“Building A Vocal Community”
Workshop & Community Concert
with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell

DECEMBER 8, 2018

Workshop 10am-3:30pm | $75 (+$4 Processing Fee)

Concert 7pm | $35 (+$2 Processing Fee)

Both Events Held At
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
101 Donahue St., Marin City, CA 94965

Join us for a full day workshop and evening concert with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, previously of Sweet Honey in the Rock, with guest performers Heidi Hill and Brown, Sturgis and Brown.



”There is an awesome power in the human voice and when uncommon voices are blended for the common good, they become a ‘vocal community’ at its best.”

Masterfully led by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell, singers and non-singers alike will share the common experience of learning in the oral tradition and singing rhythms, chants, traditional songs from Africa and the Diaspora, and a variety of songs from African American culture including spirituals, ring shouts, hymns, gospels, and songs from the Civil Rights Movement.

The historical, social and political context will provided as an introduction to the songs. Through out this experience, the group will explore from an African American world view, the values embedded in the music, the role of cultural and spiritual traditions and rituals, ways in which leadership emerges and can be shared by and among community members, the nature of cultural responses to and influences on political and social struggle, and finally the significance of a shared communal experience in ones’ personal life. All that is required is a willingness to sing

Workshop Fee Includes: Continental Breakfast at 9am & Evening Concert


  • Continental Breakfast – 9am
  • Workshop/Part One – 10am
  • Lunch – 12pm
  • Workshop/Part Two – 1:30pm

Workshop (& Concert) Fee: $75 – PLUS $4 Processing Fee
(see below to register)



DR. YSAYE M. BARNWELL a native New Yorker now living in Washington, DC is the only child and perfect blend of her mother, a registered nurse and her father, a classical violinist.  Dr. Barnwell studied violin for 15 years beginning at age 2 ½, and majored in music through high school.  With this background,  she went on to earn the Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Speech Pathology (SUNY, Geneseo, 1967, 1968), Doctor of Philosophy in Speech Pathology (University of Pittsburgh, 1975), and the Master of Science in Public Health (Howard University, 1981).  In 1998, Dr. Barnwell was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by her alma mater, SUNY Geneseo.  She recently received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL (2009) and the Virginia Theological Seminary (2011);  and in 2012,  all members of Sweet Honey In the Rock, were awarded the Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Chicago Theological Seminary (2012).

For over a decade, Dr. Barnwell was a professor at the College of Dentistry at Howard University, after which she conducted community based projects in computer technology and the arts, and administered health programs at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center and at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.  Dr. Barnwell joined Sweet Honey In The Rock® in 1979 and her training as a Sing Language Interpreter, led her to facilitated the group’s tradition of including a Sign Language Interpreter in the ensemble.  After 34 years Barnwell retired from Sweet Honey In The Rock to pursue her other interests.

Dr. Barnwell appears as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist on more than thirty recordings with Sweet Honey In The Rock as well as other artists.  She has, for the past thirty years spent much of her time off stage working as a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition” has during the past twenty-eight years,  been conducted on three continents, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers, a model of pedagogy for educators, and cultural activists and historians.

Dr. Barnwell has been a commissioned composer on numerous choral, film, video, dance and theatrical projects including Sesame Street, Dance Alloy of Pittsburgh, David Rousseve’s Reality Dance Company, The New Spirituals Project, GALA Festival Choruses, MUSE: Cincinnati’s Women’s Chorus, The Steel Festival: Art of an Industry (Bethlehem, PA, The King’s Singers in EnglandIn 1996 she was awarded the Bessie Award for her score Safe House: Still Looking, commissioned by Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. The year 2001 saw the premiere of the work Suite Death, a setting of four poems by Langston Hughes for baritone, choir and orchestra, commissioned by the Plymouth Music Series in Minneapolis, MN. In Feb. 2003, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, DC premiered Truth Pressed to Earth Shall Rise, a choral work, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Most recently, she was commissioned by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra and Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT to compose a musical setting for Marilyn Nelson’s epic poem Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem. This cantata premiered in Waterbury on May 9, 2009 and there have been three performances since. In 2011 Barnwell curated the year long FORTUNE’S BONES PROJECT® for the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland which featured public discussions and two performances of the cantata.  Several other communities are now exploring how they might present the Project.

Barnwell’s music, published by Barnwell’s Notes, Inc. and distributed by The Musical Source, Washington, DC has been performed and recorded by numerous choral ensembles and individual artists as well as Sweet Honey In The Rock.

In addition to these endeavors, Dr. Barnwell is an actress whose credits include voice-over narration for film, video and radio productions including the NPR documentary: W.C. Handy’s Blues, appearances in the film Beloved, directed by Jonathan Demme, and the TV show A Man Called Hawk.  She is producer of Sweet Honey’s twenty-fifth anniversary recording, …TWENTY-FIVE…, and Endings and Beginnings: Sweet Honey In The Rock Community Chorus.  Her workshop Building a Vocal Community® has been produced as a boxed instructional set: Singing in the African American Tradition. Volume Two of this set will be released in June 2009 marking the 25th year ofthe workshop and outreach to ever expanding audiences. She is editor of, Continuum:The First Songbook of Sweet Honey In The Rock.  Her first children’s book, No Mirrors In My Nana’s House, illustrated by Synthia Saint James and published by Harcourt was released in 1998. A second children’s book, We Are One illustrated by Brian Pinckney and published by Harcourt is anticipated in spring of 2008. In October 2000, Sounds True released UM HMM, a feast of personal and traditional African American stories, poems and songs for children produced by Windhorse Productions.

Four axioms have proven significant in Barnwell’s life. To whom much is given, much is required.  As one door closes, another door opens. Everything matters.  Say Yes!


HEIDI HILL has been a member of the Allen Temple Baptist Church Unity Choir and Director of the Allen Temple Children’s choir for 20 years.  She is currently the Director of the Betty D. Gadling Fine Arts Academy (Allen Temple Baptist Church), which serves the community with small class and private lessons in piano, voice, percussion, reeds and violin for children, youth and adults.

Heidi has been singing all her life since the age of 12 years old.  She studied at the Cleveland, Ohio Music Settlement and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  Her strong motto is “Music Transforms Lives” – which it has done for her all these years.  She is the proud wife of Lawrence E. Hill and has two beautiful daughters, Lauren & Lyniece.  Her desire today, is to give back to community through the gifts that God has blessed her with.


BROWN, STURGIS AND BROWN – Mark Brown, Patrick Sturgis and Nona Brown

The music of Mark Brown crosses all musical genres – his impressive vocal range and extraordinary counter tenor voice continues to cross boundaries and reach new heights. He is an extension of a musical legacy left by his father, Charles Brown, well known on the New Orleans R&B music scene as part of ‘Sultans of Soul’ vocal duo, which gained much popularity in the 1950’s. A native of New Orleans, Mark has done background vocals for such notables as Bebe Winans, Patti LaBelle, Carlos Santana, Wyclef Jean, and Oleta Adams, to name a few.

Vocalist, keyboardist, songwriter, producer, Patrick Sturgis was just 8 years old when he was featured on the front page of a newspaper holding the caption “8- Year-Old Soloist Sparkles Among Stars. Now, some 38 years later, he breaks new ground by satisfying his latent affinity for jazz, particularly American jazz standards reminiscent of the legendary Nat Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. His love affair with music has spanned over three decades and continues to evolve through new collaborations and mediums.

Nona Brown – Vocalist, Musician, Composer and Producer ALL IN ONE! Nona’s musical journey spans over 30 years working with The Fray, Lenny Williams, Pattie LaBelle, Stephan Jenkins and Mickey Thomas. Nona’s Gospel Music roots led to many wonderful opportunities such as working with Josh Groban as choir coordinator for his tour, guest vocalist and currently, group member of Gospel Music Legend Edwin Hawkins and the New Edwin Hawkins Singers. From the sweet and silky sound of her voice to her piano playing, song writing and producing, the Nona Brown impression is sure to be lasting.

Put it all together and you have one of the most dynamic jazz trios!

Concert Fee: $35 – PLUS $2 Processing Fee