The performing arts have suffered greatly during the pandemic. Closed venues meant little-to-no work for artists. Production crews who managed sound, lighting, staging, every aspect of a production also struggled. Some artists figured out a way to make it through the storm. Damien Sneed has been one of those who kept his eye on several options. Beginning April 16 through April 22, “Damien Sneed and Friends” will perform a streaming concert presented by Washington Performing Arts on their Home Delivery Plus platform. The concert was pre-recorded at the historic Lincoln Theatre on U Street in northwest D.C.
Joining Sneed, a Dove and NAACP Image Award-winning producer and recording artist is special guest Tasha Page-Lockhart. Page-Lockhart is one of the top singers in Christian R&B and urban contemporary gospel. She comes from a family of gospel music artists, but Page-Lockhart may be best known as the season six winner of “Sunday Best” on BET. Backing up Sneed are her “Friends” — vocalists Tiffany Stevenson, Matia Washington, Linny Smith and Chenee Campbell — who enjoy high demand individually as top vocalists who have worked other singers.
The Making of a CD and a Concert
On April 16, Sneed’s “Unplugged” CD will also be released. Page-Lockhart is not on the CD. The CD was created from a session Sneed was working on last year with his “Friends,” the same group performing in the Washington Performing Arts concert. According to Sneed, the CD recording session was a spontaneous happening.
“It felt good. Something just started happening in the recording,” said Sneed about the unexpected recording. “I said you know what, let’s keep going and see what happens. We had not rehearsed any of the songs. I just said follow me.”
For the CD and the concert, Sneed delivers gentle, beautiful piano chords. His arrangements allow the vocals to be heard to ultimate fullness. Listeners will approve. “Unplugged” is not Sneed’s first CD. The most recent CDs are on Sneed’s boutique label, LeChateau Earl Records. “Classically Harlem,” his debut classical CD, and “We Shall Overcome Deluxe” are both on his music label.
Working with the Best to Deliver the Best
Sneed has worked across many music genres including jazz, classical, pop and R&B. For the “Damien and Friends” concert and CD, he describes his style as a cross between jazz, inspirational, and sacred. This multi-talented musician is a pianist, vocalist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer, and arts educator. Before the U.S. was locked down during the pandemic, Sneed was in rehearsal for a national Aretha Franklin tribute tour.
For Sneed, the list of performers he has worked in his career represents a “who’s who” in music including Franklin, Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, J’Nai Bridges, Lawrence Brownlee, Brandie Inez Sutton, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker and Marvin Sapp. He also has worked with fellow Howard University alumni Richard Smallwood and operatic soprano Jessye Norman.
When not preparing for performances or producing other artists Sneed is a respected music educator. He is currently on the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, the conservatory where he teaches graduate-level courses in conducting and African American Music History. He works with the conservatory’s singer/songwriter ensemble, gospel music ensemble and gives private lessons in piano, voice and composition. In 2020, he joined the faculty of Michigan State University as artist-in-residence.
Damien Sneed: @DamienSneed
Washington Performing Arts: @WashPerformArts