2016 Sync Up Conference Panelists

Register For Sync Up

Sync Up Music: April 22-24 and April 29-30; Sync Up Cinema: April 25-27
Time: Sync Up Music: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day; Sync Up Cinema: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day.
The George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center
1225 N. Rampart Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
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Geri Allen

Geri Allen

Geri Allen is the quintessence of what a present-day mainstream jazz pianist should be. Well-versed in a variety of modern jazz styles from bop to free, Allen steers a middle course in her own music, speaking in a cultivated and moderately distinctive voice, respectful of, but not overly impressed with, the doctrine of conservatism that often rules the mainstream scene. There is little conceptually that separates her from her most obvious models -- Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, and Bill Evans primary among them -- yet Allen plays with a spontaneity and melodic gift that greatly transcend rote imitation. Her improvisational style is at various times both spacious and dense, rubato and swinging, blithe and percussive. It's a genuinely expressive, personal voice; her music is an amalgam -- honestly conceived, intelligently accessible, and well within the bounds of what is popularly expected from a jazz musician of her generation.

Allen received her early jazz education at the famed Cass Technical High School in Detroit, where her mentor was the highly regarded trumpeter/teacher Marcus Belgrave. In 1979, Allen earned her bachelor's degree in jazz studies from Howard University in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she studied with the veteran bop pianist Kenny Barron. From there, at the behest of the jazz educator Nathan Davis, Allen attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning a Master's degree in ethnomusicology, returning to New York in 1982. In the mid-'80s, Allen formed an association with the Brooklyn "M-Base" crowd that surrounded alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. Allen played on several of Coleman's albums, including his first, 1985's Motherland Pulse. Allen's own first album, The Printmakers, with Anthony Cox and Andrew Cyrille, from a year earlier, showcased the pianist's more avant-garde tendencies.

In 1988 came perhaps her first mature group statement, Etudes, a cooperative trio effort with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian -- Allen's loose-limbed lyricism and off-center linearity were perfectly complemented by the innate tunefulness of bassist Haden and the unerring timbral sense of drummer Motian. In the '90s, Allen signed first with Blue Note, then Verve. Her subsequent records placed her in ever more conventional contexts, supported by the cream of the mainstream "Young Lions" crop. As a soloist, however, Allen continued to push the improvisational envelope, as evidenced by Sound Museum, a 1996 recording made under the leadership of Ornette Coleman. The solo Gathering followed in 1998. Allen was named the top Talent Deserving Wider Recognition among pianists in the 1993 and 1994 Down Beat magazine critics' polls. Her significant collaborators to date included saxophonists Oliver Lake, Arthur Blythe, and Julius Hemphill, trumpeter Lester Bowie, and singer Betty Carter.

To kick off the 21st century, Allen recorded Live at the Village Vanguard with Motian and Haden for the Japanese DIW imprint. She followed it with another label change in 2004 when she moved to Telarc for Life of a Song with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette. She remained on the label for 2006's Timeless Portraits and Dreams, a collection of spirituals, gospel songs, and bebop tunes. Her rhythm section for the date included bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jimmy Cobb, with trumpeter Wallace Roney appearing on a version of Charlie Parker's "Au-Leu-Cha." Allen not only changed labels again in 2009, but her standard piano trio configuration as well. Three Pianos for Jimi, on Douglas Records, is a tribute to legendary rock guitarist Hendrix. It was recorded with two other pianists -- brothers Mark and Scott Batson -- and featured no other instrumentation. Allen, who also serves as an associate professor of music at the University of Michigan, recorded her solo piano work Flying Toward the Sound, which celebrates the contributions and influence of Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock, in 2009. It was released on the Motéma imprint in 2010. In 2011, Allen released the Christmas-themed A Child Is Born, featuring a mix of traditional carols, hymns, and some original songs. In 2012, she issued Secret of the Wind, on Outnote, a duet album with vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou. Allen revisited the sounds of her hometown on 2013's Grand River Crossings: Motown & Motor City Inspirations.

Ibrahim “IB” Hamad

Ibrahim “IB” Hamad

Ibrahim “IB” Hamad is the president and head of A&R for Dreamville Records, and is the manager of platinum-selling rapper J. Cole. Ib and Cole met when Cole – a North Carolina native – was at St. John’s University in New York City. Ib has been working with and alongside Cole since the release of Cole’s debut mixtape, “The Come Up,” in 2007. Today, the label they established is also home to the artists Bas, Omen and Cozz. www.dreamville.com  @KingOfQueenz

Dee-1

Dee-1

Born and raised in the heart of New Orleans, David Augustine - aka Dee-1 - shared the same struggles as the legendary artists that put the 504 on the map. But he represents the city with a different viewpoint. He is the voice for anyone on a mission to win in the game of life by maximizing their potential and grinding with a purpose.

After graduating from Louisiana State University with a bachelor's degree, Dee-1 began teaching middle school in Baton Rouge by day to help fund his music projects. The strong bond he formed with his students inspired him to be a powerful leader, but it also made it hard for him to leave. As his buzz as an artist continued to grow, he finally decided that his passion for hip hop was too much to ignore and that being "Dee-1" gave him a much larger platform to be heard than being "Mr. Augustine."

Having already built a solid street buzz with his critically acclaimed independent album "David & Goliath," he released his mixtape “I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 2” as a free download in 2011. This mixtape changed his life. In less then a year he had four videos that gained heavy rotation on MTV Jams, had major hip-hop blogs praising his work, and two national two nation wide tours under his belt.

You haven't witnessed Dee-1's true star power until you have seen him live in concert. He has become known for giving jaw-dropping shows and electrifying audiences wherever he performs. As Dee-1 says, “It feels way better to win over an audience than to just brag on how good I am. I'd rather prove it to you.” All of this progress has left die-hard Dee-1 fans asking, "What's next?" No one knows for sure, but as his fan base continues to grow throughout the nation, Dee-1 is poised to become Hip-Hop’s next great superstar.

Jana Herzen

Jana Herzen

President and Recording Artist for Motéma Music

Producer, performer and entrepreneur Jana Herzen is founder and president of Grammy-winning Motéma Music label based in Harlem in New York City. Motema has promoted ‘Artists of Power and Distinction’ since 2003. The label has garnered fourteen Grammy nominations in Jazz, R&B and Reggae and received two Grammy wins.
Under Herzen’s stewardship, Motéma has released over 150 dynamic recordings by an international range of electrifying performer-composers including such influential visionaries as NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, NAACP Nominee Geri Allen, Jamaican jazz legend Monty Alexander, vocal firebrand Rene Marie, experimental jazz legend David Murray, electro-acoustic jazz visionary Marc Cary, rising Cuban percussion master Pedrito Martinez, and the Grammy-winning international jazz/soul vocal star Gregory Porter, who rose from obscurity to international stardom during his tenure with the label.   In 2015 Motema was much in the news for having launched the career of piano sensation and prodigy Joey Alexander who’s astonishing rise as a jazz pianist saw him topping jazz charts,  bumping Adele out of first place on iTunes the night of his 60 Minutes feature, receiving two GRAMMY nominations and winning millions of hearts with his outstanding live performance on the GRAMMY Telecast.
Herzen, who attended Stanford University and New York University, began her professional life in the theater as a production manager, director, actor, lighting designer and script doctor. In the 1980’s she helped found and run the influential MCC Theater Company in Manhattan (directed by top casting director Bernard Telsey and actor Robert Lupone) and since then has traveled extensively in Japan, Bali, Outback Australia, Africa and Europe; has served as agent/manager for famed montage artist Winston Smith; and all along the road has performed professionally as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
Herzen has released two albums: Motema’s first issue “Soup’s on Fire” an Afro-tinged, folk, funk and blues project – and “Passion of a Lonely Heart’ (2012) documenting her acclaimed jazz-world duo with bass icon Charnett Moffett. Between her two releases, Herzen worked tirelessly to build Motéma from an outside unknown to a respected inside player. All About Jazz recently weighed in on Motéma as “One of the most important jazz labels to plant its flag in the 21st Century.”  And in another show of confidence, Downbeat Critics voted Motema as the #3 Jazz Label of 2014, just after industry stalwarts ECM and BLUENOTE. Herzen is proud that Motéma has become part of the rich cultural heritage of Harlem.

Danny Melnick

Danny Melnick

President, Absolutely Live Entertainment

Danny Melnick has produced tours, festivals, concerts and special events worldwide for nearly 25 years, and as the owner of Absolutely Live Entertainment (ALE) since 2007. He is the producing partner and Artistic Director of the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY (June 29-30), the Associate Producer of the Newport Jazz Festival (Aug 2-4) and has helped to create and produce more than 100 festivals in Europe, Japan and the US.

Recent ALE tour projects include “A Night in Treme,” “Kind of Blue @ 50,” “Monterey Jazz Festival 55th Anniversary Tour,” and next year’s “Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60” global celebration.

Danny produced last year’s UNESCO's International Jazz Day "Sunrise Concert" in New Orleans and will produce the Dave Brubeck Memorial Celebration on May 11 in New York City. He is the Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall’s "The Shape of Jazz," series and was the backstage manager at the JazzTent for three recent New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festivals. He manages acclaimed composer and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Prior to forming ALE, Danny was the Artistic Director and a Senior Producer at George Wein's company, Festival Productions, Inc. He played a central role in producing annual festivals in Newport, New York, Bermuda, Hampton, VA, Madarao, Japan and others. He produced the Mellon Jazz Festivals in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and was the Artistic Director of the Newport Jazz 50th Anniversary Festival in 2004.

From 1996 through 1998, Danny was a Booking Agent at Ted Kurland Associates, and worked at Festival Productions from 1990-1996.

Danny Melnick lives in Woodstock, NY, has traveled to over 30 countries and still uses a turntable. His wife, Bari Koral, a leading Family Rock Band artist, performs in the Kids Tent at 3:20pm on Friday, May 3.

http://www.absolutelylive.net
Jay Sweet

Jay Sweet

After acting as producer for The Newport Folk Festival for the last eight years, Jay was recently named Executive Producer of The Newport Festivals Foundation, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to music education initiatives for young people that celebrate innovation while preserving tradition within the genres of Jazz and Folk music. During his tenure, the Newport Folk Festival has won three Pollstar awards for "Music Festival Of The Year" and has regained its stature as one of the country's premiere music events. 

Before joining the Foundation, Jay was the principal and co-founder of Sweet & Doggett, one of the East Coast’s leading music consulting firms whose clients included Hasbro, World Wildlife Fund, Fisher Price, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, Sylvania and Daytrotter.  Known for his enthusiastic understanding of the music industry’s inner workings in relation to marketing, branding, production, touring, licensing and content acquisition, Jay spent over a decade helping corporate America with its music initiatives.

A frequent keynote speaker at film, video game, and music conferences around the country including SXSW, Pollstar, Billboard, CMJ, Harvard, Berklee College of Music, as well as several of NPR’s syndicated programs such as “The Connection”, “On Point” and “All Songs Considered”, Jay also served as the Editor-at-Large for the acclaimed music and film magazine PASTE, nominated for the 2008 and 2009 National Magazine Award for General Excellence, where he wrote numerous features and cover stories on The Roots, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, My Morning Jacket and film director Wes Anderson.

In his spare time, Jay has also managed to write and sell two major motion picture scripts and start a social benefits company called Humans for Oceans, which raises awareness to help save our oceans through an actions reward program.

Ghazi Shami

Ghazi Shami

President & CEO, EMPIRE

Founder and CEO of EMPIRE, Ghazi Shami, is a music technology graduate of San Francisco State University. Being infatuated with technology and the possibilities of a digital future, he majored in Radio & Television and worked for Sun Microsystems, Eloquent Technologies and Audio Highway. After learning the intricacies of fiber optic cables and nascent compression technology, Shami later went on to INGrooves, where he served at the Director of Urban Music. At INgrooves, Ghazi not only learned digital distribution from an industry pioneer and helped build its rap division, but he was also able to shadow the company’s attorneys and become an expert in music business contracts. Finally, Ghazi was ready to build his own EMPIRE.

Ghazi and VP of Operations, Nima Etminan, created EMPIRE’s accounting system, royalty platform, marketing strategy, client relations and legal department. In a dense industry that often seems intentionally flooded with middlemen, EMPIRE created its own ecosystem. EMPIRE has a partnership with Atlantic Records, allowing it to offer additional services to artists with broader aspirations. Additionally, Ghazi has launched a street wear boutique in San Francisco called Sol Disciples (Above All), fortifying their merchandising capabilities.

From its inception, EMPIRE released a large number of hip hop and rap albums, in addition to gospel, R&B and rock, among other genres. EMPIRE has supported the debut albums and early singles of a number of early artists, frequently signing young talent. In the Atlanta scene, they were the first label to release Trinidad James, Rich Homie Quan, Migos, Rocko and K Camp. In Los Angeles, they have distributed and/or are still distributing artists such as Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Problem, Skeme and Crooked I. They've also been involved in New York with recent releases from Fat Joe, Troy Ave, Styles P, Cam'ron and Busta Rhymes. On the R&B side they have signed artists such as Eric Bellinger, Jacquees, Rayven Justice and Jonn Hart. EMPIRE has also had several chart topping reggae albums, including artist J Boog's album Backyard Boogie and Shaggy's Grammy Nominated 2013 release Out Of Many, One Music. Recently, EMPIRE garnered their first Grammy for Best Reggae Album for Morgan Heritage's Strictly Roots.

https://soundcloud.com/empire

Christian Scott

Christian Scott

Christian Scott, also known as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (born March 31, 1983, in New Orleans, Louisiana) is a two-time Edison Award winning (2010 and 2012) and Grammy Award nominated trumpeter, composer, producer and music executive.  Christian’s Grammy nominated international recording debut, Rewind That was called “arguably the most remarkable premiere the genre has seen in the last decade” by Billboard Magazine, earning Christian two prominent features on their cover and inclusion in their list of “Ones to Watch in 2006.”

In June 2015, Christian established a partnership between his newly formed Stretch Music label and the lauded  Ropeadope Music family.  In the Fall of 2015, Christian's debut release on Stretch Music/Ropeadope, titled Stretch Music, will be released along with the first interactive Stretch Music App offering for this generation of young improvisors.  The recording and the app are set to be deeply impactful statements of the new genre.

Christian is the nephew of jazz innovator and legendary sax man, Donald Harrison, Jr. He began his musical tutelage under the direction of his uncle at the age of thirteen. After graduating from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in 2001, Christian received a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where he earned a degree thirty months later.

Since 2002 Christian has released seven critically acclaimed studio recordings and two live albums. According to NPR, "Christian Scott ushers in new era of jazz". He has been heralded by JazzTimes magazine as "the Architect of a new commercially viable fusion" and "Jazz's young style God." Christian is known for developing the harmonic convention known as the “forecasting cell” and for his use of an un-voiced tone in his playing, emphasizing breath over vibration at the mouthpiece, widely referred to as his “whisper technique.” Christian is also widely recognized as one of the progenitors of “Stretch Music,” a jazz rooted, genre blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many other musical forms, languages and cultures as possible.

Since 2006, Christian has worked with McCoy Tyner, Prince, Marcus Miller, Eddie Palmieri, Mos Def (Yasin Bey), Thom Yorke and Solange Knowles, among other notable talents.

Christian, is a scion of New Orleans’ first family of art and culture, nephew of Saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. and the grandson of the legendary Big Chief, Donald Harrison Sr., the only man to be Chief of four Black Indian tribes of New Orleans. Christian is half the inspiration for HBO's Tremé series character Delmond Lambreaux. Lambreaux is a hybrid of both Harrison Jr. and Christian. The show borrowed the “Guardians of the Flame” name from the Black Indian tribe Scott began “masking” as a member of with his grandfather in 1989.

Jamison Ross

Jamison Ross

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz introduced Jamison Ross as an incredible young drummer in 2012 after he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Three years later, Jamison, his joyous debut, presents him not only as a jazz musician who commands the drums, but also as a gifted composer, bandleader and more pointedly, a singer.

It was Ross’ mother, Renee Ross, who encouraged him to buttress the musical gifts with formal training; Ross studied drums in elementary and high school. He went on to develop a higher level of understanding at Florida State University, where he received a B.A. in jazz studies. After relocating to New Orleans – where he currently lives – Ross earned a master’s degree in jazz studies.

After winning the 2012 Monk Competition, Ross toured and recorded with a variety of esteemed jazz artists including singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, pianists Jonathan Batiste, Dr. John and Jon Cleary; and bassist Christian McBride. Ross also continued working with singer and composer Carmen Lundy, who invited Ross to join her band prior to the competition.

Just as he proved at the Monk Competition that one doesn’t have to display pyro techniques to win over listeners, Jamison eschews from callow virtuosity in favor of sleek, artistic maturity. “I grew up playing in church so chops are not a secret to me,” Ross explains. “My approach to drumming is about accessing the soulful sophistication of the music while dealing with the art of support. I’ve learned to never sacrifice the musical moments; I like to approach them all as unselfish as I can.  This way of thinking allows for my moment of authority to present itself.”

Still because many jazz fans know Ross primarily as a drummer, he was initially concerned that he had perhaps downplayed his drumming acumen too much.  But after a soul-searching conversation with his wife, Adrienne, he realized that he had nothing to prove regarding his drumming and that he should just be himself.  “With this record, there are no qualms about who I am as a musician or what my approach to the music is,” Ross enthuses. “On this record, I’m really ecstatic with what I’m presenting and who I’m presenting.  It’s Jamison.”

On December 7, 2015, Jamison was nominated for a GRAMMY® in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Kam Franklin

Kam Franklin

Kam Franklin is lead vocalist for the Gulf Coast soul band The Suffers. She has been publicly singing since age 5, and she is a three-time recipient of the Houston Press Music Award for Best Female Vocalist.

Adam Castaneda

Adam Castaneda

Adam Castaneda is the bassist and co-founder of The Suffers. For the past 17 years he has been performing in venues across the United States. He has performed in many groups, specializing in genres ranging from country to hip hop to calypso.

Mark C. Austin

Mark C. Austin

Mark C. Austin is the owner of the Houston based music management and promotions company The Convoy Group.  He manages eight Texas-based musical acts, including The Suffers, and books more than 70 bands per month in his hometown of Houston. He also produces official events at SXSW and CMJ.

Gregg Little

Gregg Little

Gregg Little is a booking agent at New Frontier Touring and heads up their Atlanta office. New Frontier Touring exclusively represents more than 80 artists.  Gregg has worked extensively in jazz, rock and soul music and currently represents The Suffers,  Fishbone, Highly Suspect, And The Kids, Jakubi and many others. He previously worked with Thelonious Monk, Jr., Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive) and Nnenna Freelon, among others. He routinely books more 600 shows a year across the country, including major festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Coachella, Newport Folk Festival, Afropunk, Sasquatch and Outside Lands.

Tim Quirk

Tim Quirk

Tim Quirk, Founder and CEO of Freeform, has spent the past 15 years helping build groundbreaking digital music services. He was part of the initial team at listen.com that launched Rhapsody, the first on demand music subscription service, in 2001, and was most recently Head of Global Content Programming for Google Play. He spent much of the 80’s and 90’s as the singer and lyricist for Too Much Joy.

Brian Camelio

Brian Camelio

Founder & CEO - ArtistShare

Brian is an accomplished musician, composer, public speaker, educator, inventor, entrepreneur and digital marketing expert.   Most notably he is credited as being a pioneer of modern "crowdfunding".  He is truly a rare blend of creative passion coupled with relentless attention to detail and process.  These qualities have been the backbone and driving force behind the 13-year success of ArtistShare and the newly created Fanfunded.com, the next generation of fan funding.

In 2003, Brian created ArtistShare, a state-of-the-art website and software application for the creative community to find funding for their projects directly through their fan bases.  This became the blueprint and precursor for many of today's crowdfunding websites.  In 2004, the first ArtistShare project won a Grammy award and became the first album in history to win a Grammy that was not available in retail stores.  Since then ArtistShare fan-funded releases have received a total of 10 Grammy awards and 29 Grammy nominations. 

Not resting on his “laurels,” Brian has just launched an extension of the ArtistShare business model called Fanfunded.com.  There will now be a destination for all creative visions that extend beyond the music industry and offer opportunity to many creators that had not had the chance to participate with ArtistShare.  As Brian starts to expand the ArtistShare Brand and launch Fanfunded.com, there is already a buzz in creative circles as he builds on past experience and success.

As a pioneer in his field, he has been an invited guest speaker at Judge Business School at Cambridge University, Midem, The Grammy Foundation at NARAS, ASCAP, NYU Law School, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, The Songwriters hall of fame, The Future of Music Coalition, George Mason School of Law, The Juilliard School and has been an adviser to the Canadian Heritage Copyright Policy Branch when researching copyright reform in Canada. Brian is a U.S. Patent holder and a strong advocate of the protection of intellectual property rights for aspiring inventors and creative artists.

Jedd Katrancha

Jedd Katrancha

Senior Vice President/Creative, Downtown Music Publishing

Jedd Katrancha currently serves as Senior Vice President/Creative for Downtown Music Publishing where he oversees the promotion and licensing of the company's growing publishing catalog. Downtown Music Publishing's roster includes the catalogs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Motley Crue, Jewel, Seal, Social Distortion, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood as well as contemporary artist/writers like Miike Snow, Santigold, Carla Bruni, Tanlines, Love as Laughter, and many more. Downtown's songwriters have recently written songs for artists such as Ne-Yo, Beyonce, Trey Songz, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and Phillip Phillips.

http://dmpgroup.com/
Tavia Osbey

Tavia Osbey

Tavia Osbey of Simple Play Presents is the manager of Tank and the Bangas, a band that was named New Orleans' Best Emerging Artist in this year's OffBeat Best of the Beat Awards. A New Orleans native, Tavia graduated from Southern University at New Orleans with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship. She took on her first management client in 2010: Tarriona "Tank" Ball. From 2011-2013 she worked alongside Jarred Savwoir at Soul Savvy ENT, which is where she helped develop, brand and promote Tank and The Bangas.  In 2015, Tavia joined the Simple Play Presents team, becoming part of an artist management partnership that represents of New Orleans' best-known and most promising artists, including Big Freedia, Sweet Crude, Motel Radio and Naughty Professor.

Charles Driebe

Charles Driebe

Charles Driebe is the founder and CEO of Blind Ambition Management, a boutique agency that represents the Grammy-winning gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama, Grammy-nominated blues musician Ruthie Foster and several others. Charles graduated from University and the University of Georgia School of Law. During Charles' tenure as manager of the Blind Boys of Alabama, the group has won five Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, performed twice at the White House, toured internationally with Peter Gabriel, recorded with Ben Harper and appeared on all the major late-night television shows multiple times. Blind Ambition's other clients include original Stax Records soul man William Bell, Mississippi raconteur Paul Thorn, Midwest indie-folk icons Over The Rhine and New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian funk band Cha Wa. Charles was named the Blues Foundation Manager of the Year in 2007.

S-8ighty

S-8ighty

Dave Welcome aka s-8ighty – the producer, songwriter, singer and now burgeoning solo artist representing Zero To Sixty Entertainment – is beginning to reap the benefits from his life’s dedication to making music in a major way.

After his Honduran parents relocated to the east side of New Orleans, s-8ighty was the first of four children born in the U.S. Since a toddler, rhythms and melodies from various genres of music moved him more than anything else a child could find entertaining, leading to the discovery that he was gifted. Numerous lessons followed, starting with the piano at six years old and enrollment at the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. From there, s-8ighty’s dream to become a successful producer in the music business began to materialize. Avoiding the adversities of the Louisiana streets were abundant with, he made a Yamaha S80 synthesizer his weapon of choice. It also inspired his new alias.

“I started producing around the age of 14,” s-8ighty recalls. “I was always intrigued by the melodies and music of songs I heard on the radio or around the house. Influences from greats like Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Timbaland, Mannie Fresh, R. Kelly, Pharrell, Just Blaze, and Kanye West had me seated in the studio for years training myself to not only make rap beats, but also create pop tracks, R&B, techno, reggae, calypso … you name it. I was not just somebody who simply picked up a beat machine and said, ‘Oh, I’m a producer.’”

After graduating from Eleanor McMain High School, s-8ighty attended the University of New Orleans, aspiring to be a doctor, but he ended his collegiate tenure prematurely and made music his full-time major.

Enter Raymond Smith, Sr., aka Fat Mac, the CEO of a local record label - Zero To Sixty Entertainment – who was making his mark throughout Louisiana and its surrounding states. Through word of mouth and a few mutual acquaintances, Mac wisely found s-8ighty’s demos impressive enough to bring him on board in 2010. Already stacked with solid rappers such as the Youngest 1s and Supa Blanco who were on the rise, Zero To Sixty now had an exceptionally talented songwriter, composer and crooner to diversify its roster and take things to the next level.

While his labelmates benefitted from his head nod-inducing production, infectious hooks and ear-pleasing vocals the ladies especially loved, s-8ighty also collaborated with multi-platinum stars including Juvenile, B.G. and T-Pain. Next on the agenda was the pursuit of a solo career, and he jumped on the opportunity to sign with established manager Fee Banks of Good Money Global, who already proved what he could do with chart-topping rapper Kevin Gates and fellow New Orleans native Li’l Wayne. It was now s-8ighty’s turn.

After the launch of his solid “Black Canvas” mixtape filled with club-friendly hits in 2014, s-8ighty wanted to go deeper, utilize social media more, and not force-feed audiences intended single hits. His slight adjustments and soul searching resulted in the mid-2015 release of his heartfelt R&B single “Halfway” – a track themed on meeting a loved one “halfway” to make a relationship work; it became Zero To Sixty’s most successful single to date. “Halfway was created through a feel,” s-8ighty says. “I started with the melodies, and then came the piano, the lyrics, and finally the beat. I had a great feeling about it.” Undoubtedly, so does its steadily increasing fan base.

“Halfway’s” buzz and flood of requests resulted in constant rotation throughout the south, starting with New Orleans’ R&B and rap airwave powerhouse Q93. Explicably, calls from major labels with distribution deals in hand quickly followed, resulting in s-8ighty’s signature on a contract with Universal’s Republic records. Now he will be along side world-renowned acts like The Weeknd, Drake, Nicki Minaj and the aforementioned Li’l Wayne. But nothing will change regarding his focus, knowledge and humility rooted from his upbringing. S-8ighty still finds time to give back to the community   including nurturing of young aspiring producers in after-school programs voluntarily.

Alexander Ebert

Alexander Ebert

Alexander Michael Tahquitz "Alex" Ebert is an American singer-songwriter and composer. He is best known for being the lead singer and songwriter for the American bands Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. On January 12, 2014, Ebert won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for his musical contributions to the film All Is Lost. He is the designer of the app Skrapps and is partners in the project with Travis Laurendine.

Jai Reed

Jai Reed

Pastor Jai (pronounced “Jay”) Reed is in his seventh year of Ministry as Senior Pastor of the New Beginnings Christian Center, New Orleans, and has been blessed to preach the Word of God across the United States. As a Pastor, he is very passionate about ministry and seeing the lives of people changed. When beginning his journey of Pastoralship, God gave him a winning theme for his ministry, “A place where Change Is Possible!” Pastor Reed has been active within the Gospel Music Industry for many years and he has been celebrated for his amazing gift and anointed vocal capabilities. As a Gospel Artist, he has been privileged to share his music ministry across the United States and also in several foreign countries. In 2009, Pastor Jai Reed was nominated for a Gospel Music Stellar Award in the ‘new artist’ category and in that same year, he received a “Big Easy Award” for Male Vocalist of the year. In 2012, he was nominated for the Rhythm of Gospel Award in three categories. Most recently, he received the New Orleans Viewers Choice Award for “Best Gospel Artist in 2013” and also he received a Big Easy Award nomination in the category for “Best Gospel Group/Individual”. PastorJai Reed has appeared on several nationally televised Gospel music shows such as: Bobby Jones Gospel, Bishop Greg Davis Rejoice in the Word, BET music videos, TBN, Atlanta Live and the Dorinda Clark Cole show. Additionally, he has shared the stage with many Gospel and R&B greats! He has three awesome CD’s released: First, Anointed For Purpose, his second CD is self-entitled, “Jai Reed.” His third and latest project, which was released in 2014, is entitled, ‘Songs from My Heart’ and is a collection of worship songs. The debut single “Center of My Heart” is the epitome of a worship songs.

Jeremiah Stewart

Jeremiah Stewart

Jeremiah Stewart hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and started his career in the entertainment industry as a child under the influence of his Uncle. Jeremiah Stewart has worked with many established artists such as, Tyrese Gibson, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Marvin Sapp, Rance Allen, Mary Mary, Darryl “D.M.C.” Matthews McDaniels of Run-D.M.C. and the list goes on. Jeremiah Stewart continues this legacy by promoting, managing, and mentoring performing artists on a national and independent level. He believes that success comes with faith in God and always remaining positive. In spring 2014 Jeremiah Stewart founded J. Stewart Agency, LLC which promotes and manages independent artists looking for exposure in the entertainment industry. Jeremiah Stewart later furthered the agency’s reach by establishing “Choices Matter” a youth empowerment program that connects J. Stewart Agency artists directly with underprivileged youth nationwide. Currently, Jeremiah Stewart aims to stretch J. Stewart Agency’s reach even further and is committed to empowering, educating and enlightening those aiming to break into the entertainment industry.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.