Gabrielle Denise Pina

Gabrielle Pina is a poignant and masterful storyteller. Ms. Pina’s novels have been described as “ever suspenseful” by Black Issues Book Review and “a spectacular effort” by Written Magazine.

Pina was viewed as “the writer to look out for” when she published the acclaimed short story Uncommon Revelations for the ESI Anthology. That year also featured the birth of her thesis project, Bliss into her first novel, which culminated in a three-book deal with Random House and a national book tour. Pina’s long awaited sophomore novel, Chasing Sophea was released in October 2006 and has become a book club favorite.

Pina taught in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California for the past ten years, where she also received a Master of Arts degree. In March of 2012, Pina premiered Letters from Zora: In Her Own Words starring Vanessa Bell Callow, a play that showcases the artistic and literary triumphs of the venerable Zora Neale Hurston at the University of Southern California to a sold out crowd of over twelve hundred. Letters from Zora premiered and sold old all five shows at the Pasadena Playhouse in August of 2013 and was back by popular demand at the Pasadena Playhouse the following year for eight shows. Letters from Zora also opened the season to rave reviews at the Tony award winning Crossroads Theater in October of 2014. Ms. Pina is also hard at work on her third novel, A Season for Hummingbirds and has completed her second play Dreaming of Harlem Under a High Southern Sky which will premiere as part of the Visions & Voices: Arts and Humanities Initiative at the University of Southern California in March of 2015.

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Assistant Professor of Theatre Practice for the USC School of Theatre. In academia, she has taught at Barnard College, NY; guest lectured in undergraduate drama at New York University; and has performed and presented at conferences at St. Mary College of the Woods, Indiana State University and DePauw University. As an actor based in New York and Los Angeles, she has performed on Broadway in Night Must Fall starring Matthew Broderick and The Sunshine Boys starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. She has also guest starred in numerous television shows and independent films. Among her regional theatre credits she has performed in productions of Blues from an Alabama Sky, Zora Neale Hurston’s Spunk and the Mark Taper Forum’s production of House of Bernarda Alba with Chita Rivera. She has also recently performed in world premiere productions of Laws of Sympathy and SICK at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Memories of a Preacher’s Daughter at the Ebony Repertory Theatre and the workshop of Massoud: The Lion of Panjshir, commissioned by the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, directed by Dominique Serrand.

She has directed original performances featuring at-risk youth for Voices of Our Children at The Cathedral in downtown L.A. and Girl Un-Interrupted for Eve Ensler’s V-Day Celebration in New York. She served as co-director/ performer of musical segment in Acts of Love at the Geffen Playhouse. She has also directed three plays for the USC School of Theatre, including Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (honored with NAACP Theatre Award); and VENUS by Suzan-Lori Parks. Anita is the founder and director of Building Bridges: Communication, Expression, Empowerment Theatre Arts Program, which teaches self-expression, self-presentation and self-empowerment to at-risk youth. Her outreach and arts education programs have been supported by University Neighborhood Outreach grants at USC and the Fox Foundation in New York. Anita thanks her television writer-producer husband/USC alum Anthony Sparks, daughter Olivia and twin sons Langston and Dashiell for their support.

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Professor of Music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) where he served as chair of the jazz department for six years (2002-2008). He is also Past-President of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE). Prior to his appointment at USC he served as Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC (`1999-2001). He has served as Professor of Music and chair of the Afro-African American Studies Department and served as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Minnesota (1990-1999). In 1997, Dr. McCurdy served as Visiting Professor at Maria-Sklodowska- Curie University in Lublin, Poland. In 2001 Dr. McCurdy received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Kansas. Dr. McCurdy received his undergraduate degree from Florida A & M University and his Masters and Ph. D. degrees from the University of Kansas.

Dr. McCurdy’s latest CD is titled; April In Paris features his new vocal, funk band called the Ron McCurdy Collective. His first CD, Once Again for the First Time on the INNOVA label enjoyed critical acclaim as well. He is co-author of a vocal jazz improvisation series titled Approaching the Standards, published by Warner Bros. Dr. McCurdy authored, Meet the Great Jazz Legends published by Alfred Publishing Co. He contributed chapters to two recent publications: Teaching Music in Performance Through Jazz: Vol. I (Gia Publication) and African Americans and Popular Culture (Edited by Todd Boyd). In 2008 he premiered the orchestral version of The Langston Hughes Project, Ask Your Mama: 12 Mood for Jazz withthe Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with rapper and television actor, Ice-T. The multimedia presentation features jazz quartet, spoken-word and images from the Harlem Renaissance. Dr. McCurdy is in demand as a guest clinician, soloist, speaker, director of honor Jazz Ensembles and Choirs throughout the United States and Canada. He has directed All State Jazz Ensembles in New York, Texas, Arizona, Vermont, Nebraska, Ohio, Nevada, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Florida to name a few.

Dr. McCurdy is a consultant to the Grammy Foundation educational programs including serving as director of the National Grammy Vocal Jazz Ensemble. He served as Director of the Walt Disney All-American Summer College Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Singers in Orlando, Florida for seven years and currently serves as the Director of the All American College Band in Anaheim. A few of the guest artists he has worked with include Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Leslie Uggams, Arturo Sandoval, Diane Schuur, Ramsey Lewis, Mercer Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Dianne Reeves. He has served as a member of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp faculty. Dr. McCurdy is a performing artist for the Yamaha International Corporation.
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