The History

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.

Seed has begun 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.