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Collaborating Artist Profile: Avery R. Young

In 2016, Derek Lee McPhatter engaged an exciting roster of guest artists to build the musical world of Bring the Beat Back. Here’s a bit more from Avery R. Young, who led development of the music we hear on the musicship megarhythmic (mamaship).

BTBB: Please tell us a bit about your background and work on Bring the Beat Back.
AY: I am Avery R. Young. I am an arts educator and performer. I am also a composer. Some of my songs are featured in the performance extravaganza, Bring The Beat Back.

BTBB: How Did You Get Involved with Bring the Beat Back?
AY: I became involved with the show at the invite of its creator, Derek Lee McPhatter. We had a couple of dinners and a brunch where he explained the show and what he wanted and I was down.

BTBB: What do you find most interesting / entertaining about the show?
AY: The most entertaining and interesting part of the show is all that the show is fusing. The intersection of religion, blackness, queerness, acceptance & love. The show is dissecting a lot. As a number of people do. A lot of folk out here juggling and this show is about what Derek has juggled & is still juggling.

BTBB: What do you hope audiences experience in April?
AY: I hope the audience experiences a good time. There is a way in which a room fill of black & same-gender-loving folk can institute a space where all the occupants can become family. It's a decadent defense. A decadent magic trick as well. I hope the audience experiences black queer magic.

BTBB: What else are you working on?
AY: What am I not working on? I am working on new music, my manuscript & a way to merge the two inside a couple performance pieces based on black Chicago (America).


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Avery R. Young

Best known as a poet, songwriter, and performer, multi-disciplinary artist Avery R. Young is also an award-winning teaching artist who mentors youths in the crafts of creative writing and theater. He has been an Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago and has written curriculum for Columbia College Chicago, Young Leeds Authors, True Star Magazine, and Chicago Public Schools Art Integration Department. Young’s poems and essays on HIV awareness, misogyny, race records, and art integration have been published in The BreakBeat Poets, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, AIMPrint, and other anthologies.

His album booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid combines his poetry and sound design to discuss matters of race, gender, and sexuality in America during the Obama Era. Avery’s work in performance, visual text, and sound design has been featured in several exhibitions and online publications---notably The Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and American Jazz Museum. He currently works as a teaching artist, mentoring Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble and performing with his band, de deacon board.


Alexa as "Dayton" - Revelation of the Beat video shoot - King is a Fink Productions

Alexa as "Dayton" - Revelation of the Beat video shoot - King is a Fink Productions

During the 2016 Bring the Beat Back music workshops in Chicago, Derek took his time searching for a musical artist who reflected his vision for the main character: Dayton MacNamara Black. ALEXA’s unique creative aesthetic, powerhouse vocals and impressive music composition talents were an excellent match for the music development process. We spent some time with ALEXA for more perspective...

BTBB: Please Tell Us About Yourself?
AG: I am ALEXA GRÆ - performance artist - teacher. i wrote a few songs for Bring the Beat Back with the character Dayton in mind.

BTBB: How Did You Get Involved with Bring the Beat Back?
AG: Derek, the mastermind behind Bring the Beat Back, approached me. we had drinks on a perfect summer day. they "pitched" BTBB to me and i was into it from the jump. blown away by the vision and possibility of this project. met up with some friends right after and did my own "pitch" and they shared the same feelings of excitement.

BTBB: What Do You Find Most Interesting/Entertaining About the Show?
AG: What I find most interesting about this show is its focus on so many issues that i've dealt with personally, ideas of fantasy, and imagination, or questions that remain unanswered. drawn to questions around religion/spirituality, reconciliation of queerness and religion, ball culture, black sci-fi, black stories, love, black love, vulnerability, black vulnerability, vulnerability embodied in a young queer black man/boi/femme being. intersectional maximalism. let's talk about it all.

BTBB: What Do You hope Audiences Experience in April?
AG: Wow - I hope they experience the richness and depth of this project. a performance can exist in multiple worlds - worlds in which serious/difficult stories are being shared while also experiencing moments of pure joy...while getting your life on a dance floor ...isn't that why dance floors exist?

BTBB: What Else Are You Working On?
AG: At the moment i'm finishing up a "visual song cycle" titled SEEN it's a bit massive - taking up most of my brain power. with that nearing the end I can focus on performance of the finished goods and jump back into some exciting collaborations that are in the works. checkout my page for content and updates ALEXA GRÆ

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ALEXA GRÆ's work is a combination of artistic disciplines informed by specialized academic training in music composition and opera. Rigorous training as an opera student challenged them to transcend the boundaries of various art forms and to understand cultural boundaries of art in the everyday world. They bridge these chasms by focusing on how art informs identities, socialization habits, self-expression, and the ability to create, creating genre-defying performances that incorporate multiple dance styles, theatrical personas, and experimental storytelling styles. Themes of deconstructing classical forms, beliefs about the feminine and masculine, and channeling greater collective consciousness find an evolving presence in ALEXA GRÆ's work. Their mission is to identify moments of pure imagination and innocent creation, harnessing the immediate kinship it creates in order to draw us all toward something divine, something as yet to be defined.



I have to share that we lost artist-activist Andre Alexander Lancaster this autumn. He believed in Bring the Beat Back before there was a single word on a page and nurtured its early development via a residency with Freedom Train Productions.

Losing Andre hit us hard. I’m grieving and don’t expect I’ll be over it anytime soon, but this somber time also gave cause to reaffirm my commitment to bringing this show to life.  And I’m thrilled to announce that Bring the Beat Back will be in Philadelphia as part of the University of the Arts Polyphone Music Festival, with presentations on Feb 26, 28 and March 2. The official announcement will be going out after New Year’s so stay tuned!

And that’s just one of several opportunities-in-progress for this passion project of mine.  Can’t wait to share more.

- Derek