Bard News & Events

Press Release

Two Americas: Songs of Protest and Reconciliation

With Jeremy Siskind, Justin Kauflin, and Brianna Thomas

Eleanor Davis
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College and Catskill Jazz Factory present Two Americas: Songs of Protest and Reconciliation, an evening of songs of power and resistance. Acclaimed pianists Jeremy Siskind, winner of the 2012 Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition, and Justin Kauflin, featured in the 2014 award-winning documentary “Keep on Keepin’ On” alongside jazz legends Clark Terry and Quincy Jones, will perform American classics from a variety of genres sung by distinguished jazz vocalist Brianna Thomas. This unique program takes place on Saturday, October 8th at 8 p.m. in the acoustically superb Sosnoff Theater. Tickets are $25-50; $5 for students. Additional information is available at; tickets can be ordered online at or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900.

Musicians of all genres have shaped a vital tradition of fearlessly speaking truth in the face of power and adversity. Protest songs included in the program are Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” and Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing,” accompanied by stirring songs of reconciliation such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallejuah” and Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Drawing upon this rich songbook of timely messages three remarkable musicians perform this uniquely American program. “Jeremy Siskind is my favorite all-time pianist,” says Lea DeLaria, while Quincy Jones writes of Justin Kauflin, “Simply beautiful can feel it in every note he plays.” The Wall Street Journal says Brianna Thomas “may be the best young straight-ahead jazz singer of her generation.”

Saturday, October 8th at 8 p.m. in the Sosnoff Theater. Tickets are $25-50; $5 for students, and are available at or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900.

Brianna Thomas made her singing debut at the age of 6 with her father, drummer, and vocalist Charlie Thomas, singing the classic "What A Wonderful World."  

In 2009 Thomas won New York's famed Jazz Mobile competition judged by the legendary Dr. Billy Taylor and Grady Tate, Gloria Lynn. Since graduating college in 2011, Thomas has performed with many jazz greats including Clark Terry, Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, Mulgrew Miller, Wynton Marsalis, Russell Malone, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Kurt Elling, Michael Feinstein, and longtime hero Dianne Reeves.
Thomas also continues to perform worldwide for venues such as Jazz At Lincoln Center, The Apollo, Smoke Jazz Club, Ginny’s Supper Club, Minton's, The Kennedy Center, Fox Theater and the prestigious Montreaux, Umbria, Bern, and Sochi, Charlie Parker, and New York Hot Jazz Festivals.

Thomas recently released her debut album “You Must Believe in Love” on Sound on Purpose records in 2014. Curtis Fuller, renowned trombonist and Jazz Messenger, calls her “a marvelous new artist who has all it takes to reach the top of the jazz profession and music in general.” Ongoing performances include Harlem New York's famed Apollo Theater and DC's Kennedy Center alongside vanguard pianist and educator Jason Moran for his Harlem Nights/U Street Lights Show.

Learn more about Brianna Thomas from her website:
Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, Justin Kauflin began music at age four with Suzuki violin, adding piano a few years later.  By age six, he was performing professionally. 

However, he also endured numerous trials, particularly losing total vision from exudative retinopathy by age 11. He adjusted by learning four types of Braille, cane mobility and, after a decade of classical violin and piano, switched to jazz piano in high school at the Governor's School for Performing Arts studying with Liz Barnes and Old Dominion University's John Toomey. He attended the Vail Jazz Workshop, Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Residency, and received top honors in jazz festivals across the U.S. He began performing jazz professionally at age 15, most notably with the Jae Sinnett Trio. 

In 2004, Kauflin graduated at the top of his class alongside his sighted peers at Salem High and the Governor's School, receiving a Presidential scholarship to attend William Paterson University in New Jersey. At WPU, he was taken under the wings of legendary trumpeter, Clark Terry and was a member of the Clark Terry Ensemble.  He also had the tremendous privilege of learning from his hero, the late Mulgrew Miller, as well as Harold Mabern and the late James Williams.  While attending William Paterson, he accepted any opportunity to sit in and perform with his trio in New York City. Justin graduated summa cum laude in 2008, moved to NYC and, at age 23 produced, led, composed and performed on his first CD, Introducing Justin Kauflin.
In 2011, Kauflin performed around the country with his own trio or with the Jae Sinnett Trio; won the VSA International Young Soloist Award; was voted Jazz Artist of the Year in VEER Magazine, and selected as a semi-finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. 
Simultaneously during this time, Kauflin’s relationship with mentor Clark Terry was chronicled by his friend and fellow musician, Al Hicks. Five years in the making, the resultant documentary, Keep On Keepin’ On, won numerous awards and made the Oscars’s short list. Justin is also credited for its film score along with veteran Dave Grusin.
Subsequently, Justin was signed by legendary producer and music icon, Quincy Jones for management, and in 2013 and 2014, was part of Quincy Jones’s world tours.

In addition to promoting Keep On Keepin’ On across the country, Kauflin worked with Quincy Jones on his second full-length CD and debut album for Jazz Village. DEDICATION was released January 2015 and debuted at #6 on CMJ Jazz chart, #10 on Billboard's Traditional Jazz Chart, hit #1 on JazzWeek's chart and remained in the top 10 spot for 9 straight weeks. The Justin Kauflin Trio followed up with two European Tours and a USA tour sandwiched in between.  
Learn more about Justin Kauflin from his website:
Jeremy Siskind is a pianist, composer, and educator based in Kalamazoo, Michigan who currently serves as the chair of Western Michigan University’s Keyboard Area.

The winner of the 2012 Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition, Siskind is also the second place winner of the 2011 Montreux Solo Piano competition and a two-time finalist for the American Pianist Association’s Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz. His 2015 CD, Housewarming, featuring Grammy-winning singers Kurt Elling and Peter Eldridge, was named the second-best vocal jazz CD of the year by the Ottawa Citizen, and hailed as a “shining example” of chamber jazz in Downbeat magazine, who also named it among the year’s best.
As a performer, Siskind is a leader of the “in-home concert” movement, having performed in about 100 homes in 25 different states since 2012. Siskind has also performed at traditional venues, such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center, as well as in Japan, Switzerland, Thailand, England, India, France, Tunisia, and China. Siskind currently has eight publications with Hal Leonard, including the major instructional book, Jazz Band Pianist.

Upcoming projects include collaborative songwriting project with composer Lucas Pino that will debut at Dizzy’s in Lincoln Center in June. The piece, entitled, "Golden Rule, Turing Test," examines whether the nature of compassion is changing in the digital age. Siskind serves as musical director, arranger, and pianist on vocalist Nancy Harms’ upcoming CD, Ellington at Night. Finally, he’s collaborating with saxophonist Andrew Rathbun on reinterpretations of Debussy’s Préludes for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in May.

Siskind holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (Jazz Performance and Music Theory) and Columbia University (English and Comparative Literature). He’s the Artistic Director of the American Jazz Pianist Competition. J Siskind is a Yamaha Artist.
Learn more about Siskind from his website:
A sister program of the 23Arts Initiative, the Catskill Jazz Factory is a non-profit program founded in 2012 by Hudson Valley residents Piers and Lucy Playfair.  
A powerful new arts model, the program offers in-school workshops and concerts, artist residencies, and world-class performances throughout the Hudson Valley. Through this programming, the Catskill Jazz Factory supports some of today's best young jazz artists with educational, creative, and performance opportunities at diverse venues across the region. By partnering with educational facilities, arts organizations, and a variety of local non-profits and businesses, the Catskill Jazz Factory encourages audiences of all ages to participate in community building through jazz. For an ongoing list of Catskill Jazz Factory’s year-round regional jazz programming, see
Catskill Jazz Factory is funded by Friends of Tannersville Organization (FOTO), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Named for the late Richard B. Fisher, former chair of Bard’s Board of Trustees, the Fisher Center has become an influential force in performing arts programming, earning critical acclaim for innovative productions of opera, orchestral, chamber, dance, and theater programs. The Center was designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry and distinguished acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, and has received international praise for its breathtaking architecture and superb sound.
Each summer the Fisher Center presents the Bard SummerScape festival, seven weeks of performing arts programs reflecting the life and times of the featured composer of the esteemed Bard Music Festival, now celebrating its 27th year. Fall and spring seasons include original productions, special one-night-only concerts, and touring artists from around the globe.
The Fisher Center is home to the Bard College Theater & Performance and Dance Programs, providing students access to exceptional theater facilities and opportunities to work with professional directors and dramaturges on publicly attended productions throughout the year. The Bard College Conservatory of Music and Bard College Music Program stage regular orchestral and chamber concerts.

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This event was last updated on 09-27-2016