OUR ESTEEMED JUDGES

A Platinum Grammy Nominated Artist, Award Winning Actors, Music Publishing Exec, Musicians, Merriweather Post Pavilion Exec, plus Community & Arts Leaders.

 

(L to R) Kathy Sledge, Anita Gillette, Rain Pryor, Keith D’Arcy, Ian Kennedy, Massama Dogo, Phillip Dodge, Grace Anistasiadis, Dave Simmons)  Click For More Info.
Kathy Sledge

Kathy Sledge

Platinum Record & Grammy Nominated Artist

Kathy Sledge is a Renaissance woman — a singer, songwriter, author, producer, manager, and Grammy- nominated music icon whose boundless creativity and passion has garnered praise from critics and a le- gion of fans from all over the world. Her artistic triumphs encompass chart-topping hits, platinum albums, and successful forays into several genres of popular music. Through her multi-faceted solo career and her legacy as the signature voice in Sister Sledge who originated worldwide anthems like “We Are Family,” which was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2017, and “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” Kathy’s inspired millions of listeners across every generation.

Early in her career, Kathy was often called the female counterpart to Michael Jackson since both came of age on stage as the youngest siblings and lead vocalists in a family group. Fueled by a prodigious musical talent, Kathy’s journey began in Philadelphia, the youngest of five daughters born to Edwin and Florez Sledge. Her grandmother was an opera singer who taught her harmonies while her father was one-half of Fred & Sledge, the tapping duo who broke racial barriers on Broadway. “I learned the appreciation and the art of music through my mother, father, and my grandmother,” she says. Kathy and her sisters honed their act around Philadelphia and signed a contract with Atco Records. At the tender age of 13, Kathy’s lead vocals on “Mama Never Told Me” (1973) furnished the group’s first international hit record in the U.K. Their follow-up “Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me” scored them major hits everywhere from the U.K. to Japan, plus the Silver Award at the Tokyo Music Festival. At 14 years-old, Kathy and her sisters were invited to perform at Zaire 74, a three-day music festival that promoted the historic “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. “To this day, that was one of the most powerful and impactful experiences I’ve had,” she says.

However, groundbreaking producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards (the CHIC Organization) com- pletely changed their lives. The #1 We Are Family (1979) album went platinum and earned plaudits from the rock press. “‘We Are Family,’ beautifully sung by Kathy Sledge, is a near perfect fusion of gospel fire and disco cool,” wrote Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone. The song’s sentiment also stuck a personal chord with Kathy, who recorded her vocals in one take. Successful collaborations with musical geniuses like George Duke, Elton John, and Narada Michael Walden duly followed. “Take Me Back to Love Again,” the #1 Billboard club hit from Kathy’s debut solo project Heart on Epic Records, a chart-topping cover of Ste- vie Wonder’s “Another Star,” and several other singles have since powered Kathy’s solo career, which continues to flourish through her recent studio work with acclaimed R&B producers Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barias (Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott).

O Magazine spotlighted Kathy’s remarkable evolution in a feature article she wrote titled “Better Than Ever” (2012). Out of 50 women worldwide, Kathy was among four women who the magazine selected to discuss the journey of getting better with time. O Magazine was especially impressed that Kathy con- ceived and produced The Brighter Side of Day: A Tribute to Billie Holiday, an intimate production that cel- ebrates the music of the 1940s and honors the legacy of Lady Day. Hailed as “a spine-tingling musical journey of an American icon” (NBC 10), the show manifests a lifelong passion of Kathy’s where she ex- plores what it would be like for audiences to attend a Billie Holiday concert. Stanley Clarke, who calls Kathy’s voice “one of the greatest jazz voices I’ve ever heard,” is among the legendary jazz greats who is currently collaborating with Kathy on a jazz project with some of his esteemed peers.

With an impressive stylistic versatility, Kathy remains a vibrant presence in nearly every genre of popular music. “Music is my passion,” she declares. “It’s what I love to do. Throughout my career, and now more than ever, I’ve been asked to sing all different kinds of music.” As one of the most sought-after voices in dance and pop music, Kathy received the “Outstanding Contribution Award” at the 2013 Ibiza DJ Awards and has collaborated with renowned London-based production team Horse Meat Disco on recent club hits “Falling Deep in Love” (2019) and “Jump Into the Light” (2020).

Parallel to her studio work, Kathy has established an active philanthropic platform through the timeless musical statement of “We Are Family.” After sitting on the Board of Directors for several years, she is an Honorary Trustee and esteemed Emeritus Board Member with Nile Rodgers and the We Are Family Foundation. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the Halo Foundation. “‘We Are Family’ is a mountain-mover,” says Kathy, who recently performed it for former First Lady Michelle Obama at Black Girls Rock! and UNESCO’s first Nelson Mandela International Day. As the defin- ing voice of an anthem, Kathy’s regularly invited by royal families and cultural tastemakers around the globe to bring the universal language of “We Are Family” to exclusive events and engagements.

While Kathy Sledge has tapped into the power of her voice and consistently sets new standards of excel- lence in her career, especially as a dynamic live performer, she’s also developed her passion for produc- ing shows for the stage and screen. She’s produced and headlined several live concerts and festivals overseas, and conceived both The Brighter Side of Day and “Kathy Sledge presents: My Sisters & Me,” a concert series that featured Kathy alongside other “sisters in song” like Deniece Williams, Karyn White, and CeCe Peniston.

Branching out into film, Kathy recently launched “Family Room,” an interactive series produced with her daughter Kristen Gabrielle that caught the interest of network television before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The series is currently broadcast directly from Kathy’s home, where D-Nice, Questlove, Sinbad, and many more surprise celebrity guests are among the thousands of viewers who tune in twice a week from across the globe. Kathy’s also developing and Executive Producing a film project based on her personal memoirs and her unique experience in pop music as the original voice behind “We Are Family.” “I’m loving the production side as much as I love performing,” says Kathy. “I’m realizing my voice has a purpose and now, at this place in my life, I’d like to gift it with beautiful music. That’s my passion as an artist.”

And with that passion, Kathy Sledge is stepping back into the spotlight, shining brighter than ever. No less an authority than Nile Rodgers says it best: “Kathy has one of the most original and unique voices in pop music. Always has and always will!”

Anita Gillette

Anita Gillette

Tony Nominated Broadway/Film/Television Actress

ANITA GILLETTE, a MAC Lifetime Achievement Award Winner,   may be best known for playing MONA the mistress in MOONSTRUCK or Tina Fey’s mother in 30 ROCK, or Jack Klugman’s wife in QUINCY. She recently appeared on MODERN FAMILY and BLUE BLOODS.

She has more than fourteen Broadway shows to her credit, including CHAPTER TWO (Tony Nomination, LA Drama Critics Award) CABARET, CARNIVAL, GYPSY, GUYS & DOLLS, DON’T DRINK THE WATER, ALL AMERICAN, JIMMY, THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG, BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS, MR. PRESIDENT, THE GAY LIFE, KELLY, SHOWBOAT and ENCORES’ BLOOMER GIRL and 70 GIRLS 70.  Off Broadway and Regional credits include:  THE BIG MEAL (Lortel Award nom.) LOVE, LOSS & WHAT I WORE, THE SEAGULL, SHE LOVES ME, SHIRLEY VALENTINE, BYE BYE BIRDIE, SKIN OF OUR TEETH, JUNO, RICH & FAMOUS, TRAVESTIES, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST,  FLAMINGO COURT, MY FAIR LADY, THE WINSLOW BOY, IRENE,  SOUTH PACIFIC, SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, (with Joanne Woodward) THE GREAT WALTZ (recorded for RCA), KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY (with Burt Lancaster) and MORNING’S AT SEVEN.

She has played major roles in the Ed Burns film,  THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS.    SHALL WE DANCE, BOYS ON THE SIDE, LARGER THAN LIFE, THE GURU,  SHE’S THE ONE, BOB ROBERTS. THE GREAT NEW WONDERFUL, HIDING VICTORIA, THE LAST ADAM, BUM RAP, CHARLIE HOBOKEN and UNDERTOW.  Films for television include A CHRISTMAS MEMORY  and SUMMER OF BEN TYLER.

Anita had recurring roles on CSI,  LAW & ORDER SVU and SHAKE IT UP.  She was a series regular on QUINCY,  ALMOST GROWN (by David Chase) THE WAR AT HOME, BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE, ME & THE CHIMP, NORMAL OHIO, and THE BAXTERS, ALL THAT GLITTERS for Norman Lear.  Episodic work: SEX & THE CITY, COLD CASE, WOMEN’S MURDER CLUB, FRASIER, LAW & ORDER, MAD ABOUT YOU.  She has been on every major game show including PYRAMID, PASSWORD, MATCH GAME, TO TELL THE TRUTH, WHAT’S MY LINE, etc., etc.   She was a foil for Johnny Carson for at least 50 TONIGHT shows. She performed her one woman show AFTER ALL at Birdland, Feinsteins, and in London at the St. James Theatre, and continues to do her show whenever she can.

Rain Pryor

Rain Pryor

Award Winning Actress/Writer/Producer/Advocate

Rain Pryor is a entertainer, director, writer, playwright, speaker, activist, wife and mother. She recently ran for Baltimore City Council in the 3rd District.

Pryor wants to assist you in finding and living out your desires.

A truly brilliant performer, performances are thought provoking, through truthful storytelling, and spot on mimicry landed her to be

nominated by the NAACP three times, and won an NAACP for her irreverent solo show  “Fried Chicken & Latkes, and for her role as the evil stepsister in the Michael Jackson produced musical Sisterella. s nominated for the prestigious ADELCO Awards for her Off Broadway rum, at the National Black Theatre in Harlem.

Her writing and performance has lead to a television development deal with Norman Lear, the creator of The Jefferson’s and All In The Family.

Pryor was nominated for the African American Literary Award in 2007 for her biography Jokes My Father Never Taught Me, Life Love & Loss With Richard Pryor, and has won numerous Black Short film awards for That Daughter’s Crazy documentary.

She is also a director, who is known for her superior work ethic, and integrity. Rain co founded Baltimore Theatre Works, that brought theatre to underserved schools. She taught acting at Center Stage, Baltimore School For The Arts, and was honored at Coppin State University Theatre Arts Conference in 2019.

Pryor’s transition into directing comes as no surprise. She has directed “MILF, Mom I’d Like to Follow” written and performed by Comedian Meshelle The Indie Mom of Comedy. The show won Best Stand Up, at the United Solo Festival in NY and has played to sold out crowds across the country, including Joe’s Pub in NYC.

Rain, was artistic director of the Strand Theatre in Baltimore in 2010. She directed three of their highly successful shows and brought the company into a financial surplus. She left after her solo show became a hit Off Broadway.

“Mother May I’ by humorist, Dylan Brody was Pryor’s directorial debut. The show was the Strands first World Premier and was sold out. The DC Theatre Scene –

“You know a dysfunctional family drama is working when you think to yourself “My family is crackers, but they are nothing compared to this brood.” That’s what happens during the second act of Mother, May I, the world premiere production of Dylan Brody’s dramedy presented with neurotic panache by director Rain Pryor at Baltimore’s Strand Theater.” – DC Theatre Scene  *for full review https://dctheatrescene.com/2012/09/25/mother-may-i/

“Fried Chicken and Latkes” is Pryor’s award winning solo show, a hilarious and heart-wrenching story of growing up black and Jewish in a politically incorrect era. Her father was comic genius Richard Pryor, and her mother a Jewish GOGO dancer, turned astronomer. Discover how Pryor finds her identity in both worlds, and works to change ours.  Directed by Eve Brandstein.

Pryor has received rave reviews from  Los Angeles Times “Critics Choice” and her singing voice and sense of timing were hailed as rare gifts. NY Times “Critic Pick” and NY Times review said,  “..she has an outsized presence built for Broadway.”

“Fried Chicken and Latkes” played to sold out crowds and standing ovations every night at the 375 seat theatre in Beverly Hills, CA, and repeated that success at the Culture Project in New York, Chicago, Ohio, Virginia, Texas,  Scotland, Atlanta, Harlem, North Carolina, Arizona, San Jose, and Santa Monica CA.

Rain, shares her views on race and has lead panel discussions on diversity in education and in the entertainment industry at Princeton University, The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore.

PRYOR has also received honors for her commitment to arts education by Business Women of Baltimore, and Baltimore Department of Education.

Her leadership skills began back in the early 90s when Rain was part of a gang ceasefire in Los Angeles, and was an substance abuse dual diagnosis counselor, and helped establish treatment protocols for two rehabs in Los Angeles. Rain now, is using all her experience to run for local office in Baltimore MD in the 3rd District.

She currently resides in Baltimore with her husband Dave Vane, and daughter, but calls herself Bicoastal, flying back and forth between home and Los Angeles.

 

Keith D'Arcy

Keith D'Arcy

Senior VP, Creative Sync & Client Services Catalog at Warner Chappel Music Inc.

Keith D’Arcy is Senior VP, Creative Sync & Client Services Catalog at Warner Chappel Music Inc. With 18 years of professional experience as a music producer and supervisor at SONGS Music Publishing, EMI Publishing, UMPG, Sony BMG, and ad agency Bates Worldwide, Keith has placed hundreds of songs in campaigns for global brands like Coca Cola, Apple, Volkswagen, Nike, Mercedes, BMW, Google, Intel, Fidelity, American Express, Converse, Pepsi, Fisher Price, Northwest Airlines, Heineken, and Viagra. In his spare time he’s an avid record collector and reissue producer.
Ian Kennedy

Ian Kennedy

Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, Merriweather Post Pavilion

Ian Kennedy is the Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a non-profit community organization dedicated to enhancing the cultural significance of Merriweather Post Pavilion and fostering the growth of arts and culture in Columbia, Maryland. His involvement with Merriweather Post Pavilion dates back to 2003, when he co-founded a successful grassroots effort called Save Merriweather to oppose a plan to close and demolish the beloved venue. In the years since, Kennedy remained a strong advocate for the venue in a variety of roles.

Kennedy has a long-history of serving the Columbia and Howard County communities in a variety of capacities. Professionally, he was previously the Director of Communications for the Horizon Foundation, a nonprofit public health philanthropy dedicated to improving health and wellness in Howard County. And before that, Kennedy served as Deputy Chief of Staff to former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. He is active in several other community issues, as well.

Massama Dogo

Massama Dogo

Musician/International Recording Artist

Traditional West African rhythms form the base of rising Togolese artist DOGO’s remarkable music. A huge following in his home country of Togo has cemented him as an icon overseas, as his popularity in the states grows day by day.

With 2 guitars, bass, drum kit and kpanlogo drums, the music is mainly based on Bobobo, Kamou, Simpa rhythms.

Born in Lome, Togo, DOGO played in different bands in the Togolese capital before moving to the United States in 2000 and founding the DC based Afropop/Afrofunk band Elikeh. Known for their high energy live performances and original material, Elikeh has released 3 albums and an EP that received rave reviews by The Washington Post and National Public Radio.

Spending more time in his native country nowadays, DOGO recorded his first single “Von Na Agbeto” as part of his first full length album to be released in 2019.  The song is based on Simpa rhythm played in the northern part of Togo by the Tem people. When released, “Von Na Agbeto” was one of the top 3 songs on many radios charts in Togo. Radio hosts and journalists are now calling DOGO “L’enfant du pays” (The native son) given the importance he places in Togolese culture and traditional rhythms through his music.

Three other singles were later released  with again rave reviews in the media Togo, and in the US with Afropop Worldwide, Washington City Paper, African Music Magazine.

Phillip Dodge

Phillip Dodge

Executive Director Downtown Columbia Partnership

Phillip Dodge comes to his current post as Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Partnership after serving as Director of the Howard County Food Bank for the Community Action Council of Howard County.  He has also led development and communications efforts for Healthy Howard and the National Center for Healthy Housing in Howard County.  He has a background in development, communications, marketing, and non-profit leadership.

Among his civic work, Dodge is Chair of the Friends of the Howard County Library and a member of the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club.

As Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Partnership, Dodge is responsible for leading the promotion and advancing the growth of Downtown Columbia as a vibrant, economically robust and desirable place for employment, entertainment, living and learning. The Partnership’s functions also include supporting transportation initiatives; initiating and sponsoring cultural arts and sustainability programs; implementing downtown beautification and maintenance projects; and promoting public safety.

Among its signature events, the Downtown Columbia Partnership hosts the Discover Downtown Columbia 5K and Fun Run, Festive Fridays at the Lakefront during the winter holidays, and Books in Bloom book festival in the summer.

Grace Anistasiadis

Grace Anistasiadis

Community Engagement Coordinator for the Arts and Humanities at Howard Community College

Grace Anastasiadis is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Arts and Humanities at Howard Community College (HCC) and is thrilled to be a judge for this competition! Previous positions held at HCC include: Managing Coordinator of the Theatre and Dance Department, acting adjunct instructor, and Associate Artistic and Managing Director of the Arts Collective. Grace enjoys being onstage as well as directing. Some favorite directorial credits include: Tick, Tick… Boom! and Arsenic and Old Lace with Stillpointe Theatre; Southern Crisis with HCC’s Theatre Department; A Midsummer Night’s Dream? with HCC’s Arts Collective. Grace holds an AA in Theatre Performance from HCC, a BA in Theatre Performance from the University of Maryland and is finishing up her Masters in Arts Administration at Goucher College.

Dave Simmons

Dave Simmons

Director of Programming & Production, Columbia Festival of the Arts

Dave Simmons joined the Festival as Programming Manager in 2013 and has been instrumental in leading the Festival’s Programming and Production over the past seven years. Some highlights include presenting artists such as Pilobolus, Monterey Jazz Fest on Tour, Judy Collins, Aaron Neville, The Second City, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Architects of Air, and Australia’s Strange Fruit to name a few.  He especially enjoys working with the Columbia Association and various community partners in presenting the Festival’s Free LakeFest Weekend, which brings more than 20,000 to Downtown Columbia each June. Simmons really enjoys working with Columbia’s unique creative community in providing free visual and performing arts experiences to the community. In 2016 and 2017, Simmons served on the Board of Directors of Columbia’s 50th Birthday Celebration, where he provided guidance on programming and production for events.

Prior to joining the Festival, Simmons completed his Master’s degree in Arts Management from American University in Washington, D.C. He was awarded “Distinction” for his directed research project Artists’ Access to Healthcare in the United States, which was presented at the 39th International Conference on Social Theory, Politics and the Arts at Seattle University in 2013. Simmons is also a graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Art History and was the recipient of the Senior Purchase Award for excellence in Studio Art.

Outside of the Festival, Simmons is the Manager for the D.C. based world music group DOGO, founded by Togolese musician Massama Dogo.  He is currently working with the band on a new album release due for release in 2021. Dave lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with wife Kathleen, daughter Claire, and son Luke.

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