Thursday June 28, 2012
Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock
Ysaye M. Barnwell was born in New York City and has lived in Washington, D.C., for over 40 years. Her life experiences have taken her down three major paths. She began in music at the age of 2½, studying violin for 15 years with her father and majoring in music in high school. She sang in a choir while in junior high school and then in college. In 1976, she founded the Jubilee Singers at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. It was, there in 1979, that Bernice Johnson Reagon witnessed her as a singer and a Sign Language interpreter and invited her to audition for Sweet Honey In The Rock.
Barnwell is also a Speech Pathologist with the Bachelors, Masters (SUNY, Geneseo 1963-68) and Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh 1975) degrees and was a professor in the College of Dentistry for over a decade. In 1981 she completed post-doctoral work and earned the Master of Science in Public Health.
Over the past two decades, Barnwell has earned a significant reputation as a commissioned composer and arranger, author, master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. She has two children’s book: No Mirrors In My Nana’s House, and We Are One, both published by Harcourt, Inc., a boxed set of African American stories and songs for young people: Um Hmm, and an instructional boxed set: Singing in the African American Tradition. She created the Community Sing which she conducts monthly in Washington, D.C., and the workshop Building a Vocal Community® – Singing In the African American Tradition, which she has conducted on three continents, utilizing an African world view, and African American history, values, cultural and vocal traditions to work with and build community among singers and non-singers alike.
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