Nina Simone and Bach:
"A Connection of Two Geniuses"

Thursday March 7th, 2024 at 6:30pm

Emmanuel Church

$25 (In-person only)

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Performance and Conversation featuring
Valerie Stephens and Jonathan Fagan

A photo of Valerie Stephens

Emmanuel Music is thrilled to premiere “A Connection of Two Geniuses”, created by renowned local storyteller, jazz artist, and Emmanuel Music board member Valerie Stephens and local pianist and composer Jonathan Fagan.

This hour-long program features this 30-minute new work blending the iconic style of Nina Simone with the baroque heroics of J.S. Bach. The performance will be followed by a participatory discussion with the performers, and a reception with hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

The commission of “A Connection of Two Geniuses” is part of Emmanuel Music’s commitment to exploring new and creative ways for our audiences and musicians to connect and engage through a living laboratory of the music of J.S. Bach. This evening’s proceeds will support Emmanuel Music’s community engagement and education activities.

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Valerie Stephens covers Simone’s Young Gifted & Black in 2021

Valerie's Bio

Valerie is a performing artist/arts educator with a passion for history. In addition to receiving a 2019 Bro. Thomas Fellowship with an unrestricted award of $15,000, Valerie has received a 2019 Bridge Award in Arts, a 2018 Boston City Council Resolution for creating the annual event PRINCESS DAY: Celebrating Little Girls of Color and her commitment to Nina Simone’s legacy, a 2017 New England Foundation for the Arts Creative City Grant for creating the Elder Storytelling Performance Project, 2016 Get Konnected! Boston Legends & Pioneers Award, the 2011 NAACP Image Award, the 2007 Urban Music Award in Blues and was a nominee for the 2011 Urban Music Award in Jazz as well as Citations of Appreciation from the Cities of  Boston, New Bedford, and Springfield.

As a vocalist, Valerie’s CD Potpourri, a mixture of jazz, blues, and spoken word has been very well received. She has created four music series, the first “Women of the Village”, celebrating the common voice of American, South African & Cuban women. The second “Sweet & Salty: Dressed to the Nines”, a tribute to classic Blues Singers and is currently presenting “The Music & Times of Nina Simone” and “FOUR WOMEN: Nina Simone”. Both are tribute concerts are dedicated to the world-renowned musical icon Dr. Nina Simone. Her newest NINA Tribute production is "NINA SIMONE & Hip Hop" has received excellent reviews. The Valerie Stephens Group is a well-known attraction at local venues and festivals.

As a storyteller, Valerie Stephens has performed throughout New England for three generations of audiences. She has been contracted to research, present, and/or perform historical event productions for the Boston Children’s Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Science Museum, the Springfield Arts Museum, and the Cambridge Cultural Council.

Valerie toured nationally for nine years, as a lead actor with the award-winning Underground Railway Theater and other touring theater companies. After 15 years, returned to the theater stage in Company One’s controversial production of NEIGHBORS in the character role of Mammy Crow. She created a solo play named The Mammy Diaries. In 2018, Valerie returned to the theatrical stage in the Marblehead Little Theater heart-wrecking production of Letters from War in the lead role as Mae, a 75-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

She has created a six-week workshop series, The Elder Storytelling Project, which helps elders to develop their performance skills as Storytellers. Mother & Father Wit: Life Lessons has been celebrated by multi-generational audiences.

While working as Director of Cultural Programming and Community Partnerships for the International House of Blues Foundation, Valerie created and directed “The Blues Schoolhouse: History of the Blues”, an in-house educational production for children, which was performed in Boston and Los Angeles. She also created a touring production company for the Boston area. She has served as Artist Consultant to the CitiCenter for the Arts' youth programming, training young artists to be community storytellers and researching the history of Boston's diverse neighborhoods.

An Arts Educator, Valerie has developed and taught three middle school courses focusing on Boston’s 19th Century Women in Medicine & Public Health Methodology for 'Girls Get Connected", a program affiliated with Simmons College, committed to inspiring girls to choose technical careers. Valerie teaches creative dramatics/ playwriting & improvisational theater technique to learners ages 5 – Adult in schools and organizations throughout  Massachusetts.

Valerie has traveled throughout the Caribbean and West Africa and she is a member of the Dorchester Historical Society, Massachusetts Memories Roadshow Advisory Board, the Massachusetts Studies Network, Boston Pan African Forum, and the NAACP.

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