The Music and Art of the African Diaspora

A Three-Year Interdisciplinary Exploration

In the fall of 2021, Interlochen Arts Academy launched a three-year exploration of the history, culture, and artistry of the African diaspora. Through an innovative curriculum, world-renowned guest artists, and a thematic opera production, Interlochen’s students are encountering firsthand the powerful creative force generated by people of native African origin in the United States.

African Diaspora Guest Artists

Guest artists have included a lineup of stellar musical talents, including award winning composer Dr. Bill Banfield; acclaimed vocalists Davóne Tines and Laurin Talese; jazz pianist, composer, and conductor Billy Childs; and jazz pianist and R&B singer Patrice Rushen. Additional guest artists are scheduled to work with students in all divisions, including dance, film, creative writing, visual arts, and interdisciplinary arts students.

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Dr. Bill Banfield

Guest Artist, Composition

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Laurin Talese

Guest Artist, Contemporary Music

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Davóne Tines

Guest Artist, Voice

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Patrice Rushen

Guest Artist, Jazz

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Billy Childs

Guest Artist, Jazz


The African Diaspora exploration will culminate in the spring of 2024 with the premiere of the opera Edmonia, a musical dramatization of the life of African American and Native American (Ojibwe) sculptor Edmonia Lewis. Since spring 2022, Interlochen has welcomed the residency of Edmonia creator Dr. Bill Banfield as he workshops his opera on Interlochen’s campus.

This groundbreaking educational experience demonstrates Interlochen Arts Academy’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom and beyond.

Photograph of Edmonia Lewis

Photograph of Edmonia Lewis by Augustus Marshall (Boston, Mass., circa 1870)

Interlochen African Diaspora News and Stories

The 2023-24 Interlochen Arts Academy student body
From the Desk of Trey Devey: A glimpse into the upcoming school year

President Devey previews the highlights of the 2023-24 academic year—from world-premiere performances and a groundbreaking film collaboration to a new IPR recording project and online classes for adult learners.

Bill Banfield headshot
Interlochen Arts Academy guest artist Dr. Bill Banfield receives Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award

An award-winning composer, Banfield is currently working with Academy students, faculty, and guests to stage the world premiere production of his hybrid opera, ‘Edmonia.’

Composer and musicologist Dr. William "Bill" Banfield (works with an Arts Academy voice student
Three-year guest artist series contextualizes the art and culture of the African diaspora

Led by composer and musicologist Dr. William Banfield, the series provides opportunities for Interlochen Arts Academy students to engage with diverse artists and premiere Banfield’s opera, “Edmonia.”