Friends with Money: Gabriella Dennery of Grace Drums



Name: Gabriella Dennery
AKA: Grace Drums, percussion and vocal ensemble, along with 4 other amazing women artists
Hometown: Ottawa, Canada and yes, as a kid I played ice hockey and loved it.
How long have you’ve lived in Brooklyn? 16 wonderful years. I love Brooklyn!
Neighborhood: Currently East NY (7 years). I also lived in Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Bed-Stuy.

Favorite thing about neighborhood: The community gardens. I have three boxes in a garden. I started last year, planting veggies and herbs. What a declaration of independence: growing healthy food in the city, under the brakes of the trains overhead. The best day to plant is Sunday mornings, when I also get treated to live gospel from a neighboring church. Very inspiring and very zen. I also love the incredible vibrancy of the sunflowers when in full bloom. These sunny giants are everywhere in this neighborhood, and when they’re swaying to the rhythm of the wind on cool fall day, it’s the most beautiful sight in the world.

What did you get funded for: I got funding for The Women Gather Project.

Gabriella in her home garden in East New York.

Gabriella in her East New York garden.

Tell us a bit about it: To me, individual expression is pivotal to person’s healing and empowerment. Drumming is such a captivating embodiment of personal power. With The Women Gather Project, Grace Drums is bringing drumming to survivors of domestic (DV) and sexual violence (SV) in two ways: Interactive drumming workshops for clients and staff of collaborating DV and SV programs, and Grace Drums’ annual concert, an energy and joy packed celebration of victories over violence. The workshops began in March 2014 and we’re growing our network of collaborators in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Some of the workshops will be open to the public, but not all. The safety and confidentiality of the participants is priority one. Our second annual concert is on Saturday Nov. 1 at LUI Kumble Theater and it is open to the public. Last year we sold out and had to turn people away at the door. This year we have a larger venue. I have no doubt we’ll sell out again. In this day and age a message of dignity, of empowerment, especially for women and girls resonates deeply with many, men women and children, because that’s your sister, your mother, your teacher, your friend, your spouse, your reflection.

What else do you have coming up? Coming up, Grace Drums will have a live CD out before the end of the year, Yeah! We have several concerts coming up including the Spoke The Hub Local Produce Festival in Park Slope at the Old Stone House (5th ave and 4th street) at 5pm, and the Harlem Arts Festival this June 29. The Women Gather Project has drumming workshops scheduled for June and July. I’ll know more about which are open to the public in a few days, and it will be posted on the Grace Drums FB page, as well as our website and twitter.

What’s your jam? Personally I’m working on finishing 2 big compositions and I’m excited because they incorporate what music feels to me, down to my DNA. If the tune connects to every cell of my being, and makes me want to get up and dance, then I know it will touch hearts. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like that, so it takes a while to get them done. I’m making great progress though. Can’t wait to hear them live…. before the year is out!

Anything you’re you totally over? Yup. I’m over all the admin hours! It’s worth it. Grace Drums has definitely grown in the last year. I’m still trying to find the right balance though between keeping up with all the admin and my primary reason for being, which is creating life affirming music for stage and recording!

When not making art you are: Cooking, gardening, crafting with fabric, napping.

Gabriella Dennery is a Brooklyn based percussionist who left the practice of primary care medicine to pursue her love of music as a teacher and performer. In 2010, she founded the all women’s percussion and vocal ensemble Grace Drums, adding an eclectic blend of harmonized vocals and contemporary styles to traditional djembe. Recent performances include BAC’s Harbolore Festival, Union Theological Seminary, the Roulette Theater/YWCA gala, and the Queen’s Public Library 28th Annual World Music series. In 2013, she launched The Women Gather Project, bringing African drumming to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Gabriella is a two-time recipient of BAC’s CAF grant, and was recently honored with a citation from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office for Women’s History Month. Connect with Gabriella and Grace Drums at, tweet at @GraceDrumsMusic.

Friends with Money: Chriselle Tidrick of Above and Beyond Dance

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

Name: Chriselle Tidrick

AKA: Chris

Hometown: Poland, Ohio

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? 17 years

Neighborhood: Boerum Hill

Favorite thing about neighborhood: I know my neighbors, so it really feels like home.

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

What did you get funded for? Dreamscapes, a new work of circus-infused dance being created by my company, Above and Beyond Dance.

What’s that all about? Dreamscapes is choreographed for 5 dancer/circus arts performers and fuses contemporary dance, aerial harness, aerial fabric, static trapeze, and stilt disciplines to depict the ethereal wonder of dreams and the surreal terror of nightmares. Various realms are born out of each dreaming figure’s inner consciousness, generating a series of fantastical vignettes ranging from grotesque, misshapen bodies in a landscape of destruction to an otherworldly scene of angelic beings in aerial fabric. The completed work will run about 35 minutes and will premiere September 19-21 as part of Dreamscapes and Other Imaginings, a co-production with The Muse in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

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Friends with Money: JP Howard of Women Writers in Bloom

Welcome to our new profile column Friends with Money, where you can get to know the people that bring BAC Grants to life!

I was honored to take part in JP Howard’s funded project, Women Writers in Bloom, this past weekend. I was welcomed into a salon member’s beautiful home in Fort Greene, where I was surrounded by dynamic women artists. The environment was so nurturing, I even read some work of my own for the first time! Read on to find out more about JP Howard and her work. – mlt 

JP in curator mode

JP in curator mode, photo by Akinfe Fatou

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BAC Teaching Artists ROCK!

Teaching Artist Peter Barnett helps students during a ceramics residency. Photo: Misun Jin

Teaching Artist Peter Barnett helps students during a ceramics residency. Photo: Misun Jin

In honor of teaching artist appreciation week, we’re sharing just a few of the things our partner school administrators, teachers, and students have been saying about working with BAC teaching artists.
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Living With the Sweetest Song-May 8th@ Jalopy Theater: Blues, Ballads, and Banana Boat Songs.

Banana Boat
Years ago, I stumbled upon a paperback copy of Living With Music: Ralph Ellison’s Jazz Writings.  After the first chapter, I was hooked.  Ellison had unlocked a truth about music that I had been seeking. He wrote about how blues and jazz contained “equipment for living” that are “able to evoke a shared community experience.”  I covered my copy with the heaviest paper I could find.  I wrote my name and phone number in the interior- just in case. I had a felling that its words would send me on a journey, and wherever I was going, it was coming with me.

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REPOST: 6 tips on getting a head start on your BAC Grants proposal

This post is updated with info on our current grant cycle – hope you enjoy! – mlt 

Out of town working or playing this summer? Planning your 2016 funding calendar? Whatever the reason, we’ve received a lot of inquiry as to what artists and organizations can do to start prepping for their 2016 application now.

Taking the main aspects of the application into consideration, I’ve gathered some tips on what you can do now to get a head start on your 2016 application. So familiarize yourself with our program & get ready for some creative planning.

1. Project Narrative: dream big
This is a great time to dream big about your 2016 project. While September is the time for brevity (we only allow 500 words in the application’s main project description), now is the time for being passionate and illustrious! This is a great time to brainstorm and expound on what you intend to do. Write at length about your dream project; who you want to work with, where you want it to occur, and why it would be the best thing for someone to fund – just go for it! Whether you’ve applied to our program successfully or unsuccessfully before, take out your previous application, shake the dust out, write & re-write. Think big & edit later. Spring is also a good time to polish your grant writing skills: take a workshop, or read a grant writing book.

just - serenity now.

just – serenity now.

2. Project budget: plan your resources
While you’re in dream state about your upcoming project, start thinking about using the budget as a different tool to tell the same story as the project narrative. They benefit from being created together. While I suggest holding off on the nitty-gritty bubble-bursting line items until at least the second draft of your narrative, start planning your resources: where else you will go for funding support? Are you planning on supplementing with a crowd funding campaign? What are your options for earned income or in-kind donations? Will you have to rent space? Will you be working in conjunction with another organization? What resources can they provide? Thinking of your budget as another tool to help craft your dream project may help curb some anxiety later on.

3. Work sample: document now
Always Be Documenting! Spring & Summer are busy months that provide great opportunity to build on or begin creating your work sample. Take pics and video of your spring & summer shows, or make arrangements to get copies of the work if someone else is documenting it. There is no such thing as documenting too much. NYFA has put together a great three part blog series on video samples; check it out.

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