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biography

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Photo: Oreo

Steph Davis is a marimbist, composer, Africana studies scholar, and cultural activist. Their music engages traditions, epistemologies, and aesthetics from the African diaspora as means for uncovering truthful historiographies, finding creative self-actualization, and reaching for collective liberation. 

Hailed by The Washington Post as a "captivating" performer who brings "bright humanity and expressive depth" to contemporary music, Steph is a marimba soloist and chamber musician, currently touring throughout the United States. Integrating Black and European classical music, traditional African American spirituals, and Ghanaian gyil songs, their performances explore the cultural and political landscape of the African diaspora. Through their arrangements and commissions, Steph has contributed over 20 works by Black composers to the marimba's solo and chamber repertoire. They have premiered works by Alissa Voth, Avik Chari, Bilin Zheng, Christa Duggan, Damien Geter, Jingmian Gong, and Pamela Z. A versatile and passionate collaborator, they have performed with noted musicians and dance artists throughout the United States. Steph proudly endorses Marimba One instruments and mallets as a Marimba One Premier Artist. Their current projects include recording their debut solo marimba album and writing a book of marimba arrangements and adaptations of music from the African diaspora. 

As a composer, Steph draws inspiration from African/African American aesthetics, Africana womanist discourse, Black historical events, and bodies of water. Their music has been performed internationally in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. They have received commissions from New Works Project, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Spectrum Ensemble, Prism Percussion, Modern Marimba, Britton René Collins, Michael Ptacin, and Cameron Denby.

A researcher and scholar of African American music and culture, Steph is a teaching artist with Castle of our Skins, a Black arts institution. They teach music theory the Boston Conservatory. They have presented performances and masterclasses on marimba and vibraphone at the University of Central Florida, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Center of Mallet Percussion Research at Kutztown University. 

Steph has been awarded residencies at the Goethe-Institute Boston, Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and Boston Center for the Arts.They have held fellowships with the Antenna Cloud Farm Experimental Institute and Music for Food. They were semifinalist in the Southern California Marimba International Artist Competition and a finalist in the Boston Conservatory Concerto Competition. 

Steph received their Master of Music in marimba performance from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where they studied with Nancy Zeltsman. They also hold a Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from the Conservatory. Other areas of study include music composition, African and African American music/history, Africana philosophy, and Western classical music theory. They are chair of the board at Castle of our Skins.  

 

Steph resides on unceded land of the Neponset band of the Massachusett tribe, bordertown Boston, MA. 

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