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Biden Nominees For Arts Council Include Ukulele Legend Jake Shimabukuro, Apollo Theater’s Kamilah Forbes & Indie Record Label President

·3-min read

The executive producer of Harlem’s Apollo Theater, the president of John Prine’s Oh Boy Records (and widow of the late folk music icon), and ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro are among President Joe Biden’s intended nominees for the National Council on the Arts.

The eight-person list, posted on the White House website, also includes choreographer and educator Christopher Morgan and Kansas Poet Laureate Huascar Medina.

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The National Council on the Arts was established in 1965, with members appointed by the president and approved by the Senate for staggered six-year terms, advises the National Endowment for the Arts on agency policies and programs, and reviews and makes recommendations on applications for grants, funding guidelines, and leadership initiatives. If approved, Biden’s nominees will join other members serving now.

Kamilah Forbes - Credit: AP Images
Kamilah Forbes - Credit: AP Images

AP Images

Biden’s roster of nominees is:

  • Kamilah Forbes, executive producer at the Apollo Theater. A veteran stage director and producer, Forbes’ Broadway credits include The Mountaintop and Stick Fly, as well as Off Broadway’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, written by two-time Pulitzer prize-winning writer Lynn Nottage, among others. She served as associate director on the Tony Award-winning A Raisin in the Sun, and Emmy Award-winning The Wiz Live for NBC. Most recently, she directed Between the World and Me on HBO and HBO Max in November 2020. Forbes is set to direct a Broadway musical adaptation of Soul Train alongside producer Questlove, playwright Dominique Morisseau, and choreographer Camille A. Brown;

  • Christopher Morgan, choreographer, educator, facilitator, curator, and arts administrator. Morgan is Executive Artistic Director of Dance Place in Washington, D.C., and has directed Art Omi: Dance, an annual collaborative residency for international choreographers in New York;

  • Ismael Ahmed, co-founder of The Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and co-founder of Detroit’s world music festival Concert of Colors;

  • Kinan Azmeh, artistic director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Players, a pan-Arab ensemble dedicated to contemporary music form the Arab world;

  • Huascar Medina, the 7th Poet Laureate of Kansas. He currently works with the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission reimagining and developing innovative programming for the poet laureateship;

  • Jake Shimabukuro, the world-famous ukulele player who, in 2001, signed a historic deal with Epic Records/Sony Music that formed the basis of a string of hit albums and standing room audiences. He has played with world-renowned orchestras and at prestigious venues and events such as the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, and Sydney Opera House, Bonnaroo, SXSW and Fuji Rock Festival;

  • Constance Williams, who, with a background in publishing, marketing, and small business and financial consulting, was the economic development and small business coordinator for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District. She has served as the Chair of the Board of The Philadelphia Museum of Art and is now Chair Emerita, and was also a trustee of the National Museum of American Jewish History;

  • Fiona Whelan Prine, President of Oh Boy Records, the country’s second-oldest independent record label still in operation. Prine oversees the multiple Grammy Award-winning recordings and publishing copyrights of her late husband, American songwriter John Prine, and serves as Founder and President of the newly established Hello in There Foundation, named after a classic song written by her late husband. In the last year alone, her community involvement has raised more than $1 million for important social causes, including those related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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