Jen Shyu– Guggenheim Fellow, USA Fellow, Doris Duke Artist, multilingual vocalist-composer-multi-instrumentalist-dancer JEN SHYU is “one of the most creative vocalists in contemporary improvised music” (The Nation). Born in Peoria, Illinois, to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrants and the first female and vocalist bandleader on Pi Recordings, she’s produced seven albums, performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is a Fulbright scholar speaking 10 languages. Her Song of Silver Geese was among New York Times’ “Best Albums of 2017.” She’s currently touring her solo ZERO GRASSES (commissioned by John Zorn)across all 50 states. She is also a Paul Simon Music Fellows Guest Artist and a Steinway Artist.

Sara Serpa – A native from Lisboa, Portuguese Sara Serpa is a singer, composer, improviser, who through her practice and performance, explores the use of the voice as an instrument, working in the field of jazz, improvised and experimental music, since moving to New York in 2008. Literature, film, visual arts, nature and history inspire Serpa in the creative process and development of her music. Described by the New York Times as “a singer of silvery poise and cosmopolitan outlook,” and by the JazzTimes magazine as “a master of wordless landscapes,” Serpa started her recording and performing career with jazz luminaries such as Grammy-nominated pianist, Danilo Perez, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow pianist, Ran Blake, and saxophonist Greg Osby.

What was our inspiration for creating this initiative? 

From our experience, it is still a challenge for many musicians to have access to meaningful and respectful mentorship in the music and arts worlds. 

We drew direct inspiration from our own work with the We Have Voice Collective, and from initiatives such as LeanIn Circles, MAP Fund’s SPA Program and Jennifer Koh’s “AloneTogether” project. Conversations with many artists, colleagues, and mentors such as the late Muhal Richard Abrams, who preferred the word “exchange” over the hierarchy that was implied in conventional “mentor-mentee” relationships, put forward the idea of mutual mentorship.

We hope that this concept helps build new paradigms of mentorship within our community, and helps connect womxn, BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ musicians, especially relevant in this time of isolation. We also hope that launching this initiative at this time will help us better prepare for industry shifts and create new strategies for perpetuating positive support for each other in our community.