Presenters / Performers

Robin E. Beaman is a recognized leader in the fields of corporate relations, media relations and advertising. She is the president of Beaman Incorporated, an award-winning communications and advertising agency that has yielded tremendous dividends and successful wins for major organizations and Fortune 500 companies including Nielsen, Coca Cola, British Petroleum, Allstate, Illinois Department of Transportation, Revlon and HBO.  Robin received her Bachelor of Arts from the School of Communications at Howard University and her MS from the Kogod School of Business at American University. She is also the graduate of the Executive Professional Service Firm Program at Harvard University.

Leah Gipson is an Assistant Professor in the Art Therapy Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). She is a licensed clinical professional counselor, a registered and board-certified art therapist, with a Master of Arts in Art Therapy and a Master of Theological Studies. Her current research interests include womanism, black feminism, and the politics of care work. Gipson is a board member for A Long Walk Home, Inc., an organization that uses the arts to empower young people and end violence against women and girls, and an organizer of the Critical Pedagogy in the Arts Therapies Think Tank. Her recent and past projects include: DIVISIVE, a radio show that explores the intersections and interactivity between politics and cultural work; The Rectory, a participatory arts incubation project in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago; and Care Sessions, an arts and well-being program partnership with Chicago community organizers through the SAIC Office of Engagement at Homan Square.

Kedrick Armstrong, Conductor. He currently works throughout the Chicagoland area conducting orchestras, operas, and choirs. He serves as the Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton. Kendrick will be the assistant conductor for Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Freedom Ride during their 2019-20 season. Lyric’s community engagement and education group, Lyric Unlimited, partners with the Chicago Urban League to administer an afterschool program, “EmpowerYouth! Igniting Creativity through the Arts,” the first year of which culminated in a public performance of a student- produced musical stage work at the Lyric Opera House. Kedrick is an alum of the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow program, where he served as Assistant Conductor during the orchestra’s 2018-2019 season. He made his subscription debut conducting the orchestra on their annual MLK Tribute Concert. Kedrick also participates regularly in “Leading from Every Seat”, which is a diversity and inclusion program for business resource groups run by the orchestra’s administration. Kedrick graduated from Wheaton College with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music History and Literature, where his mentors were Jonathan Saylor and Johann Buis, and was named the 2015 Presser Scholar. As a conductor, Kedrick has been mentored by Mei-Ann Chen, Cliff Colnot, John Nelson, and Daniel Sommerville .

Christina Bourné is an accomplished arts administrator, educator, and performing artist based in Chicago, IL. She began her career as a public speaker and guest soloist for women’s and youth enrichment conferences across the Midwest before becoming a teaching artist and arts administrator.  During her career she has helped to create in-school and after school programs, facilitated workshops and lectures on various topics within the arts and education community, and curated concert and lecture based events to discuss social and cultural issues such as race, gender equality, and collective non-violence through the lens of the arts. Her past leadership roles in arts administration have been Director of Creative Engagement at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University where she grew the department’s program reach to 20,000+ participants per year, Interim Executive Director of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, and founding member and Program Manager for Enrich Chicago—an arts led movement aimed at undoing racism and building racial equity within the sector.   When not enhancing lives through arts advocacy or arts and enrichment program development, she can be found performing with her family of nine—comprised of her siblings and her mother—The Bournés. Christina is currently the Assistant Director of Development for the All Stars Project of Chicago and an independent nonprofit consultant working with organizations throughout Chicago and nationally with a focus on DEI, board development, fundraising, strategic planning, and organizational leadership.

LaRob K. Payton developed a love for singing at an early age. As he grew older, he recognized how powerful music was in those moments things got tough. As a native of Temple Hills Maryland, He found a spirit in the Gospel songs he sang, passion in the R&B he heard, and nuance in the Classical music he studied. A graduate of DePaul University where he received a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance, he has performed leading roles in DePaul Opera Theatre’s main-stage productions including Pistola (Falstaff), Superintendent Budd (Albert Herring), Colline (La Boheme), Giove (La Calisto), and Thoas (Iphigenie en Tauride), and studied with world-renowned teachers, directors, and coaches, including Michael Sylvester, Marc Embree, Harry Silverstein, Steven Mosteller, and Loren E. Meeker. LaRob has had musical opportunities that include traveling to study language, culture, and music in Urbania, Italy (Musica Nelle Marche)and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (Istituto de Bel Canto)He has performed with the DePaul Chamber Orchestra (Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Mahler), Chicago Summer Opera (Vater, Hansel und Gretel/Humperdinck) and been afforded many other opportunities to advance his vocal training and studies. LaRob continues to sing around the Chicago-area (William Ferris Chorale/North Shore Baptist Church) and hopes to gain healthy experience as an independent young artist.  In 2017, with the help of Scapi Magazine, he founded the Hearing in Color organization.

Patrick Dailey has been described as possessing “a powerful and elegant countertenor voice” (Los Angeles Daily News) and a “Vocal Standout” (Boston Classical Review). His artistry was identified early through the national NAACP ACT-SO Competition (2005 and 2006), the NFAA ARTS, and Grady-Rayam Prize In Sacred Music of the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation. Dailey made his professional operatic debut with Opera Saratogaas the first countertenor member of the company’s Young Artist program and was the first countertenor invited to Opera New Jersey’s Victoria J. Mastrobuono Emerging Artist program. Operatic repertoire includes Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Belize in Eötvös’ Angels in America. He performs regularly with Harlem Opera Theater, ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, Soulful Symphony,Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. As a scholar, he has presented at the Center for Black Music Research’s 2013 Black Vocality Symposium. Since that time, he been Artist-in-Residence and presented masterclasses and lectures at Southern University, Prairie View A&M University, the University of Arkansas, and Vanderbilt University. Mr. Dailey served as vocal music curator of the official MLK50 Commemoration at the National Civil Rights Museum on April 4, 2018 in Memphis, TN. Mr. Dailey is a graduate of Morgan State University and received his masters of music in voice and opera from Boston University.Mr. Dailey currently serves on the voice faculty at Tennessee State University (TSU). For more information, visit

For award-winning pianist and organist, Roderick Demmings Jr., music was an invariable undertaking. Born to a classical pianist and raised in a Black, southern Baptist church, the music to which he was exposed spanned the gamut from gospel to blues to jazz to soul to pop to RnB, in addition to classical. And after two years of formal training, at 12, “Rod” began his performance career at New York’s Carnegie Hall in a debut, solo performance. In addition to piano, Rod began taking pipe organ lessons at 12 and merited a full scholarship to attend Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in organ performance. 
Since Carnegie Hall, Rod’s performed on piano and organ around the globe. In the summer of 2011, he toured South Africa and Lesotho, performing for both Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. In July 2013, he toured Italy, performing at the Vatican in the presence of the Pope. Additional tours and performances have taken him to France, the Caribbean, New Zealand, and Canada. At home, Rod’s performed in concerts halls from Philadelphia’s Verizon Center to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, to Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, and many more.  The advent of social media catalyzed Rod’s fan base and, to that end, he’s had several videos to go viral, most notably his transcription of George Clinton’s “We Want the Funk” …on the Pipe Organ. Having a heart for social justice, Rod formed #BlackMusicMatters, an arts ensemble for singers and instrumentalists aimed at empowering and healing the Beloved Community” through Black Music. And on April 4, 2018, #BlackMusicMatters performed at the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN. Rod is the proud organist of the First Baptist Church of Baltimore.

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