Jenny TairaComposer, Co-Bookwriter, Conductor
Jenny Taira is a composer, songwriter and producer, and has written numerous pieces for choir, orchestra, solo, and chamber groups. She composed the music for the Buddhist recitation of the Golden Chain of Love, performed at the 2005 Honpa Hongwanji Choralfest, conducted by master choral conductor Nola Nahulu, and was recently commissioned by the Honpa Hongwanji to compose a new gatha, “Buddha’s Great Light”. She and singer Laurie Rubin recently branded as a pop duo, PureLand, and is songwriter and producer on their album, “Summer Night in Winter.”
An active performer, she has performed extensively throughout the United States as both a clarinetist and collaborative pianist for mezzo-soprano, Laurie Rubin. Recent career highlights include national recital tours and performances at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Philharmonic Hall in Brasov Transylvania, Stanford University, Greenwich Music Festival, and the 92nd Street Y in New York City; a Lucas Artist Residency at Montalvo Arts Center; and a performance on Hallmark Channel’s “Marie”.
She is co- founder of Musique à la Mode Chamber Music Ensemble and the Music at the Bowery Series in New York City’s East Village. As a clarinetist, she received top prizes in the Hennings-Fischer Foundation Young Artist Competition and Kingsville International Competition, as well as a solo performance with the Burbank Philharmonic. She has performed with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, New Britain Symphony, and the Royal Hawaiian Band. She has been the recipient of many awards and scholarships, including a full fellowship to study at the Kent/Blossom Music Festival.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Jennifer Taira has always been an advocate for cultivating accessible, high caliber training programs for local performing artists. As a senior in high school, Jennifer was awarded the Emerson Electric Scholarship given to one student in each state to attend the Interlochen Arts Camp. Inspired by the experience of having disciplined study and immersion in music, surrounded by students from around the world of her own age, Jennifer felt the importance of providing such opportunities to other equally talented musicians in Hawaii who simply did not have the finances to attend such a program. In 2010, Jennifer Taira co-founded Ohana Arts, a non-profit performing arts organization with a mission to promote peace and world friendship through the universal language of the arts with director of the performing theater at the Hongwanji Mission School, Carolyn Taira, and mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin. Jennifer currently serves as Executive and Co-Artistic Director of Ohana Arts, as well as the resident music director and conductor of Ohana Arts productions. Jennifer is a graduate of the Yale School of Music and Northwestern University.
Laurie RubinLyricist & Co-Bookwriter
Mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin has received high praise from The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini, who wrote that she possesses “compelling artistry,” “communicative power,” and that her voice displays “earthy, rich, and poignant qualities.” Los Angeles Times special critic Josef Woodard has lauded Rubin’s “charismatic, multi-textured performance,” stating that Laurie Rubin ” seems to have an especially acute intuition about the power and subtleties of sound and she was a compelling force at the center of the music. Her outstanding artistry was showcased recently at the AT&T Center Theater in Los Angeles, where LA Times critic Mark Swed described her as “a young mezzo-soprano whose voice is darkly complex and mysteriously soulful and who adds intense emphasis to every word of text.”
On October 23, 2012, Seven Stories Press published Rubin’s memoir, Do You Dream in Color? Insights From a Girl Without Sight. Recounting her experiences from childhood through the rise of her career as an opera singer, Rubin shows how her determination to continually surpass and redefine others’ expectations, has enabled her to defy the naysayers who told her that she would never experience romance, have a real job, live independently, much less ski, design jewelry or fulfill her ambition to sing on stage. Although blindness is a low incidence disability, many people possess traits that make them different or that others may perceive as not normal. Rubin hopes the story of her “journey towards identity,” will resonate with young people struggling with two fundamental questions: “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit in?” Notes revered opera singer Frederica von Stade, “Do You Dream in Color? shows the same clarity, honesty, and devotion that Laurie has always had with her art. A wonderful book.” And Dr. Pola Rosen, publisher of Education Update, raves “Laurie Rubin’s memoir should be required reading in that it underscores the triumph of the human spirit. Rubin serves as a role model for all of us, whether or not we face a disability.”
Bridge Records released her companion CD to the book entitled, “Do You Dream in Color?”. The album includes the world premiere recording of Bruce Adolphe’s composition, “Do You Dream in Color?”, setting poetry by Rubin which details her experiences of being blind. Rubin gave the world premiere of the work in its orchestral version at the International Human Rights Conference in Lucerne Switzerland in April 2013, and the US premiere with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in October 2013.
Rubin has also recorded Faith in Spring with Graham Johnson and David Wilkinson on the Opera Omnia label and she appears on Target, a CD of works by Keeril Makan on the Starkland label.
In 2013, she embarked on an extensive North American concert and book tour, giving presentations and performances at such venues as the 92nd Street Y in New York City with best selling author Michael Cunningham among others, the Cherry Hill Jewish Community Center Book Festival, and the Philadelphia Library. Ms. Rubin also took part in the competitive Lucas Artist Residency Program’s Composers & Musicians Fellowship at the Montalvo Arts Center with composer/producer Jennifer Taira to write and produce their new pop album, “Summer Night in Winter,” branded under the pop duo name, PureLand. As writing partners, Ms. Rubin and Ms. Taira wrote their first musical, “Peace On Your Wings,” inspired by the life of Sadako Sasaki, a 12 year old girl who died from Leukemia resulting from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima which had its world premiere on Oahu in November 2014, and toured the neighbor islands in January and February of 2015.
Rubin’s recent career highlights include her United Kingdom solo recital debut at Wigmore Hall in London as well as her solo recital debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. As a soloist she has performed Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Hawaii Bach Festival Orchestra, Haydn’s Theresienmesse with the Hawaii Vocal Arts Ensemble and the Hawaii Masterworks Festival Orchestra, Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’t with the Burbank Philharmonic Orchestra, Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor with the Yale Symphony Orchestra, Haydn’s Harmonie Mass with the Oakland East Bay Symphony, a benefit concert of duets with opera star Frederica von Stade, Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915 under the baton of John Williams, a benefit performance with Marvin Hamlisch, as well as in concert at The White House and the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
Ms. Rubin has performed a number of operatic roles, including the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Mrs. Noye in Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde,” under the baton of Dr. Samuel Wong, the lead role of Karen in Gordon Beeferman’s The Rat Land at New York City Opera’s VOX Festival, Penelope in Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses at the Greenwich Music Festival and Elle in Poulenc’s The Human Voice at the Greenwich Music Festival and the Ohana Arts Festival. Ms. Rubin has also performed concerts of new music with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She has collaborated with and premiered works by composers John Harbison, Gabriela Lena Frank, Keeril Makan, Bruce Adolphe, Noam Sivan and Gordon Beeferman. She is currently performing the role of The Voice in Lisa Bielawa’s innovative television opera, “Vireo” with the Kronos Quartet which is scheduled to air in episodes.
A co-founder and co-artistic director of Musique a la Mode Chamber Music Ensemble, which has a concert series in Manhattan’s East Village, Ms. Rubin is also one of the founding members of the baroque ensemble Callisto Ascending which has performed concerts at Lincoln Center. In addition, she is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Ohana Arts, a performing arts festival and school in Honolulu, Hawaii with a mission to promote peace and world friendship through the universal language of the arts.
Cari Taira is Co-founder and Co-Artistic Director of Ohana Arts. She is also the resident stage director for the Ohana Arts summer musical theatre production workshop. She was born and raised in Mililani, Hawaii, where her passion for theatre began at Kipapa Elementary School with inspirational teacher, Mrs. Yvonne Toma. Carolyn attended Mililani High School and went on to receive a bachelor of arts degree in Drama from the University of Portland. Her principle instructors were acting professors Ed Bowen and Mindy Logan and voice professor Jill Sotero.
She has performed in productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sweet Charity, The House of Bernarda Alba, The Crucible and The Wiz. This is Carolyn’s eighth year as the drama teacher and production coordinator at Hongwanji Mission School. She has directed more than a dozen musicals through Hongwanji Mission School and Ohana Arts. Her most recently work includes Hairspray, Winnie the Pooh Jr., Little Mermaid Jr. and Footloose.
Danielle Hannah Bensky is a Manhattan native who regularly grande Jetés her way across New York City’s, Upper East Side, where she currently resides. She has choreographed/staged over 30 full scale musicals in addition to various other original works for The New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF), Stagedoor Manor, York College (CUNY) and the Afterwork Theater Project in conjunction with the 14th street Y. This is Danielle’s 4th year working for Disney Theatricals. Starting with the company in 2011 as a performer for Disney Cruise Line, Dani has since moved to the theatrical events department. Most recently, Dani has concluded productions of Rent, Once on this Island and All shook up. Her favorite past projects include but are not limited to Carousel, Cabaret, Dreamgirls, Les Miserables, Spring Awakening and a new work that was created specifically for NYMF with TONY winner Lena Hall. She can be found teaching at The Harbor Conservatory, Just Off Broadway Academy and Elements fitness studio. Dani’s training consists of all styles and genres from The Joffrey Ballet School, Alvin Ailey, New Jersey Ballet, Professional Perforning Arts School (PPAS) and the Neighborhood Playhouse. She was a 2010 Princess Grace Award nominee and is staffed as an adjudicator for the OnPoint National Dance Competition.
Patrick LordSet & Projection Design
Patrick Lord is a projection and scenic designer who is currently based out of Washington, D.C. after a life and career that has taken him all over the world. He has designed over 30 productions up and down the east coast, and out west in Texas, many of which were new and premiere productions. He is also the founder and Creative Director for The 5th Wall Project, an arts service that uses innovative technology to mark art more accessible to children in schools and youth communities. Patrick received his MFA in Integrated Media Design for Live Performance from The University of Texas at Austin, and his BFA in Scenic Design from Emerson College. www.patrickwlord.com
William KirkhamLighting Designer
William C. Kirkham has lit plays and musicals in 47 states and Canada for audiences of all ages. Recently he has designed with Lookingglass Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Hypocrites, The House Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, the Contemporary American Theater Festival, Vox Lumiere, Arizona Broadway Theatre, and Childsplay. In 2014 he received Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award for his Lighting Design of The Little Prince with Lookingglass Theatre Company. William earned his MFA in Stage Design at Northwestern University. www.wckirkham.com