Charlotte Blake Alston
“Master Storyteller, Narrator, and Singer”
Thursday, April 19, 2012
3:30pm – South Reading Youth Program
7:30pm – Performance
Charlotte Blake Alston is a storyteller, narrator, instrumentalist and singer who performs in venues throughout North America and abroad. Venues are wide and include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kimmel Center, the Women of the Word Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, prisons, detention centers and a refugee camp in northern Senegal.
She breathes life into traditional and contemporary stories from African and African American oral and cultural traditions. Her solo performances are often enhanced with traditional instruments such as djembe, mbira, shekere or the 21-stringed kora. In 1999, Charlotte began studying the kora and the West African history-telling traditions of Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Her teacher was the highly respected Senegalese griot (jali), Djimo Kouyate. Her repertoire is wide and programs are adapted to any grade level or age group.
She brings her stories and songs to national and regional festivals, schools, universities, museums, libraries and performing arts centers throughout the United States and Canada, as well as local and national radio and television.
Charlotte is the first storyteller to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra on both their Family and Student concert series. For 6 seasons, Charlotte hosted "Carnegie Kids", Carnegie Hall's Preschool concert series and has been a featured artist on the Carnegie Hall Family Concert Series in NY since 1996. She has been a featured teller at The National Storytelling Festival, The National Festival of Black Storytelling, and at regional festivals throughout North America. She has been a featured artist at … the Presidential Inaugural Festivities in Washington, DC… She has collaborated with numerous instrumental ensembles as well the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera North and the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company. She has been a featured narrator for several orchestras and conductors including The Philadelphia Orchestra... She represented Carnegie Hall in 2003 when she hosted a series of concerts in Miyazaki, Japan with the Eddie Arron String Quartet and fellow storyteller, Motoko. Currently, she performs as both pre-concert artist and host of Carnegie Hall's Family Concert Series. She has served as co-host of the Cultural Exchange and Global Encounters student concerts. She herself was featured in the award-winning documentary Family Name that aired around the country on PBS. Kinocraft Media Productions converted her "Martin Luther King Storypoem" to video format for educational distribution. The video is entitled A Closer Look: Martin Luther King.
Charlotte has received numerous honors including the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She was selected as Philadelphia Magazine's "Best of Philly" and was the recipient of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Artist Of The Year Award (The Hazlett Memorial Award), which recognizes individual artists "for excellence in the Commonwealth." She holds two honorary PhDs and received the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Association. Charlotte was one of four Americans selected to perform and present at the first International Storytelling Field Conference in Ghana and was a featured artist at the Second Int'l Festival in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2009 she was the recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston Award, the highest award bestowed by the National Association of Black Storytellers.
"Charlotte's incredible presence and cleverness unifies audiences of all ages and backgrounds by drawing them in emotionally through her enchanting gifts of communication." - Mark Laycock, Guest Conductor, The Philadelphia Orchestra
This project is partially supported by a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by The Heinz Endowments; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and The Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.