Damien Sneed, an unmissable African American musical talent
With We Shall Overcome, Damien Sneed has created a musical homage to the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr. that crosses the entire United States and draws from eclectic musical genres. His talent has long been overlooked in Quebec…. But that’s about to change.
Damien Sneed jumps fearlessly from one role to the next, blending fine arts and pop art—pianist, composer, conductor, musical arranger, educator and inspiring musician. His career as a solo pianist, which led him to perform in prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall, often vies for space with his role as an orchestra conductor and his contributions to various operas, in addition to gospel concerts and collaborations with jazz and pop artists like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.
Musically gifted from a young age
Damien Sneed was just 3 years old when he began learning the piano. By age 5, he had mastered the instrument and was one of the main pianists at the church he and his family attended in Augusta, Georgia. He then began directing the seniors’ choir at the same church when he was only 8 years old!
This was just the beginning of a long and brilliant education: the list of his achievements is staggering. A graduate of the John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, he also attended numerous elite conservatories and renowned universities. He is regularly seen in the classrooms of New York University, where he completed a master’s degree in music and technology before joining the faculty.
Classical and gospel influences
His list of classical music achievements includes collaborations with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. His accompaniment of singer and performer Jessye Norman was particularly celebrated.
One of his biggest feats in terms of gospel music is the show and album Spiritual Sketches, created with famous tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Accustomed to performing in major events, Sneed also participated in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, and the concerts surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
In We Shall Overcome, Sneed spans two centuries of music and wide-ranging genres, creating a musical celebration of the civil rights movement. This repertoire is interwoven with excerpts taken from Martin Luther King’s speeches. Gospel standards and hits from artists including as Nina Simone and Simon & Garfunkel are included in this musical homage to the life and works of Dr. King, celebrating his message of love, peace, justice and compassion.
Damien Sneed will present We Shall Overcome on April 16, 2020, at the Théâtre Mainsonneuve.
Damien Sneed in three clicks
Call Him by His Name, a captivating interpretation of a gospel tune. Performed by Damien Sneed at the Lincoln Center in New York City.
At home with both spirituals and classical music, Damien Sneed here interprets a work by Brahms, with soprano Audrey Dubois Harris.
An excerpt from We Shall Overcome, a moving celebration that covers two hundred years of African American musical traditions, initially performed at Ginny’s Supper Club in New York City.