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R&B, jazz musician, composer Ledisi heads to Berklee

Named first artist in residence at school’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice

Scott Haas
R&B,  jazz musician, composer  Ledisi  heads  to Berklee

Musician, composer, actress and author Ledisi will be coming to Boston for a year as the first artist in residence at the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. As artist in residence, Ledisi will be teaching, running workshops, advising students and, of course, performing!

Born in New Orleans and raised in Oakland, California, Ledisi (Anibade Young) is an artist whose work defies categorization. Known for winning a Grammy Award in 2021 for Best Traditional R&B Performance for her song “Anything for You,” Ledisi also received a Grammy nomination for “Ledisi Sings Nina” in the Best Traditional Pop Album category and has a total of 14 Grammy nominations. Her voice has a soulful depth as well as improvisational quality associated with jazz. “Ledisi Sings Nina” can be understood as a tribute to the late, great Nina Simone, but Ledisi also uses these songs to express her own thoughts and feelings. R&B, jazz, gospel, whatever you want to call what you hear from her, that personal and historical approach opens all sorts of musical doors.

Ledisi also has a successful acting career, including the role of Blues Singer in the 2008 film “Leatherheads,” directed by George Clooney, as Patti LaBelle on the hit BET series “American Soul,” and most recently as Mahalia Jackson in the film “Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story,” which made its debut as the opener for the 2022 Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles. Coming up: Ledisi will portray Gladys Knight in “Spinning Gold,” a biopic about Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart. That film also includes Wiz Khalifa (aka Cameron Jibril Thomaz) as the musical genius George Clinton.

As for writing, Ledisi released her first book, “Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power,” in collaboration with Essence magazine. Her latest book, “Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk: How to Embrace Your Journey,” about the lessons life teaches us, was released in March 2020 through her company Chinweya Publishing.

These numerous achievements attracted the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, which was founded by the multitalented musician and composer Terri Lyne Carrington in 2018. The institute’s mission is to focus on “equity in the jazz field and the role that jazz can play in the larger struggle for gender justice,” as well as to highlight contributions women have made to the development of jazz.

“It is an honor to welcome the acclaimed performer, songwriter, actress and producer Ledisi to Berklee,” says Carrington. “Ledisi’s residency marks a historic moment for the Institute. I know her presence here at Berklee will be a gift to the students and greater artistic community on campus.”

Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice offers numerous events that are open to the public. On Oct. 6, students directed by Edmar Colón will perform “new standards” from the Institute’s “101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers,” as well as original compositions. The event, part of the Institute’s Signature Series, takes place at 7 p.m. in the Red Room at Cafe 939, located at 939 Boylston St., and admission is $10.