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Eli Yamin
Managing and Artistic Director
Founding Board President

Eli Yamin is the co-founder, Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz Power Initiative. An internationally presented pianist, composer, arts advocate and music educator, Mr. Yamin has trained over a thousand teachers and artists in his Jazz Power Pedagogy, a unique combination of creative, experiential and reflective teaching tools rooted in jazz’s “swing” rhythm and culture. As a Steinway artist and band leader, Mr. Yamin has performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, and The White House and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. As a cultural ambassador touring on behalf of the United States Department of State, he has performed at concert halls and festivals across Western Europe and the United States and in Albania, Brazil, Chile, China, Guatemala, Greece, India, Mali, Montenegro, Romania and Russia. His recordings include You Can’t Buy Swing with his jazz quartet; I Feel So Glad, with his blues band; Louie’s Dream, dedicated to “our jazz heroes,” with New Orleans-based clarinetist Evan Christopher, and Live In Burghausen with tenor saxophonist and jazz icon, Illinois Jacquet.

Mr. Yamin was the founding director of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Middle School Jazz Academy, leading its first decade, starting with 13 students in Manhattan and expanding the program to serve over 75 students in three boroughs; in addition, his instructional videos for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s online Jazz Academy have received more than a million views. Mr. Yamin co-wrote with Clifford Carlson three jazz musicals for young people that have been performed internationally in four languages and across the United States: Message From Saturn, a space odyssey where three young people discover the healing power of the blues and how to sing, play and dance it to save the world; Nora’s Ark, about overcoming social dogma to unite to solve environmental crisis and Holding the Torch For Liberty, the first musical published about the fight for women’s suffrage.

Inspired as a teen by African-American theatre artists at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey and mentored by writer/activists Amiri and Amina Baraka, Mr. Yamin landed his first national tour as the musical director for the 10th Anniversary tour of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, directed by Mercedes Ellington, Duke Ellington’s granddaughter. Working with Ellington sparked what has become a driving force in his professional work as a composer and educator: the marriage of jazz and theatre.

Early work with drummer Walter Perkins Trio, saxophonist Illinois Jacquet Big Band and philosopher Maxine Greene at Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education provided Yamin with a unique combination of tools for spreading jazz across generations. Mr. Yamin also produced jazz radio for WBGO/Jazz 88 and Sirius Satellite Radio. He studied composition and orchestration with John Corigliano; piano with John Kamitsuka and Eleanor Hancock; and jazz with Jaki Byard, Fred Hersch, Kenny Barron, Keith Copeland, and Barry Harris, with whom he has enjoyed a thirty year association.

Mr. Yamin earned his Master’s Degree in Music Education from Lehman College, City University of New York; his Bachelor’s in Music from Rutgers University, and is a level three certified teacher of Somatic Voicework™ and the Lovetri Method. He now serves on the music faculties of Marymount College Manhattan and Lehman College, City University of New York, where he teaches jazz and blues history, piano and voice. Currently writing a book for the National Association of Teachers of Singing, So You Want to Sing the Blues (to be published in 2018 by Rowman and Littlefield), Mr. Yamin is the author of several articles, including Jazz Culture and Swing Rhythm for Chamber Music America Magazine. He lives with his wife and 12-year old daughter in New York City.

Shireen Dickson
President, Choreographer/Producer

Shireen Dickson has worked in dance and arts education for over 20 years – as a performer, teaching artist, lecturer, curriculum developer, and NYC Dept of Education classroom teacher.  She spent 10 years performing with and assisting award-winning choreographer Dianne McIntyre at renowned performance venues, dance and jazz festivals throughout the country.  In addition to currently directing the 25-year old Okra Dance Company (which presents programs featuring African American vernacular and world rhythmic and folk dances) Shireen has developed programs and presented for a diverse range of institutions including NY Dance Parade, Elizabeth Streb, Pilobolus, National Black Arts Festival, and United Federation of Teachers. Shireen is a founding member of the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance based at Duke University and directs their bi-annual international conference.