National Women's Music Festival Line-Up

Holly Near

“I do not separate my music from my heart nor do I separate my ideas from my daily life. I open myself up to learning as much as I can about humanity and this mysterious life experience, but I do not relate to political work as a series of ’causes.’ Moment by moment, I integrate what I learn into my personal life, personalizing my politics. It is from this personal place that I write my songs.”

50 creative years and 30 recordings. Respected around the world for her music and activism, her joy and passion inspire people to join in her celebration of the human spirit. Equally compelling at her shows or through your speakers, her music fully engages listeners in the world around them. Holly has made a career speaking to anyone in the world who believes in peace, justice, and feminism, a wonderful spectrum of humanity.

Be Steadwell

Be Steadwell is a musician, filmmaker, storyteller from Washington DC. In her live performances, she utilizes looping, vocal layering and beat boxing to compose her songs on stage. Be's original music features earnest lyricism, and ​affirming LGBTQ content. Be's goal as a musician is to make other black girls, queers, introverts and generally marginalized weirdos feel seen and loved.

With a BA from Oberlin College ​and an ​MFA in film ​from ​Howard University​, Be's love for music expands into filmmaking​. Her film Vow of Silence ​screened in film festivals around the world, including Black Star, HBO's OutFest, The Schomburg Center, Inside Out Toronto, and Fringe Fest UK​. ​

Be has shared stages with fellow artist activists Big Freedia, Nona Hendryx, Nikky Finney and Gina Yashere. In 2017 Be sang at The Women's March on the National Mall behind Maxwell and Janelle Monae in Toshi Reagon's Big Lovely Band. In 2019, Be composed the music for The Alvin Ailey Dance Company's production of "the gone". Later that year, Be wrote and directed a musical, A Letter to My Ex​. Be's musical​ tells stories of love- narrating one character’s journey through the year following a breakup. ​In 2020, ​Be released her newest album, Succulent. During the pandemic, you can find Be on her Patreon channel-  

Big Bad Gina

Big Bad Gina includes Jori Costello, Renee Janski and Melodie Griffis. Jori Costello— Singer/songbird, guitar grooving percussion-pounding goddess. Renee Janski—Ethno-Amazon vocals, gypsy fiddle and keyboard kinesthetics. Melody Griffis—Global jazz angel with the silky soprano voice. Add a slew of instruments, some kickin original tunes and select scintillating covers and you have Big Bad Gina, an all womyn’s band based in beautiful Northwest Arkansas and ready to rock the region and nation with their award winning Amazon Warrior Princess Goddess Groove! It’s Folkin’ and Rockin’.  

Bonnie J. Morris

 BONNIE J. MORRIS is a women’s history lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley and a nationally recognized expert on the role of women’s music in lesbian culture. The author of sixteen books, she has devoted more than thirty years to documenting the women’s music movement, first publishing Eden Built By Eves, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and more recently The Disappearing L and The Feminist Revolution. Her research on women’s music, Olivia Records, and American lesbian culture will one day be housed at the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library. In the past few years Dr. Morris won a D.C. Arts and Humanities grant and a writing residency in Wales; organized the first-ever exhibit on the women’s music movement at the Library of Congress; arranged for Olivia albums to be part of the Smithsonian; received the Ruth Rowan Believer Award from the National Women’s Music Festival; and accepted the exciting role as Olivia Records’ official historian and archivist. Dr. Morris has been a featured speaker at conferences and museums throughout the country and continues to profile women’s music history for the Smithsonian. As a lesbian author, she also published the time travel novel Sappho’s Bar and Grill for Bywater Books, which was a Finalist for the Foreword national award in LGBT fiction and in 2018 won the Devil’s Kitchen Award from Southern Illinois University. Bywater recently published the sequel, Sappho’s Overhead Projector. Coming soon: a history of women’s sports.

e nina jay

E nina jay describes herself as “a Black, Lesbian, Womon, Writer who uses poetry as a tool of survival and to break silences around all forms of violence against gurls and womyn, with particular focus on the intersections of race, sexuality, and poverty.”

As a survivor of incest and rape, she spent many years in silence and in an effort to save her own life/voice, she began to speak about the quiet and shame that seemed to haunt her and many of the gurls & womyn in her life. e nina jay believes womyn and gurls can create powerful community to fight against the violence and constant degradation that weaves itself into every facet of our lives, by breaking silences and unraveling shame.

She has recently completed a 98-minute film called Body of Rooms, which features e. nina performing poetry and spoken word from her book of the same name, published in September 2016.

Judith Casselberry

Judith Casselberry is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College, teaching courses in African American religious and cultural studies, with particular attention to gender. Before her Bowdoin appointment, she was an inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University (2008-2009). She has held visiting appointments at Wesleyan University, Barnard College, Vassar College, and New York University. She received the B. of Music from Berklee College of Music (Music Production and Engineering), MA from Wesleyan University (Ethnomusicology), and Ph.D. from Yale University (African American Studies and Anthropology). During 2012-2013, she served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and African American Religions in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School.

Casselberry’s interest in links between lettered and performed scholarship comes out of an inter-generational love of music and learning, which she folded into a career as an academic and performer. As a vocalist/guitarist, she currently performs with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely and has enjoyed a career as an international recording artist with Casselberry-DuPreé and JUCA. She has shared stages with Sweet Honey in the Rock, Odetta, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, and Elvis Costello among others. She served as Production Consultant for Radical Harmonies (Dee Mosbacher, director 2002), a documentary about the women’s music cultural movement, and most recently as Executive Producer of The Amazon 35 Project (2010), a multi-media project documenting a political and cultural movement by women of color and their allies within a lesbian feminist cultural movement at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. In 2011, she brought this project to Harvard University as the keynote speaker at the Graduate Music Forum, Department of Music. She served as consultant for The New Black (Yoruba Richen, director 2013), a documentary that uncovers the complicated relationships between African-American and LGBT civil rights movements and the black church and anti-gay Christian right wing.  

Kofy Brown

Kofy Brown, an Oakland, CA musician, singer and songwriter has been a pioneering force in the Bay Area’s hip-hop soul scene since the early 90’s. Leading her band on tour paving the way for other indie artist to trek forth, the KBB have spread the gospel of Brown’s unique style of soul, rock, funk and more all over North America, Canada and Europe. Kofy Brown has thrived by following her own creative path. She and her band the KBB have developed a reputation for putting on an outstanding live show. Her music is a soulful combination of funk, rock, blues and hip-hop topped off with a singing and rap style she calls word song.

Kofy Brown is co-creator /bass player and one of the lead songwriters and vocalist in the legendary all black girl rock trio Sistas in the Pit. Kofy Brown is also currently playing drums and vocalizing with her latest project, Skip the Needle. Skip the Needle is comprised of veteran vocalists and musicians, Vicki Randle, Shelley Doty and Katie Colepits. The four women deliver a hard edge blend of soul, funk, rock and more.

Other projects include drumming for the refreshingly smart and witty Americana artist, Dillbilly, and occasionally holding down bass duties for the gospel soul infused Marcelle Davies-Lashley and folk-soul artist, Gina Breedlove.

Kofy Brown is a fiercely independent recording artist. The Washington DC native has released eight full-length recordings on her own indie label Simba Music and is currently working on album number nine. She’s played the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival, toured with Iggy Pop and has placed music on MTV and other indie films. Kofy Brown doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Kofy Brown – Love Warrior

Contact information: –  

Nan Washburn

Nan Washburn directing the NWMF Orchestra

The NWMF Chamber Orchestra Ensemble is led by Music Director and Conductor Nan Washburn. The NWMF Orchestra series celebrates the diversity of women’s musical expression through the presentation of works by Women Composers past and present. The program will include works by Marianna Martines, Alice Gomez, British composer and suffragette Ethel Smyth, and film composer Rachel Portman.  

Nancy Scott

Nancy Scott has been performing her original songs plus a few favorite covers for 40 + years mostly in the Austin TX area. Joining her for 30+ years of that time, is her musical partner, Millie Marlow. Nancy put out her first recording on Vinyl and cassette titled "Both Sides of Me". It was later transferred to CD's. Many wonderful Austin locals participated in the making of that 1st album. In 1995, Nancy and Millie, again with wonderful Austin area musicians, including fantastic Austin songwriter and the producer for this album, Betty Elders, made Nancy's 2nd recording called "Heartprints in Clay'. Nancy also has a live CD from a concert in El Paso, TX (1988) with a wonderful trio called "The Therapy Sisters". It's called 'Nancy Scott Live with the Therapy Sisters'. Presently Nancy is hoping to get all the songs she's written since these 3 CD's recorded within the next few years." 

Sandra Valls

Sandra Valls is a comic, actor, singer, writer, and badass. She is a funny, high energy, smart, sexy, outspoken Latina, best known for her powerful, electric, stand up comedy performances in Showtime’s, THE LATIN DIVAS OF COMEDY (nominated for an Alma Award) and PRIDE: LGBT COMEDY SLAM!, hosted by Bruce Vilanch. Her unique mix of physical comedy and ridiculously brilliant storytelling makes it easy to see why the Los Angeles Times calls Sandra “Talented and Hilarious” as well as being included in Curve’s 2017 Power List as one of the most influential queer women in the country. Latina Magazine voted Sandra One of the Top 33 Bad Ass Comics with Latin Roots. Curve Magazine calls her One of the Top 10 Funniest Lesbian Comics and Go Magazine has named Sandra One of the Top 100 Women We Love.

Sandra starred and co-wrote the smash-hit play, THE LATINA CHRISTMAS SPECIAL which received “Critic’s Choice” by The Los Angeles Times 3 years on a row and continually sells out year after year at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Her television credits include NickMom Night Out (Nickelodeon), Outlaugh Festival, One Night Stand Up (LOGO), Comic’s Unleashed with Byron Allen (ABC), Habla! (HBO), Que Locos (Galavision), Funny is Funny, Latino 101 (Sitv), BET’s Comic View and countless other tv spots including MTV3’s Quiero Mis Quince, Wanna be Latinos and Top Tr3ce, Mun2 Comedy Documentary and I love Jenny!

Always an human rights activist, Sandra was also honored in her hometown of Laredo, Texas with the 2013 International Woman’s Day Award for being a trailblazer and empowering women and was chosen by Unidos-The National Latino LGBT Human Rights Organization to be part of their prestigious list for Project VISIBLE Latinos LGBT in the USA and Puerto Rico: Out in Leadership. GLAAD has honored Sandra’s work at Mun2 with a Special Recognition Award for her groundbreaking achievements in production for promoting fair and accurate representation of the LGBT community in English-speaking Latino television.

Sandra is also an actor, singer, and a published author. Pick up your copy of Out on the Edge: America’s Rebel Comics and read all about what it’s like to be a lesbian and a woman of color in the comedy world!  

Sarah Bush

Sarah Bush Dance Project creates and presents multimedia dance theater through innovative artistry and community interaction. SBDP creates art that reminds audiences of the power and compassion in ourselves and others, bolstering a resilient hope for humanity. “transformative dance that speaks so clearly to pressing social and environmental issues without ever sacrificing the beauty and daring of the choreography or the breathtaking performance”

The SF Chronicle said of our sold-out Spirit & Bones premiere, “Dance makers want to reflect the zeitgeist in their productions. But every so often the planets align, and a long-planned work ends up tapping the cultural climate so aptly that it doubles as a rallying cry.” Of the outdoor landscape series, This Land, the Huffington Post said, “the drama of Bush’s highly charged movement is meant to renew our sense of self, our sense of place and community.” The SF Bay Guardian reviewed Rocked by Women, a coming of age story honoring the history of women’s music, as “a weighty yet explosive expression of the power of an indomitable spirit and embracing courage.”  

SeekHer 7

Natalia Zukerman and Lisa Ferraro have been friends for a long time. Recently, they recognized that collaborating might lead to an elevated force in their creative lives and while still in its nascent stage, their combined efforts are proving to be undeniably powerful, infectiously joyful and deeply connected to Spirit. The collaboration is SeekHer7: collaborative, conscious, collective gatherings with meditation, music, movement, learning, co-creating, deep listening, respectful, safe discovery and above all, boundless joy. Their debut EP is coming out in February 2020 and is called “Where We Begin.”  

Sistah Ngoma

A dynamic women’s multicultural drum, song, and dance group, performing traditional Afro-Cuban and world beat rhythms, poetic verse, dance, and plain ‘ol pulsating female passion and energy. Sistah Ngoma’s performances include the National Women’s music festival in Madison WI, and at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, Dennison University in Grandville, OH, the Community Festival and the Hot Times Festival in Columbus, OH., and the “Women’s Day of Prayer” at the Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, OH, Rocking in the Streets, Columbus, OH, and the River City Blues Festival, Marietta, OH. 

Staceyann Chin

Jamaican-born Staceyann Chin is a writer and activist best known as a co-writer and original performer in Russell Simmons’ Tony Award-winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, for which she received a 2003 Drama Desk award. She is currently the Poet-in-Residence at The Culture Project. She has spoken and performed at universities across the country including NYU, Princeton University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Yale University, UC San Diego, and The University of the West Indies. She has also had her work featured around the world, including in Sweden, London, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, and Jamaica.

Chin’s first one-woman show, Hands Afire, ran for ten weeks in 2000 at the Bleecker Theater, where she also performed her second show, Unspeakable Things, in 2001. In 2005, her show Border/Clash opened to rave reviews from The New York Times and ran for three months.
In 2009, Scribner published her memoir The Other Side of Paradise. Her work has also been in ESSENCE, Jane, The New York Times, The South African Times, and many other publications. Her poetry has been included in numerous anthologies, including Skyscrapers, Taxis, and Tampons, Poetry Slam, and Bullets and Butterflies. Staceyann was the recipient of the 2009 New York State Senate Special Human Rights Award, the 2008 Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality, the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, and the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from the Human Rights Campaign. In 2006, she was nominated for the GLAAD award for Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway and Off Broadway, and in 2007 she was selected by the Center for Women and Gender at Dartmouth College for the Visionary-in-Residence Award. In December 2015, she opened MotherStruck! at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project. The Off Broadway show was written by Staceyann and directed by Cynthia Nixon.  

Tammy Lynne Hall

Tammy Lynne Hall began playing the piano at age four, in Dallas, Texas, where she was raised by two grandmothers, a grandfather and numerous aunts and uncles. Her earliest memories of the piano were of climbing onto the piano bench and pick out the notes to tunes she heard either on the radio, record player or something the choir sang at church. Later, Tammy became the pianist not just for the Junior Choir at her home church but also the pianist and organist for her godfather’s church in Terrell, TX, some 40 miles away and she was sometimes the rehearsal accompanist for her school choir from sixth grade at Pearl C. Anderson Junior High to her senior year at the Hockaday School.

It became evident that Music had chosen Tammy to walk its path. Giving full support for this journey were Tammy’s two grandmothers, who pooled their resources to make sure she had access to private lessons from age 8 to 18. Tammy participated in juried recitals, resulting in her winning several awards and honorable recognition in regional and national recitals and competitions. Because of her talent and impeccable academic record, Tammy was encouraged to apply and was accepted to the Hockaday School, where she attended on an academic and musical scholarship, which also led to her attending the prestigious and progressive Mills College in Oakland, CA from 1979 to 1981. Tammy’s grandfather also contributed to her musical journey by showing films of the greats Fats Waller, Dorothy Donegan, Hazel Scott, Duke Ellington and Count Basie; he was one of the first Black projectionists in the country and regularly showed films in his home and at public school auditoriums and churches for the community. These films along with the music she heard on the radio, at church, and the r&b, soul and pop records of the time, even the incidental and theme music she heard on television, all influenced Tammy’s playing. These early experiences would form the triad of Tammy’s core sound: a fusion of Jazz, Gospel and Classical.

In 2017 Tammy received the award for Best Musical Direction from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, for her work in Pamela Rose's Blues Is A Woman. This is one of several forays into musical theatre as Musical Director, including Sister Act:The Musical (Theatre Rhino), Chance (by Richard Isen), Quantum Janis (in development, also by Richard Isen) and The Boy From Oz.  

Giwayen Mata

GIWAYEN MATA is the award-winning, dynamic, soul-stirring, all-sistah, dance, percussion, and vocal ensemble that celebrates the richness of traditional Afrika by exhibiting its exemplary art forms. The ensemble performs traditional, contemporary and original pieces that address issues pertaining to people of color, women, and the environment. The seed for the ensemble was planted in 1991 when Ramatu Afegbua Mahmud Sabbatt organized sistahs for jam sessions in city parks of Atlanta. This was done in the spirit of the principles of Kuumba and Kujichagulia (Kiswahili words for creativity and self-determination).

This experience allowed many of the participating women to hone their respective talents either individually or with performing companies. In 1993, GIWAYEN MATA was formed in response to a call to Gail Vernon Zuri Sami Ra Maati Jordan from Amirah Wazir.

At Zuri’s request, Omelika Kuumba brought together eight of the other women from the jam sessions: Osunlade Fatunmise, Sarahn Henderson, Ife Hendricks, Sauda Jackson-Bey, Shalewa Mackall, Andrea Richards, Ramatu Sabbatt, and Ama Tyus. While rehearsing for Celebration ’93, the ensemble sought a name that would embrace the spirit and principles with which it was seeded.

Ramatu, a native of Nigeria, shared the Hausa term GIWAYEN MATA with the ensemble. The words literally translate as “Elephant Women”. Elephants live in matriarchal social structures, and the females are respected for their powerful yet gentle and nurturing nature. Leaders of women’s organizations in Nigeria are referred to as “the GIWAYEN MATA”. This became the selected name and it is interpreted as “Elephant Leaders of Women” because the founders chose to be trailblazers, playing the jembe drum – an unprecedented first on the stages of Atlanta. As artists of Afrikan descent, the ensemble felt a responsibility to be the leaders in the preservation of the cultures of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.

Hailing from the US, Haiti, Senegal, and Ghana, GIWAYEN MATA represents women of international origins at various stages of womanhood. Collectively, they share more than 50 years of experience in modern, jazz, ballet, contemporary, Afrikan, Afrikan-American, and Caribbean dance forms, and sign language. Their backgrounds reflect multidisciplinary experiences as dancers, percussionists, choreographers, vocalists, thespians, poets, academicians, and lyricists.