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Great Art for Good Works

Seed Artists presents adventurous jazz, creative-music and arts programming that serves five primary goals:


  • enrich and broaden the cultural fabric;

  • inspire the next generation to be curious, creative and self-confident;

  • encourage engagement in the arts;

  • build community through collaboration;

  • foster inter-generational and cross-cultural exchange.



Seed Artists was founded in 2005, in Brooklyn, by renowned drummer Pheeroan akLaff; his wife, Luz Marina Bueno; and Roy Frasier and Gillian Frasier, Esq. Artist and scholar Dr. Charles Martin soon joined them. The goal: Use music to bridge gaps between generations and cultures, promote community involvement, and provide music education to underserved youth.


In its first few years, with a grant from The Community Round Table of L.R.E.I., Seed Artists created a series of grassroots projects: Music instruction with high-school and middle-school students, who then performed choral concerts at nursing homes, hospices and community gardens. A music workshop at a women’s homeless shelter. Concerts in public spaces. The Re: Fresh concert series at Kampo Bahal Gallery in SoHo, which presented a slate of international creative musicians.




When akLaff and Bueno moved to Montclair, New Jersey, in 2010, Seed was dormant for a couple of years. Then akLaff met Chris Napierala, Seed’s Creative Director, at a yard sale. They started to talk music, the Montclair arts scene, and the socioeconomic landscape in town, and plans to revive Seed Artists soon followed.


In late 2013, finding no tribute for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the death of Eric Dolphy, Seed decided to create one. Thus emerged Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound, a wildly ambitious project given that Seed had no funds, no paid staff, no office, and no experience producing a major event. Truly DIY.


Over the next several months, Seed both conceived and organized a major two-day arts festival and began to build an organization—a new Board of Directors, volunteers, a vision. The core group: akLaff, Napierala, Bueno, Diane Moser, Michael Schreiber, William Scheckel, Trae Bodge, Kamillah akLaff and Veronica Nunn.


Freedom of Sound and Beyond

In May 2014, Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound indeed made history with the debut of previously unheard Dolphy compositions, which now reside in the Library of Congress. A world premiere important enough to rate the Arts cover of The New York Times. And a remarkable slate more than 40 musicians, artists and scholars, from legends to young innovators. New works dedicated to Dolphy, reworkings of Dolphy classics, Dolphy set to vocals, dance, poetry. And a symposium featuring the eminent Gunther Schuller.


Impressive enough to draw the support of Nat Hentoff, who wrote the intro for the playbill, and George Wein, the father of the jazz festival as we know it.


That’s the great art. The good works? From festival proceeds, Seed helped to fund two very worthy nonprofits—the Jazz Foundation of America, and the Montclair Academy of Dance and Laboratory of Music.


Thus Seed began to build a year-round slate of adventurous music and arts programming that will enrich the community and inspire the next generation. And we’ll keep supporting programs that inspire us and make the world a better place. We hope you will join us.

Our Leadership


Founder and
Artistic Director

Founder of Seed Artists, Pheeroan akLaff is an internationally renowned drummer, composer, bandleader and educator. He has performed and recorded with legendary artists since his arrival in New York in 1975.


Mr. akLaff has taught American Drum-set at Wesleyan University for 22 years and leads music workshops worldwide.


Through Seed Artists he has mentored youth, produced musical events in homeless shelters, hospices, community gardens, and university forums.

Director of Institutional Advancement​

For more than 20 years, Chris Napierala has worked as a criminal-mitigation and alternatives-to-incarceration expert, primarily in New York City. As Founder and Director Sentencing Alternatives and Defense Advocacy Services, he has advocated on behalf of defendants in state and federal courts, diverting hundreds of adolescent, addicted, mentally ill and developmentally disabled clients to rehabilitation programs.


Chris previously served as Editor and Senior Advocate at The Osborne Association. His work has been presented in front of the United States Supreme Court. In 2005, in conjunction with the Center for Appellate Litigation, his work contributed to New York State’s sole prisoner clemency in three years.

Pheeroan akLaff

Chris Napierala


Executive Director

20 plus years of diversified executive experience in arts and culture sector with proven records of re-imaging organization​’​s brand and profile with innovative programs development. Extensive experience with government contracts and procurement process, capital projects and special events. Innovative producer with cross spectrum projects in jazz, classical, world music, theater, multimedia, film, dance, and visual arts.

Cathy Hung

Board of Directors

Board of Directors

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Seed Artists co-founder LUZ MARINA BUENO is a mental-health counselor with more than twenty years of experience in family counseling. She conjoins psychotherapy with a holistic approach to cultural adaptation, and helps children adjust to American society and its educational system.

John Ehlis

JOHN EHLIS is a guitarist, mandolinist, composer, bandleader and educator. Drawn to traditional and folk music from around the world, he blends the sounds of many cultures into his own unique style. John learned the mandolin busking on the streets of Denmark, Germany and Italy, and has studied various woodwind and percussion instruments, including the Balinese Gamelan. In Zimbabwe, he performed with Motsi Uruka at the Amakhosi Theatre in Bulawayo.  He also performs and studies the music of the Basques.


Among the jazz avant-garde, John has performed with John Tchicai, Oliver Lake, Joseph Jarman, Karl Berger, Perry Robinson, and Francis Wong. He has performed or recorded with frame-drum master Glen Velez, vocalists Marie Afonso, Loire Cotler and Olivia Faschi; instrument-maker Ken Butler, mandolinist Joe Craven, classical guitarist Philip Hii, world-music pioneer Sylvain Leroux, Slovakian poet Gabriel Ariel Levicky, Russian painter Andrey Tamarchenko, dancer Charmaine Warren, tap dancer Jon Luks, singer-songwriters Scott E. Moore and Jessica Owen, Argentine guitarists Juan Falu and Quique Sinesi, Basque musicians Kepa Junkera and Tapia & Leturria, Ghanian musician Zorkie Nelson, Danish drummer Kresten Osgood, Finnish saxophonist Mikko Innanen, Pakistani singer Fawzia Afzal Khan, pianist/composer Elizabeth Woodbury-Kasius (Heard). John performs in Trio EWM with saxophonist Tony White and percussionist Ray McNamara, and with the Sense of Values Quartet featuring cellist Amalia Lopez Chueca and pianist Jose Ignacio Hernandez.


John has taught music in the Montclair Public Schools for many years.

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Jazz singer-songwriter, podcaster and community activist VERONICA NUNN, hailed as “A Genuine Jazz Diva” by the Bravo Channel, has three well-received releases under her own name. The latest, The Art of Michael Franks, explores her 22-years’ work with him as featured vocalist. Ms. Nunn came up under the great tenorman and bandleader George Walker, a.k.a. Big Nick Nicholas, famously a mentor to John Coltrane, and has performed with Doc Cheatham, Eddie Durham, Eddie Harris, Red Norvo, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, and Astrud & João Gilberto, among many others. Among her many international performances, she sang in the opening ceremony and concert at the International 2009 Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia and is Artist in Residence at Institut Musik Daya Indonesia. In 2008, Ms. Nunn recorded an episode of Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. In addition to hosting, writing and producing the podcast Tales From the Jazz Side, Ms. Nunn is co-founder of Dead Horse Records and CEO of Full Gallop Entertainment, Inc.

Maxine Roach

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MAXINE ROACH graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, studied at theInstitute for Advanced Musical Studies (Switzerland), and was a student of Emmanuel Hirsh, Heidi Castleman, and Jesse Levine. She was a member of Noel Pointer’s String Reunion, a string chamber orchestra in the 1970s.  

In the 1990s, Maxine began to perform with her father, Max Roach, as a member of the string quartet in the Max Roach Double Quartet. He created the Uptown String Quartet, which composed original works and commissioned original works and arrangements from prominent jazz artists. The USQ eventually created and performed its own repertoire, spanning the breadth of African-American music—from spirituals to Charles Parker to James Brown. As a tribute to her father, Maxine arranged one of his compositions, “Extensions,” for the USQ. The arrangement garnered her a Grammy nomination. For more than ten years, the Uptown String Quartet performed in churches, nightclubs and festivals across the United States and Europe. They performed at  Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center; Castle Bari, in Italy; the Pori Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival, among many others. In 1997, they appeared on the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. 

As a freelance musician, Maxine’s performance and recording credits include Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughn, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, Abbey Lincoln, Woody Shaw, Luther Vandross, Elvis Costello, Oliver Lake, Alicia Keys, Barbara Streisand, Rod Stewart, Andrea Bocelli, Anthony Davis, Beyoncé, Ron Carter, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., FrankSinatra, Roberta Flack, Savion Glover, Shirley Bassey, Wynton Marsalis, Cleo Laine, SmokeyRobinson, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Johnny Mathis, Wyclef Jean, Britney Spears, Lenny Kravitz, The Four Tenors, KD Lang, Valerie Capers, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Joffrey Ballet,American Composers Orchestra, Dance Theater of Harlem, and the New York Pops Orchestra. Her extensive Broadway credits include Dreamgirls, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Sound of Music, La Bohème, Phantom, Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy, and she appears on the soundtracks for the Spike Lee movies Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Clockers, and Crooklyn. 

Maxine served on the Board of Directors for Chamber Music America; the Executive Board of Local 802 (NYC AFM musicians’ union); and the Board of Governors, New York Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. She has performed in many benefits, including “On the Twentieth Century” for the Actors Fund, and with Bobby Short, “Short & amp; Uptown,” for the Bloomfield College Scholarship Fund. Among her awards are the Manna House Workshops Award from the East Harlem Performing Arts Center, the Tatiana Troyanos Memorial Award from The Brooklyn Music School, and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Bloomfield College.

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MICHAEL SCHREIBER is Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer of, where he manages content for the site and directs communications and media strategy. He previously worked as a journalist and editor, producing documentaries for The New York Times, Frontline, and ABC News, among others, and is co-recipient of two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Broadcast News Awards and two Emmy Awards. Mr. Schreiber also served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, of which he is a graduate.

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GILLIAN FRASIER, ESQ, is a retired New York City Public Schools teacher, activist and Brooklyn homemaker. A pioneer in the first Peace Corps, Gillian worked in Malawi and Ethiopia, where she met her husband, fellow volunteer Roy Frasier. Mr. Frasier was the first African-American student to graduate from the University of North Carolina. The Frasiers are founding members of Seed Artists.

Advisory Board

Richard Davis 3.jpg

RICHARD DAVIS is one of the great bassists in jazz history, and he has performed and recorded across genres, from classical to rock. DownBeat named him “Best Bassist” from 1967-74, and in 2014, he was named NEA Jazz Master. Richard is also a much-honored civil-rights activist and educator. For four decades, he was Professor of Bass (European Classical and Jazz), Jazz History and Combo Improvisationat the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, in 1993, he founded the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists, which still operates an annual camp for aspiring bassists ages 3-18.


As a child in Chicago, Davis sang bass with his brothers in in his family's vocal trio. He studied double bass in high school with Walter Dyett, was a member of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras After high school, and studied with Rudolf Fahsbender of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra while attending VanderCook College of Music. After college and stints in dance bands, he began to perform with pianist Don Shirley, and togetherthey moved to New York City in 1954. 


Over the next 23 years in New York, Richard established himself as one of the most compelling and versatile bassists in contemporary music. In 1957, after a year in the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, he became bassistfor Sarah Vaughan, with whom he remained until 1960. His jazz credits during the 1960s include some of the most important recordings of that fertile era, from Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch! and Andrew Hill's Point of Departureto classic sessions with Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Oliver Nelson, Roland Kirk and Charles Lloyd. From 1966–1972, he was a member of The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Among many others, Richard has played with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, Ben Webster, Ruth Brown, Dexter Gordon, Ahmad Jamal, Dorothy Ashby, Sam Rivers, Candido Camero, JJ Johnson, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Chet Baker, Pharoah Sanders, Johnny Hodges, Clark Terry, David Murray, Joe Zawinul, and Charles Mingus. 


In classical music, Richard has played under the baton of Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller, Leopold Stokowski, and Arthur Szell. In the 1970s, Richard figured in many important pop and rock releases. He led the band and played bass on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, of which critic Greil Marcus wrote, "Richard Davis provided the greatest bass ever heard on a rock album." Richard also appeared on Laura Nyro's Smile, Bruce Springsteen's Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. and Born to Run, and Janis Iaian’s Between the Lines. All told, he has appeared on more than 3,000 recordings, nearly 30 as leader or co-leader.


As a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Richard taught bass, jazz history, and improvisation, and mentored countless musicians for four decades. Among his former students William Parker and Karl E. H. Seigfried. In 1993, Richard founded the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists, which  annually brings in 17 master bassists to teach young bassists. In 1998,  he created the Retention Action Project (R.A.P.), focused on open dialogue on multicultural differences. Richard was instrumental in bringing noted social-change activists to campus and founded the Madison chapter of the Institutes for the Healing of Racism. Among more than 40 awards for his teaching and activism, Richard has received honorary doctorates in Musical Arts and Humane Letters; the Hilldale Award for DistinguishedTeaching the Governor of Wisconsin Arts Award; the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award, bestowed annually by the City of Madison;the Exceptional Service Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and the Spencer Tracy Award for Distinction in the Performing Arts, from the Wisconsin Historical Society.


Richard has appeared twice with Seed Artists. He was featured musician at Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound, for which he played both nights and sat on a panel that included Gunther Schuller and James Newton (moderator). In November 2015, Richard performed in a concert recording at William Paterson University’s Jazz Room series with his quartet from the festival—Richard, Andrew Cyrille, Angelica Sanchez, Aska Kaneko.

Charles Martin.jpg

CHARLES MARTIN, PHD, is Associate Professor and past Chair of Comparative Literature at Queens College-City University of New York, and a photographer, digital filmmaker and writer. His book of photographs, Because of Algiers, was published in 2013, and his photos have been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, at June Kelly Gallery (New York) and galleries nationwide, and at museums and colleges in Paris, Brazil and Algeria. His documentary films include Warren Smith, Percussionist and Archivist; The Hewitt Collection of African American Art; A Brush with Success, on Abstract Expressionist painter Edward Clark; and Hats. by Bunn., on a milliner in Harlem. Dr. Martin was Editor of the Newsletter of the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theater Center and is Co-Director of the Hybrid Media Project. Awards include Artist in Residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Tinker Foundation, West Virginia University and Yale University. Dr. Martin holds a B.A. in English and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese from Yale University.

Diane Moser

Diane Moser: In Memoriam

In addition to being an inspirational force with her music, Diane Moser helped Seed Artists execute our mission to serve our community with stimulating arts from creative colleagues. She had a vivacious spirit and was always brimming with ideas that would recognize the contribution of Jazz masters who guided us. Her breadth as a composer and improvisor was demonstrated in small and large ensembles. We will miss her voice and her presence, but cherish her contributions as a comrade in disseminating the wisdom of our ancestors.

    - Pheeroan akLaff, Executive Director



It is with heavy heart that Seed Artists mourns the loss of Diane Moser, who passed away on December 17. Diane lived the music, as composer, pianist, bandleader, educator and mentor--and as a tireless advocate for her fellow musicians, for new works, and for opening ears and minds. She led her rousing, risk-taking Composers Big Band for 23 years, and connected countless colleagues and students who went on to create new projects.

And Diane was a founding Board member of "Seed Artists 2.0," in Montclair, where she played an integral role in helping us bring adventurous music to new audiences. Willing, always, to do whatever it took to get the music heard. Just as she did at our Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound festival in May 2014. Not only did Diane compose a new work, "Birdsongs for Eric," and perform it with her band, she did everything from posting flyers to selling t-shirts. These images from her sublime set at the festival express well the joy that she brought to and took from the creative experience.


Diane made things happen, and she made the world a better place. We miss her.




We are enormously (enormously) grateful to the volunteers who give their time, energy and ideas to help us create and produce our programming. From setting up chairs and taking tickets at concerts to fundraising, social media, Storybuilding Camp for kids and collecting books for jailed teens, our volunteers make it possible for Seed Artists to realize our mission: Great Art for Good Works.


Whether you have a couple hours to spare once a week, a month or a year, we can use the extra hands and minds. Click here to let us know what you can do and when!

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