2022 Roulette Commissioned Artist
Sonya Belaya returns to Roulette to premiere her commission New Childhood, written for her band Дача (pronounced “Dacha”), a word in Russian meaning a summer home that is a resting place of simpler means. The ensemble explores the intersection of improvisation, Russian folk music, Soviet bard songs, and American jazz.
New Childhood explores Belaya’s journey since her Dacha: Live at Roulette release in 2020. The music is convening with PTSD diagnosis, sexuality and harassment, the female body and its changing form, the loss of her grandfather (a lifelong pediatrician) to COVID, and the continued unfolding of her mother’s sudden disappearance in 2014.
New Childhood considers meeting the present self in communion with the inner child. In its most grounded form, the music guides a pathway to healing by providing the inner child with a “new childhood” in its adult iteration. Inspired by the writings of bell hooks and Sonya Renee Taylor, Belaya centers the commitment to spiritual growth as a template for communal healing.
Sonya Belaya, voice/piano/synth/compositions
Stephen Boegehold, drums/compositions
Nick Dunston, bass
Ledah Finck, violin
Wesley Hornpetrie, cello
Doyeon Kim, gayageum
Kalia Vandever, trombone
Chris Williams, trumpet
Sonya Belaya is a first-generation Russian-American pianist, singer, composer, and improviser, who divides her time between Michigan and New York. Committed to multiplicity, she is a diverse music-maker invested in vulnerable art and the development intimate, meaningful collaborations. Her work explores the integration of women’s trauma and the immigrant experience as musical narrative by centering power-sharing and storytelling as a symbol of healing through vulnerability. Sonya’s awards include the 2021 American Composers Forum Create Award, the 2020-2021 Resident Artist & 2021-2022 Commissioned Artist at Roulette Intermedium, made possible by the Jerome Foundation. Sonya’s lead project is “Dacha”, an octet flowing freely through influences of creative music, jazz, folk, and contemporary music. The ensemble seeks to preserve and re-contextualize the ancestral memories of Russian folk traditions. Consisting of musicians from diverse music backgrounds, the project uses storytelling and improvisation as a governing principle to transcend these differences for deeper musical dialogue. Dacha was born out of a necessity to find a sense of home and belonging, when Belaya’s mother went missing in 2014. This resulted in the first project, “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, a five song cycle released in May 2019. Belaya released a second album with the ensemble, “Dacha: Live at Roulette”, in September 2020. Belaya has collaborated with Amir ElSaffar, John Roberts, WildUp, New Music Detroit, and Detroit Composers Project. Sonya is an active educator focused on offering music as a means of cultivating self-awareness. She has worked as a dance collaborator at the University of Michigan, Mark Morris Dance Center, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Martha Graham School. She is currently on faculty at Adelphi University’s Department of Dance and Kaufman Music Center’s Face The Music. Belaya is a Yamaha Artist.
Stephen Boegehold is a drummer and composer based in New York City. As a collaborator, Stephen has worked with many of his generation’s forward-thinking jazz and improvising artists including David Leon, Jessica Ackerley, Alex Levine, Marcus Elliot, and Roulette Intermedium Artists in Residence Sonya Belaya and Nick Dunston, whose 2020 release Atlantic Extraction: Live at Threes appeared on Downbeat’s best albums of 2020 list. He has appeared on more than a dozen recordings by peers and mentors, including Amir ElSaffar’s musical re-imagination of The Mother produced by The Wooster Group theater company.
Nick Dunston is an acoustic and electroacoustic composer, improviser, and bassist. An “indispensable player on the New York avant-garde” (New York Times), his performances have also spanned a variety of venues and festivals across North America and Europe. He’s worked with artists such as Marc Ribot, Ches Smith, Mary Halvorson, Imani Uzuri, Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey, Anna Webber, Amirtha Kidambi, and Vijay Iyer. In addition to three studio albums released under his name, Dunston has also been commissioned by artists and ensembles such as Bang on a Can, JACK Quartet, Ex-Aequo, Bass Players for Black Composers, Johnny Gandelsman, T R O M P O, Maggie Cox, Joanna Mattrey, and Joy Guidry. In 2020 in collaboration with Dogbotic Labs, he co-created “Ear Re-training”, a music composition course on media-bending experimental techniques. He is currently Artist-in-Residence with Wet Ink Ensemble for the 2021-2022 season.
Ledah Finck is a violinist, violist, improviser, and composer who is a member of Mannes School of Music’s Graduate String Quartet in Residence, Bergamot Quartet. A passionate performer, creator, and curator of contemporary classical music, she is a co-founder of the Bergamot Quartet and experimental duo The Witches, in addition to being a member of Atlantic Extraction (jazz quintet led by Nick Dunston) and earspace ensemble (contemporary music ensemble based in Raleigh, NC). See the “PROJECTS” tab for more info about these ensembles. As a composer, she has been commissioned by Imani Winds, Alarm Will Sound/Now Hear This, Ayane and Paul, the Bridge Ensemble, and The Peabody Community Chorus among others. Her music embodies a desire to create and share a sound-world in which the classical tradition, the folk music with which she grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an extensive improvisatory sensibility can be in productive dialogue.
A native of Oklahoma City, cellist Wesley Hornpetrie now enjoys performing, collaborating, and teaching around the Washington D.C. region. She is mostly active as a member of ensembles and collectives, including Girlnoise, Virago, and her new music cello quartet, Hole in the Floor. Additionally, she is the executive director of Michigan-based concert music festival, Third Place [MusicFest]. Wesley has most recently collaborated with composers including Bryce Dessner, Annika Socolofsky, Tanner Porter, among others, and ensembles including Roomful of Teeth, JACK Quartet, and the Grand Rapids Ballet. She has been coached in chamber settings by yMusic, Harlem quartet, and International Contemporary Ensemble.
Kalia Vandever is a trombonist, composer, and educator living in Brooklyn, NY. She released her debut album, “In Bloom” in May, 2019 which features all of her original compositions written for quartet and duo with guitar. Kalia received her Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies at the Juilliard School in 2017. She has toured and performed internationally with her quartet, as well as a side-woman, performing with artists including Joel Ross, Maria Grand, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and others. While performing regularly as a bandleader and side-woman, Kalia is also an active composer and arranger. She has been commissioned to write works for groups and individuals including Tesla Quartet, The Westerlies, Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim, and Hats & Heels Duo.
Chris Ryan Williams is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based between NYC and LA and most at home collaborating with contemporary improvisers and experimentalists. He has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. His work explores the dyad of ancestral trauma and power existing in all Black Americans. Investigating this has led to the creation of the modular piece I Ain’t Got No Spare (2019) which interweaves performance, homemade electronics, sound and projection; presented at Clockshop with a second installation iteration at Shatto Gallery through CultureHub. Selected recent and upcoming projects include: mehahn a theatrical meditation on grief and hereditary dissonance created alongside director Natalia Lassalle-Morillo, Sans Soleil a duo with Patrick Shiroishi out on Astral Spirits (2021), On The Platform (2020) a collaboration with percussionist Booker Stardrum and animator Miranda Javid which premiered in the Netherlands at West Den Haag. Williams has received grants and/or been in residence with BANFF Centre for the Arts, Foundation of Contemporary Arts, CultureHub, Atlantic Center for the Arts, WasteLAnd, and others. Williams has collaborated with creators Eyvind Kang, Joanna Mattrey, Miriam Parker, Patrick Shiroishi, Bennie Maupin, Nicole Mitchell, Fay Victor, Wendy Eisenberg, Luke Stewart, Amanda Beech, Marjani Forte-Saunders, Eric Revis.