Ras Dia is a Brooklyn-born, Harlem-bred creative working at the intersection of inspiration and empowerment in the arts. His work has been described as “stirring” (Washington Post), “bracing, compelling, and heartbreaking” (Musical America), and “grippingly produced” (The Boston Globe). Recent projects include Heartbeat Opera’s BREATHING FREE: a visual album, the Frederick R. Koch Foundation’s Townhouse Series, San Francisco Symphony’s MTT25: An American Icon, San Francisco Opera’s In Song, and the inaugural season of Little Island, a public park and arts organization developed by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation.
Ras previously served as the Assistant Producer of the Metropolitan Opera’s Peabody- and Emmy award-winning Live in HD series, and as the Managing Director of the New York City Master Chorale, in addition to marketing, development, production, and administrative roles with the National Children’s Chorus, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Carnegie Hall, The New School, where he supported programs for immigrant, refugee, and survivor communities across New York City, and National Sawdust, where he produced the Artists-in-Residence program, and co-created SAUCE, a series of artist sessions.
He is a 2021-22 Artist Scholar at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM), and a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Purchase College (SUNY), as well as the Boy’s Choir of Harlem, and has appeared as a guest speaker for the National YoungArts Foundation, Amherst College, the Black Artists Fund, and MSM, in addition to serving as a grant panelist for OPERA America.
Paige Lester is a creative producer and program manager driven by collaboration and impact. Currently working as a freelance producer, she spent over four years at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC in multiple roles, including being a founding member of the Social Impact Department where she worked closely with VP and Artistic Director of Social Impact, Marc Bamuthi Joseph. After many years of producing concerts, festivals, and community driven activities, she joined Silkroad - a music-centric social impact organization founded by Yo-Yo Ma - as the Development Manager. During her time at Silkroad she served as the liaison to the Board of Directors and worked across the organization with artists and board members alike to lead the ideation and execution of fundraising events. With an educational background in sociology and dance, Paige is drawn to projects that are rooted in social impact, center human stories, and ultimately contribute to a more open and understanding society. When not working in this capacity, she can be found working as an instructor at Barre3 West Village, whose mission is to help clients feel balanced in body and empowered from within.
Daniella is a proud Brooklynite from Bed Stuy. She graduated from Dartmouth College, where she studied African and African-American studies, Government and Digital Arts. As a digital artist, she gains inspiration from Black Arts Movement and has been featured in the MyGalleryNYC exhibition, “ECLECTICA”, and Carnegie Hall’s “Journey into AfroCosmicMelatopia” for their Afrofuturism festival. In her previous roles as a product marketing manager and Google web development fellow, Daniella built her portfolio in web development, effective marketing and project management by designing interactive applications, executing impactful projects, effectively marketing products and facilitating positive relationships with customers. She is passionate about using effective digital marketing and user experience design to propel the mission and objectives of businesses, projects and initiatives dedicated to positive social impact.
Composer Paola Prestini has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, and scientists in large-scale multimedia works that chart her interest in extra-musical themes ranging from the cosmos to the environment. She has created, written and produced large scale projects such as the largest communal VR opera, The Hubble Cantata, and the eco-documentary currently on PBS, The Colorado. As an immigrant, many identities, cultures, and values have collided and interlocked within her helping create a synthesis of both unique and universal ideas that naturally manifest into music. On a more granular level, folk melody is infused into the creation of original melodic lines that are deconstructed then supported with complex harmonies, rhythms, counterpoint and electronic worlds. Her work incorporates improvisation, live electronics, foley, and spatial elements. It is of the moment, political, ambitious, and always curious.
Johanna St. John is an independent grant consultant, supporting the funding efforts of arts and human services nonprofit organizations that create and uplift true community through innovative, creative, and inclusive work. She comes from a background in classical saxophone performance and holds a Masters of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked with organizations such as National Sawdust, the Brevard Music Center, and Hello Neighbor, along with art galleries, community centers, places of worship, and mental health centers. Johanna comes to consulting after two years of working with Montana’s largest foundation. She brings a deep understanding to her work, from a knowledge of effective strategies to share an organization’s story to the technical requirements involved in a successful application. She believes that creativity and deep connection are integral to a healthy sense of self and community and refines the raw materials of transformative vision.
Leo Allanach (he/him) is a queer and disabled producer and writer. Originally from a farm in rural Oregon and raised on science fiction, he’s driven by a passion for art that focuses on how we can disrupt and change society’s current overlapping systems of harm. Leo has worked across multiple disciplines of media - from creating a fantasy-mystery web series to producing and hosting a podcast on exploring how disability intersects with every aspect of life and politics. He graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2020 with a BFA in Film & TV Production and a minor in Screenwriting. While there, he pushed back against the school’s industry-based educational system that suppresses marginalized voices and resists any movement toward increased accessibility. Fueled by this experience, Leo dove into disability justice and became passionate about wielding art as a tool to fight back. In 2022, he was a recipient of the Trans/GNC Screenwriters Grant award from Tea Ho for his television pilot script, and is a 2021 RespectAbility Summer Film Lab Fellow.
Jeffrey Zeigler is one of the most innovative and versatile cellists of our time. He has been described as “fiery”, and a player who performs “with unforced simplicity and beauty of tone” by the New York Times. Acclaimed for his independent streak, Zeigler has commissioned dozens of works, and is admired as a potent collaborator and unique improviser. As a member of the Kronos Quartet, he is the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, the Polar Music Prize, the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recorded Arts (Grammy’s), the Chamber Music America National Service Award and The Asia Society's Cultural Achievement Award.
This Fall, Zeigler will release his next album, Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cello with music by Paola Prestini. It will be a multimedia experience that combines spoken word, movement, music, and imagery into a unified exploration of love, loss, trauma and healing. The project takes its title from the twelve houses of the zodiac as facets of the self, and draws inspiration from explorations of the subconscious including Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest and the poetry of Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Natasha Trethewey. Filmed by Murat Eyüboglu at MASS MoCA and Studio Polygons in Tokyo, Japan, the digital experience will feature the performances and original choreography of New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin and Butoh dancer Dai Matsuoka, a member of the acclaimed Butoh troupe Sankai Juku.