Singer, Storyteller, Activist, Educator Quality Arts and Education Programs to entertain, educate, heal, and touch the spirit.
Therese Folkes Plair, an award-winning performing artist, is a classically trained singer who in 1979 changed her artistic direction from opera to world music and storytelling. Her research, performances and teaching have since focused on the music and the oral and written literature of people of African descent. She has a BA in theater/anthropology from Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York. She studied Eastern and Western movement and sound (1980-1994) with the late Katya Delakova, and jazz harmony (1980-1985) at Billy Taylor’s Jazz Mobile in New York. Her master drum teacher (1980-1985) was Pablo Landrum.
—Since 1990, Ms. Plair has regularly spent several months a year in West Africa researching oral traditions, language and women’s rituals. Her ethnographic work in Ghana’s Asante region formed the basis for a one-woman performance work (“If It Doesn’t Crack, It Won’t Break”), for which she won the Josephine Mercy Heathcote Award in 1994. She was selected for a Fulbright Research Award in 1996 (alternate)
Appearances as Featured Singer/Storyteller
These include the US State Department’s Speakers’ Program sponsorship of Storytelling: A Culturally Familiar Means of Educating and Disseminating Information About Social Issues (2001). This undertaking entailed traveling to seven African countries and conducting workshops, as well as performing and lecturing.
Battery Park Conservancy (2009-2012) Hans Christian Anderson Storytellers at Hans Christian Anderson Statue, Central Park New York.
University of Oslo, Norway (October 2009); Scandinavia House (2005-09);National Women’s Day, Cape Town, South Africa (2002); New York Parks Foundation’s Reading in the Parks: Performances in New York’s five boroughs (2003-2005). Providence (NY) Town Playhouse (2003-2008). Wave Hill (2000-2002). The African Museum, Bergen Dal (1996); The Dunya Arts Festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands (1997-1998).
—Current performance works: “Live Under the Radar: The Invisible Child,” a performance piece about the UN Convention on the Rights of Children and “Sundiata,”West African epic performed in Ghana, WA, Mt. Vernon
Elementary School, and local elementary schools in Macon, Georgia.
“Dreaming Auset” , Egyptian mythology.
—Other original works include: “Wise Women” (2000), a collaborative work with Diana Wolkstein; “Dreaming Auset” (1999 and 2013); “If Rivers Could Speak” (1998); “The Four Corners of the Sun: African Mythology and Personal Transformation” (1997); “Seeding Her Wild Garden,” a collaborative work with Laura Simms (1995)
ARTS IN EDUCATION**
Ms. Plair is an independent consultant who has been in the forefront of developing arts education in the county of Westchester and Tri-State New York areas since 1980. Her roles have included conducting residencies, integrating core curriculum with music, and storytelling for students of all ages.
From 1985 to 2004, she was arts-in-education consultant with the Westchester Arts Council, which involved working with children from pre-school to secondary school, as well as developing and implementing SHARE, an adult project designed to help seniors develop and recount their life stories for classroom presentation. She also developed special programs for Harlem Valley and Rockland County Mental Health Out-Patient sites and the Corner Stone Psychiatric Center, Yonkers, New York.
Ms. Plair’s producer roles have included the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the United Nations, with more than 500 participating New York middle- and high-school students participating. Sponsored by the following: Malaysian Government, NGO Committee on Children’s Rights and New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and IDEAL Society, Canada, December 2009.
She also produced the Raconteur Corner for the 61st Annual UN NGO/DPI Conference in Paris, France, September 2008. Sponsored by IDEAL Society and UN NGO/DPI Outreach Committee.
Studio Artist at Daniel Webster Magnet School, NY (New Rochelle, NY, (1991- present). Design and implement Multi-Cultural music and peace programs for grades 1-5.
Chairwoman, Children’s Rights Forum, United Nations (2007 & 2009)
Children’s Rights Forum, UN, (May 2006)
The Sisterhood of the Good Death project in Bahia, Brazil (2004). Video documenting the Sisters of the Good Death, elderly priestesses who form the oldest political organization in North America (with Ahisha Rahman, Brown University).
Founder and Director, Holding Up the Sky, Cross Cultural International Field Conferences for Artists, Teachers, Scholars, Capetown, South Africa
2002, Ghana, West Africa, 2001
Organized UN Indigenous Day Outreach Celebration in Takoradi, Ghana (1998). Visiting Storyteller for the Ghana Library Board (1990-1992).
The National Center for Culture’s Youth Program, Sekundi, Ghana (1993) funded in part by an International Travel Grant in participation with the National Endowment for the Arts.
Artist Facilitator, First UN Children’s Parliament (1996)
NGO Representative to the United Nations for IDEAL Society (Institute for the Development of Education, Arts & Leisure) British Columbia, Canada
United Nations NGO Committee on Children’s Rights, Executive Board Member
United Nations NGO Committee on Education
*Performance fees vary; detailed list available upon request.
**Listing of arts and education institutions and of performance content
available upon request.