Season 43 News – Songs of the Phoenix – Artist Bios


Songs-of-the-Phoenix-Artist-Bios-Updated-10.6.21
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Ty Defoe (Giizhig), is from the Oneida and Ojibwe Nations. He is a Grammy-award-winning composer, playwright, librettist, interdisciplinary artist, actor, choreographer, eagle dancer, and hoop dancer. Ty interweaves artistic projects with social justice, indigeneity, trans rights, Indigi-Queering, and environmentalism. Awards, residencies, and fellowships: TransLab Fellow, Global Indigenous Heritage Festival Award, Robert Rauschenberg Artist in Residence, Jonathan Larson Award, Cordillera International Film Festival Finalist, 2021 Cultural Capital Fellow, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center finalist, and the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop. Ty’s songs have been featured at: Lincoln Center, Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova, 54 Below, The Met, and The Kennedy Center. Ty’s theatrical work has been presented at: Guthrie Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Yale Institute of Musical Theater, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, Noor Theater, Native Voices at the Autry, The New Victory Theater, and the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, IL for the International Puppet Festival. Ty’s international arts highlights: the Millennium celebration in Cairo, Egypt; International Music Festival in Ankara, Turkey; and Festival of World Cultures in Dubai. Works: TransWorld, Red Pine, The Way They Lived, Ajijaak on Turtle Island, Hear Me Say My Name, Wind Changes Direction, Before the Land Eroded, BasketBall Is ‘War, Minus the Shooting’ In Sectarian Lebanon, River of Stone, Firebird Tattoo, Trial and Tears (with Dawn Avery), and The Lesson(with Nolan Doran and Avi Amon). Ty is an artEquity facilitator, co-founder of Indigenous Direction (with Larissa FastHorse), and member of All My Relations Collective, which recently presented his work GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG | Revolving Sky at Under the Radar Festival, Incoming! at The Public Theater as part of the Devised Theater Working Group in New York City.

His play Firebird Tattoo was published in The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays, 2021. He has a B.F.A. from CalArts, M.F.A. from Goddard College, and M.F.A from the Musical Theater Writing Program, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He has done movement direction for Mother Road, Dir. Bill Rauch (OSF); and Manahatta, Dir. Laurie Woolery (OSF, Yale Rep). He was choreographer for Tracy Lett’s The Minutes on Broadway. Acting credits include Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men on Broadway (Dir. Anna Shapiro). He lives in NYC and loves the color clear. Member of: Dramatist Guild, SDC, ASCAP, First Nations Theater Guild, AEA. Pronouns: He |We | tydefoe.com


Alexandra Elle is an author, certified breathwork coach, and writing to heal facilitator living in Maryland with her husband and children. Writing came into her life by way of therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. The intention behind Alex’s work is to build community & self-care practices through literature & language. Quarterly, Alex teaches workshops, online courses, and retreats centered around assisting others in finding their voices through storytelling rooted in truth without shame.


Siedah Garrett — A timeless artist known not just for her decades of award-winning singing and songwriting but also for her humanitarian spirit, Siedah Garrett was first discovered by Quincy Jones, and has toured internationally as backup and featured vocalist with Jones, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and others. She is best known for co-writing Michael Jackson’s mega-hit “Man in the Mirror,” and having recorded as MJ’s duet partner on his chart-topping BAD album lead single “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”. Garrett won a GRAMMY Award and earned an Oscar nomination for her song “Love You, I Do” performed by Jennifer Hudson in the film adaptation of the Broadway smash musical,Dreamgirls.

Her second Academy Award nomination came as the result of co-writing the song “Real In Rio” withSergio Mendes from the blockbuster animated film, Rio. Siedah has become a go-to lyricist for special events and social causes, such as co-writing two theme songs for the Special Olympics World Games, the musical theme for the World Expo in Shanghai, the American Idol Gives Back campaign, Fergie’s “L.O.V.E. (Let One Voice Emerge)” song to encourage voter participation, her Autism Awareness theme song “It’s Time to Listen,” and her benefit single, “Carry On”, for the Race to Erase MS charity. Last year, Siedah was named by UNESCO as a recipient of their coveted Peace Ambassador Award. Garrett has begun to transition into lyric writing for musical theatre and music-centric television.

In 2019, Siedah partnered with Academy Award-nominated composer John Debney, to create songs for a musical theater holiday production entitled “My Silent Night”, and is now collaborating with multi-GRAMMY winning composer/producer Harvey Mason Jr. on the musical theater production of Will Smith’s blockbuster film, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” She also has signed on as featured songwriter for the 4th and final season of the hit Netflix series, “Dear White People.” Last year, Garrett released a new, thought-provoking single, “The New Frontier (Say Their Names)”, in tribute to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all other African- American men, women and children who have died from questionable police tactics (with all proceeds being donated to the Black Lives Matter organization). Most recently, Siedah has released her seminal classic “Do You Want It Right Now” across streaming platforms for the first time ever via Tinted Records. “Do You Want It Right Now” was featured in the 1985 movie ‘Fast Forward,’ and the iconic anthem is still considered as one of the game changers during the pivot into the ‘80s ‘Freestyle’. Now, the record is finally being accompanied by an official 4-track remix package from Eden Prince, Dr Packer, Jolyon Petch and BluePrint. She continues to reside in Los Angeles and is married to former RCA Records VP/A&R, Erik Nuri, who also serves as her talent manager.


Joriah Kwamé is an upcoming writer and performer from Kalamazoo, MI. He is most known for writing “Little Miss Perfect” by Taylor Louderman and was a winner of her 2019 Write Out Loud Contest. Most recently, he participated in the 2020 Johnny Mercer Songwriting Project and got to learn from master teachers Andrew Lippa, Stephen Bray, Lindy Robbins, and Craig Carnelia. As a result of the music that was the soundtrack for his childhood, Joriah began to admire classic R&B, Soul, and Jazz music. He performed his original R&B/Neo-soul music throughout his younger years, opening for artists such as Anthony Hamilton, The Dramatics, Lyfe Jennings, SWV, and Keith Sweat. His passion for musical theater composition was sparked when he wrote and self-produced his first project when he was 13, and is now writing several musicals ranging widely in style and subject matter-from a dark retelling of Pinocchio to a MLK biopic. @JoriahKwame


Daniel and Patrick Lazour are brothers and music theatre writers. They have workshopped their piece We Live in Cairoat the O’Neill National Music Theater Conference and at New York Theatre Workshop under the 2016 Richard Rodgers Award. It premiered at the American Repertory Theatre in May 2019 directed by Obie Award-winner Taibi Magar. They have developed their work during residencies at the O’Neill, Ucross, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Yaddo and MacDowell. Their new musical community project about cancer treatment, patients and caretakers was workshopped at the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Theatre, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat and is being developed with the American Repertory Theater. Patrick and Daniel were 2015-16 Dramatists Guild Fellows and are New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspects. Most recently, they were artists-in-residence at the American University in Cairo and are teaching artists at Lincoln Center Theater. They perform their songs live at the Boiler Room in New York City. @frereslazour


Melissa Li is a composer, lyricist, performer, and writer based in NYC. She is a recipient of the 2021 Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, a Lincoln Center Theater Writer-in-Residence, a 2019 Musical Theatre Factory Maker, a MacDowell Fellow, a Company One Pao Arts Fellow, and a former Queer|Art|Mentorship Fellow. Musicals include Interstate (New York Musical Festival, Winner “Outstanding Lyrics”), MISS STEP (5th Avenue Theatre commission), Cancelled (Keen Company), May Day (NewYorkRep), Surviving the Nian (The Theater Offensive, IRNE Award Winner for “Best New Play” 2007), and 99% Stone (The Theater Offensive). Upcoming: BachelorX (Playwrights Horizons), Adventurephile (Keen Company), and OSF Presents (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Her works have received support from 5th Avenue Theatre, The Village Theater, Musical Theater Factory, Playwrights Horizons, Keen Company, Weston Playhouse, NewYorkRep, Company One Theatre, National Performance Network, and New England Foundation for the Arts, among others.


Andrew Lippa is a composer, lyricist, singer, actor, conductor, and record producer. His “Unbreakable” had its world premiere with The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in June 2018 with 300 artists onstage, including himself. In May of 2018, he conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a new production of his and Brian Crawley’s A Little Princess in concert at the Royal Festival Hall to a sold-out crowd of nearly 3,000 people. His hit song “Evil Like Me” appears in Disney’s Descendants. Written for Kristin Chenoweth, the soundtrack hit #1 on the “Billboard 200” album chart, #1 on the iTunes and Billboard soundtrack charts and “Evil Like Me” was certified gold in 2017.

He has conducted celebrated pianist Lang Lang and the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of a commissioned symphonic work for piano, soprano, tenor, children’s chorus, and orchestra. His epic oratorio for men’s chorus, orchestra and soloists, has seen over 30 productions including Disney Hall and Lincoln Center. Lippa’s newest musical, The Man in the Ceiling, based on Jules Feiffer’s book (and co-written with Feiffer) released a world premiere studio album in May of 2019. His obsession with Netflix’s Tiger King yielded two songs/videos in April, 2020 and, for a while, got his mind off the pandemic.

Broadway credits include: music and lyrics for Big Fish; the Tony®-nominated music and lyrics for the Broadway musical The Addams Family directed by Jerry Zaks, as well as the music for Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway play The Farnsworth Invention directed by Des McAnuff. Other musicals include the Drama Desk award-winning musical The Wild Party (book/music/lyrics); John & Jen (music/book); Asphalt Beach (music and lyrics); Life of the Party (a compendium of Lippa’s works/Menier Chocolate Factory); and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (additional music/lyrics and arrangements). Awards include Tony® and Grammy® nominations; shared Emmy for Nickelodeon’s The Wonder Pets; SFGMC Vanguard Award; The Drama Desk Award; The Outer Critics Circle Award. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Lippa serves as president of the board of The Dramatists Guild Foundation www.dgf.org


Ingrid Michaelson — Born in New York City and raised by her mother, a sculptor, and her father, a classical composer, Ingrid Michaelson has artistry in her DNA. At four she began taking piano lessons, but it wasn’t until after she graduated college with a degree in musical theatre and was touring the country in a theater troupe that she began to write her own songs, which would connect with millions. Her music taps into universal themes like self-doubt, betrayal, and of course love. Ingrid’s music is released on the label she founded, Cabin 24 Records, which has released her gold and platinum hits including “The Way I Am,” “Girls Chase Boys,” and “You and I.” While Michaelson has established herself as an artistic force over the course of eight full-length albums, she’s also experienced enviable success writing for other artists and for stage and screen. Last year, she received her first Emmy Award nomination for her original song “Build It Up,” written for the hit series, Little Fires Everywhere. A lifelong Broadway fan, Michaelson made her stage debut in 2017, starring in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 and will soon make her creative debut, writing the music and lyrics for the musical adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Notebook. For the latest from Ingrid Michaelson please visit www.ingridmichaelson.com.


Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics for the current Broadway hit WICKED, and has also contributed music and/or lyrics to GODSPELL, PIPPIN, THE MAGIC SHOW, THE BAKER’S WIFE, WORKING (which he also adapted and directed), RAGS, and CHILDREN OF EDEN. He collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on the English texts for Bernstein’s MASS and wrote the title song for the play and movie BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE. For children, he has written songs for two musicals, CAPTAIN LOUIE and MY SON PINOCCHIO. He has also worked in film, collaborating with Alan Menken on the songs for Disney’s ENCHANTED as well as the animated features POCAHONTAS and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and writing the songs for the DreamWorks animated feature THE PRINCE OF EGYPT. His first opera, SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, was produced at Opera Santa Barbara and New York City Opera. A book about his career, “Defying Gravity,” has been released by Applause Books. Mr. Schwartz has been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame . Awards include three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards, and a tiny handful of tennis trophies. http://www.stephenschwartz.com.


Stephen Sondheim is an American composer and lyricist known for his work in musical theatre. One of the most important figures in 20th-century theatre, Sondheim has been praised for having “reinvented the American musical” with shows that tackle “unexpected themes that range far beyond the [genre’s] traditional subjects” with “music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication.” His shows have been acclaimed for addressing “darker, more harrowing elements of the human experience,” with songs often tinged with “ambivalence” about various aspects of life. His best-known works as composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company(1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987). He is also known for writing the lyrics for West Side Story(1957) and Gypsy (1959).


Diana Syrse — Mexico, 1984 — is a composer and singer from Mexico City. Her music is characterized by an influence of jazz, rock, fusion, traditional music from around the globe, and avant-garde as well as the use of non-Western instruments, theatrical elements, and electronics. Her focus is on musical composition for new musical theatre, opera, staged concerts, and interdisciplinary collective creations. On several occasions, her music is performed by herself in collaboration with other ensembles, choirs, and orchestras. As a singer Diana has studied bel canto, extended vocal techniques, jazz, and improvisation and specializes in exploring different approaches to the composition and interpretation of new musical theater. Her catalog contains works written for choirs, orchestras, ensembles, electronics, electroacoustic music, dance, opera, and new musical theatre. Her music has been performed in Europe, Canada. Latin America, the USA, Africa, and Asia. She has worked as a composer and singer with the Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper Hamburg, VocalEssence, the Babylon Orchestra Berlin, Kinderkinder, and Túumben Paax. She has been invited to international festivals in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Holland, and Latvia. Her compositions have been performed by the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cuban National Orchestra, the Anne Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, Nemian Dance Company, Dance On Ensemble, Oktopus Ensemble, among others. In the area of opera and theatre, she has worked as a composer in residence at the Kammerspiele München, Schauspiel Frankfurt, the Berliner Ensemble, and the Staatsoper Hamburg.

She was also the founder and artistic director of The Breakout Ensemble in Munich. Some awards and recognitions include the Musikpreis der Landeshaupstadt München,, the FONCA Study Abroad Programme, the Residency at the Banff Centre in Canada, the Counterpoint of Tolerance Project (LA), and the Cité Internationale des Arts Residency in Paris. He was a member of the Young Creators program, the Akademie Musiktheater heute of the German Bank, the Academie d´Aix en Provence, and the European Network of Opera Academies. Diana Syrse lives in Munich.


Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics for the current Broadway hit WICKED, and has also contributed music and/or lyrics to GODSPELL, PIPPIN, THE MAGIC SHOW, THE BAKER’S WIFE, WORKING (which he also adapted and directed), RAGS, and CHILDREN OF EDEN. He collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on the English texts for Bernstein’s MASS and wrote the title song for the play and movie BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE. For children, he has written songs for two musicals, CAPTAIN LOUIE and MY SON PINOCCHIO. He has also worked in film, collaborating with Alan Menken on the songs for Disney’s ENCHANTED as well as the animated features POCAHONTAS and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and writing the songs for the DreamWorks animated feature THE PRINCE OF EGYPT. His first opera, SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, was produced at Opera Santa Barbara and New York City Opera. A book about his career, “Defying Gravity,” has been released by Applause Books. Mr. Schwartz has been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame . Awards include three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards, and a tiny handful of tennis trophies. http://www.stephenschwartz.com.


Stephen Sondheim is an American composer and lyricist known for his work in musical theatre. One of the most important figures in 20th-century theatre, Sondheim has been praised for having “reinvented the American musical” with shows that tackle “unexpected themes that range far beyond the [genre’s] traditional subjects” with “music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication.” His shows have been acclaimed for addressing “darker, more harrowing elements of the human experience,” with songs often tinged with “ambivalence” about various aspects of life. His best-known works as composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company(1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987). He is also known for writing the lyrics for West Side Story(1957) and Gypsy (1959).


Diana Syrse — Mexico, 1984 — is a composer and singer from Mexico City. Her music is characterized by an influence of jazz, rock, fusion, traditional music from around the globe, and avant-garde as well as the use of non-Western instruments, theatrical elements, and electronics. Her focus is on musical composition for new musical theatre, opera, staged concerts, and interdisciplinary collective creations. On several occasions, her music is performed by herself in collaboration with other ensembles, choirs, and orchestras. As a singer Diana has studied bel canto, extended vocal techniques, jazz, and improvisation and specializes in exploring different approaches to the composition and interpretation of new musical theater. Her catalog contains works written for choirs, orchestras, ensembles, electronics, electroacoustic music, dance, opera, and new musical theatre. Her music has been performed in Europe, Canada. Latin America, the USA, Africa, and Asia. She has worked as a composer and singer with the Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper Hamburg, VocalEssence, the Babylon Orchestra Berlin, Kinderkinder, and Túumben Paax. She has been invited to international festivals in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Holland, and Latvia. Her compositions have been performed by the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cuban National Orchestra, the Anne Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, Nemian Dance Company, Dance On Ensemble, Oktopus Ensemble, among others. In the area of opera and theatre, she has worked as a composer in residence at the Kammerspiele München, Schauspiel Frankfurt, the Berliner Ensemble, and the Staatsoper Hamburg.

She was also the founder and artistic director of The Breakout Ensemble in Munich. Some awards and recognitions include the Musikpreis der Landeshaupstadt München,, the FONCA Study Abroad Programme, the Residency at the Banff Centre in Canada, the Counterpoint of Tolerance Project (LA), and the Cité Internationale des Arts Residency in Paris. He was a member of the Young Creators program, the Akademie Musiktheater heute of the German Bank, the Academie d´Aix en Provence, and the European Network of Opera Academies. Diana Syrse lives in Munich.


Kit Yan is a bi-coastal transgender screenwriter and playwright, born in Enping, China, and raised in the Kingdom of Hawaii. They are the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Kleban Prize for most promising book of a musical, and a recipient of the Vivace Award for big ideas in theater. Kit has been a fellow at the Dramatists Guild Foundation, Lincoln Center, MacDowell, The Playwright Center Fellow, and the Musical Theater Factory. In 2021, they are contracted to write their first movie musical for television.

Their work has been produced by the Smithsonian, American Repertory Theater, Musical Theater Factory, the New York Musical Festival, Weston Playhouse, NY Rep, and Diversionary Theater. They are currently in development at Playwrights Horizons, 5th Avenue Theater, the Village Theater, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Diego Rep, and Keen Company. Their award-winning musical, Interstate opened to rave reviews at Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis. Kits first play Queer Heartache won 5 awards at the Chicago and SF Fringe Festivals and their second musical, MISS STEP received grants from NAMT and ASCAP to continue development.