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Philadelphia Diary : The Composers

Dozia Blakey is a record producer, "Billboard" reporter and one of the national club scene's most well-known DJs who brought the sounds of sweet soul and acid jazz to Philadelphia. He has produced nearly a dozen original recordings or remixes, including the wildly popular "Pop Kulture," "Steal Away" and "Shape Shifter." In addition to keeping the floors moving at the Black Banana, Silk City, Club Shampoo and the mobile club Vagabond, Blakey has played regularly in Atlanta, Florida, New York and Germany.

Tina Davidson is an accomplished musician and composer who was composer-in-residence for the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia and currently serves as composer-in-residence for the Fleisher Art Memorial. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, who grew up in New York and Pittsburgh, Davidson has written for orchestra, mixed instrumental and vocal ensembles, soloists and works with pre-recorded tape playback. Her music has been performed throughout the United States and parts of Europe by many orchestras and ensembles. She recently composed two operas - "Billy and Zelda," which was premiered by OperaDelaware in December of 1998, and "The Selkie Boy," which will be performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra this season. Ms. Davidson, who has been awarded numerous grants and a $50,000 Pew Fellowship, released her first solo compact disc, "I Hear the Mermaids Singing," in 1996. She has also been instrumental in breaking down barriers between audiences and new music, working with homeless women at a YWCA residential facility and students at local elementary schools to support them in writing small operas about their own lives. She currently lives in West Philadelphia.

Steven A. Ford is a Philadelphia-born music consultant, award-winning record producer, internationally respected musician and teacher who serves as CEO of SyRue Productions Group, Inc., in Philadelphia. A well-known lecturer who has taught many symposiums and workshops on music and music ministry in the African-American church, he also heads the music department and serves as minister of music for The Straight Gate Church in Detroit. Ford, who plays the piano and viola and was appointed head musician of his father's church when he was just 10 years old, has developed a multi-faceted career. He has performed with, recorded with or written arrangements for many internationally known artists, including Whitney Houston, Phoebe Snow, Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin and Branford Marsalis. Six of the nearly 50 albums Mr. Ford has produced received Grammy nominations. His arrangements have been heard on numerous television commercials, network specials and films, as well as several local, Broadway and national theater productions. He has served as musical director for several performing acts, including Phyllis Hyman and the eight-time Grammy Award-winning musical family, "The Winans." He currently lives in the Art Museum section of Philadelphia.

Odean Pope is a highly celebrated jazz musician, composer and music teacher who cultivated his own saxophone choir, consisting of nine saxophones, piano, bass and drums. He has played tenor sax with legendary drummer Max Roach for many years, touring internationally and producing numerous records with Roach and several of his own. The recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Pew Foundation, Pope has been active in music education since 1967, leading symposiums, serving artist-in-residence terms and teaching at the Settlement Music School. He has been heralded for his innovative compositions and arrangements, including "Cis," a tribute to his wife that was recorded by the Saxophone Choir, and "Overture," extracted segments of original compositions arranged for the Uptown String Quartet.

Elio Villafranca is a pianist, composer and percussionist who blends his Cuban roots with an education in classical music and passion for American jazz to create innovative, cross-cultural music. A graduate of the Institute Superior de Arte in Havana, Mr. Villafranca has performed his original arrangements at the Mellon/PSFS Jazz Festival, the Willingboro Jazz Festival and the Mann Music Center as well as at workshops and residencies such as the John Coltrane Project of Philadelphia. He has recorded and performed with a number of artists, including Jane Bunnett & The Spirits of Havana, Bobby Carcases, Carlos Varela and the folkloric group Oba-Ilu. A resident of Huntingdon Valley, Villafranca has toured nearly a dozen countries in Europe and South America and written two books on Cuban music.

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