2017-18 Cedar Commissions Artists Announced

The Cedar Cultural Center is pleased to announce the seventh round of the Cedar Commissions, The Cedar’s flagship commissioning program for emerging artists made possible by a grant from the Jerome Foundation. To date, the series has supported the creation of new music by more than 36 artists across genres.


The 2017-18 round of artists was selected by a committee of Minnesota-based musicians and music industry professionals. The 6 commissioned artists, Elizabeth Ashantiva, Julia Hobart, Leah Lemm, Julian Manzara, Shawn Mouacheupao, and Nicky Steves (City Counselor) will each receive $4,500 to compose at least 30 minutes of new musical work to debut at The Cedar in February 2018.




Elizabeth Ashantiva

The Book of L is a multimedia collection of songs, from a feminist perspective, centered on the inner life and experiences of L, a character inspired by Ashantiva’s journals and those of prominent diarists, including Anaïs Nin, Virginia Woolf and Anne Frank. Combining indie pop, experimental electronic, jazz and classical styles, each song depicts a moment from L’s life and takes visual form in a series of graphic novel-style illustrations created by artist Bly Pope.  This work will provide a window into the life of a female artist, as she grows up, giving voice to her thoughts, dreams and struggles. The music for this project will be performed by vocalist/songwriter Ashantiva and her band, Psychic Revival.


Julia Hobart

 In To Spill My Husband’s Blood, singer and songwriter Julia Hobart explores what it means to participate in a folk tradition. Moved by the fates of the female victims in traditional American and Anglo-Celtic murder ballads, she plans to delve into the ethnomusicological history of these ballads. Her research will include readings, conversations with scholars of ethnomusicology and gender studies, and the historical murder ballads themselves. Hobart’s study of history, culture, and story will culminate in an original song series, a re-imagining of these traditional ballads that expands the roles delegated to women characters. In this re-telling and the performance that will accompany it, Hobart will re-envision the fates of these historical victims, locating herself and her own folk heritage in the process.


Leah Lemm

Vocalist/poet/songwriter Leah Lemm will compose and perform Ruins, using vocally-driven composition, electronic instruments, and poetry. Music, tension and lyric focus on themes of reconciliation, relationships, self-determination, assimilation, and apocalyptic awakenings that inform the composition. Lemm explores parallel worlds, threads in the fabric of story, and conversation with the past, present and future.



Julian Manzara

Guitarist and composer Julian Manzara will present Lineage: Two Generations of Midwestern Blues, a set of original, blues-based music. The songs will gesture back to earlier blues styles while simultaneously exploring the blues in a 21st century context. The live performance will feature an eight-piece band spotlighting Manzara on guitar synthesizer, and his father, the eccentric blues master, Cleo Patricx on electric guitar. The goal of the performance is to show the importance of lineage in blues music.



Shawn Mouacheupao

 Composer and drummer Shawn Mouacheupao will be fusing his Hmong culture with his American indie pop culture, creating a tasteful yet divergent sound. You will not be seeing Mouacheupao play drums at this show. Instead, Mouacheupao will write songs through his guitar that celebrate life, tells stories of his culture, and will inspire your imagination. He will be collaborating with talented local Hmong musicians like Oskar Ly, Tieng Hang, Shu Lor, Josh Kue and Kenny Lee.
City Counselor (Nicky Steves)

A community organizer by trade and artist by spirit, City Counselor is composing Scream & Cry, a collection of avant-pop songs on political themes. Performed live by an 8-piece orchestra of talented musicians from the corners of the Minneapolis DIY scene, the songs will prominently feature Steve’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice. Their current body of work discusses gender and queerness, environmental destruction, fighting white supremacy, and those hideous luxury apartments that are going up everywhere. Scream & Cry will process the events of the next six months through unique-but-accessible contemporary pop – think “camp counselor” but for your feelings about laws.