyn Children’s Theater. Besides her love for listening to, talking about and playing music, Sophia loves to read, crochet and study linguistics and humanities.