The Cedar Commissions 2017-18

The 2017-18 Commissions featured City Counselor (Nicky Steves), Julia Hobart, Shawn Mouacheupao, Leah Lemm, Julian Manzara and Ashantiva (Elizabeth Ashantiva)


In 2010, The Cedar launched a new commissioning program built on the success of its 416 Club, a longstanding series featuring local musicians and collaborations at The Cedar. Now known as The Cedar Commissions, each year the program enables Minnesota-based artists to create and perform innovative new work. To date, the series has supported the creation of new music by more than 40 emerging artists. This program is made possible with support from the Jerome Foundation.


Watch all videos from the 2017-18 Cedar Commissions: 


City Counselor: 

Friday, February 9th, 2018

A community organizer by trade, City Counselor composed “Questions & Lies,” a collection of avant-pop songs for the 2017-18 Cedar Commissions. Performed live by an 8-piece orchestra pulled from the corners of the Minneapolis DIY scene, the songs prominently feature Nicky’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice. The body of work draws on current events and their emotional toll: the advance of climate change, the growing audacity of unabashed white supremacy, ongoing attempts to rewrite our constitution, and more. Questions & Lies processes the last year of news through classically influenced contemporary pop – think “camp counselor” but for your feelings about laws.


To learn more about “Questions & Lies” through the zine that accompanied the project, visit



Julia Hobart

Friday, February 9th, 2018


Julia Hobart presents To Spill My Husband’s Blood, a series of original songs inspired by traditional American and Anglo-Celtic murder ballads. Each song in the series reimagines a historical murder ballad from the perspective of the victim, honoring the lives and memories of the women who were murdered. In this work, Hobart hopes to uncover what may otherwise be obscured by the makers of history: glimpses of the bold, peculiar, and creative personalities of women lost to violence. To Spill My Husband’s Blood explores narrative as a form of resistance and a way to process and heal from trauma. The piece tenderly combines history and imagination in order to eulogize the real women of these stories: Pretty Polly, Laura Foster, Naomi Wise, Kitty Ging, and May Colvin.




Shawn Mouacheupao 

Friday, February 9th, 2018


Composer and drummer Shawn Mouacheupao piece “Kuv Zaj Dab Neeg” takes you on a musical journey full of simple yet thoughtful pop songs, fusing his Hmong culture with his American indie-pop culture to create a tasteful yet divergent sound. Through the lens of a drummer, Mouacheupao composes songs that celebrate life and love, tell stories of his culture, and inspire your imagination, collaborating with talented local Hmong musicians Oskar Ly, Tieng Hang, Shu Lor, Josh Kue, Kenny Lee, Edward Thao, Neuchee Yang, and Sunshine Mouacheupao.




Leah Lemm 

Saturday, February 10th, 2018


Leah Lemm is a singer/songwriter and member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Lemm’s RUINS travels through the course of moments, the times between waking and dreaming, and across a land that has intelligence and emotion – at the cusp of deterioration and rebuilding. The work is vocally and lyrically driven with piano as a loyal sidekick, and the rhythm section as companion characters. Lemm weaves Morse code and sirens into the composition, calling on poetic sounds to add to the cinematic, post-apocalyptic landscape.




Julian Manzara

Saturday, February 10th, 2018


Guitarist and composer Julian Manzara presents “Lineage: Two Generations of Midwestern Blues”, a set of original, blues-based music. Playing an electronically-enhanced guitar, Manzara displays a new vision for blues guitar in the 21st century, contrasted by the playing of his father, the eccentric blues master Cleo Patricx, also on electric guitar, along with an eight-piece band comprised of saxophone, trumpet, trombone, keyboard, electric bass. The goal of the performance is to show the importance of lineage in blues music.





Saturday, February 10th, 2018


“Book of L” is a multimedia coming-of-age story written by vocalist and musician Ashantiva. Indie-pop and experimental electronic soundscapes open a door into the inner life of L, a young woman writer created by collaging pieces of Ashantiva’s journals with those of Sylvia Plath, Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf and Anaïs Nin. L’s journey from teen writer to emerging artist is dramatized with intricate and striking graphic novel-style illustrations by Bly Pope and performed by the band Psychic Revival. Introspective, ambitious and creative, L, like many women, experiences violence and harassment in her search for her artistic voice.