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Mama Foundation for the Arts: Musicals, Concerts and Education in Harlem

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Alexander Plumber in Mama, I Want to Sing

Alexander Plumber in the role of Reverend Winter in Mama, I Want to Sing, circa 1985.

About the People of the FoundationGeneral Staff

Vy Higginsen, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Ken Wydro, CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Deborah Singletary, EXECUTIVE DEPUTY DIRECTOR

I'Shana Daranee Turner, GROUP SALES

Carolyn Nakano, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

Ryan Baker, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

Kian Ross, PROGRAM ASSISTANT

Troy Naquan Busby, STAGE MANAGER

Lydia Sierra, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT

DonJuan Holder, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

Brien Hill, PLANT MANAGER

Gospel for Teens and School Staff

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson, PROGRAM DIRECTOR AND MUSIC MASTER

Vincent Bohanan, MUSICIAN

Markanthony Henry, INSTRUCTOR

Greg Kelly, INSTRUCTOR

Myke Liverpool, INSTRUCTOR

Jerry Williams, INSTRUCTOR

Chris Dilley, INSTRUCTOR

Timothy Riley, INSTRUCTOR

MORE ABOUT OUR PEOPLE

About Our Home

Mama's Historic Brownstone in Harlem, USA

Vy Higginsen in front of Mama's brownstone

Vy Higginsen in front of the Mama Foundation for the Arts brownstone in 2007. Photo credit: G. N. Miller.

A renovated five-story brownstone on a residential block on West 126th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Manhattan has been the home of the Mama Foundation for the Arts (MFA) since its inception in 1998. MFA is at the core of Central Harlem's most thriving cultural and business community, surrounded by the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, The Apollo Theater, and the Lenox Avenue "Restaurant Row" featuring Sylvia's, Red Rooster, Chez Lucienne, and Corner Social.

One block away is the foundation's performance space, The Dempsey Theater, where thousands have enjoyed Mama, I Want To Sing: The Next Generation and Sing Harlem Sing!

In 2012, the brownstone underwent a two-level renovation of its rehearsal, classroom, and reception area, which included new furniture courtesy of The Nate Berkus Show.

CONTACT US

Mama, I Want to Sing, circa 1984

Cast performs the closing number in Mama, I Want to Sing at the Heckscher Theatre, circa 1983.

About the Foundation

Mama Foundation for the Arts Mission Statement

Mama's mission is to present, preserve, and promote the history and fundamentals of gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues music for current and future generations. The Foundation has established a cultural space in Harlem where youth and adults have access to quality training and employment as performing artists.

The Foundation was inspired by the worldwide success of our award-winning musical, Mama, I Want to Sing. A combination of arts education, public workshops, and live events contribute to Harlem's resurgence as an artistic and cultural destination.

Mama, I Want to Sing: The Next Generation, 2011

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson (center) in the role inspired by her aunt's life, Doris Winter, with other members of the cast of Mama, I Want to Sing: The Next Generation, 2011. Photo credit: Jasmin Williams.

The History of Mama Foundation

Founded by Vy Higginsen in 1998, the Mama Foundation for the Arts (MFA) has been internationally acclaimed for rebuilding Harlem as an artistic cultural center featuring entertainment and arts education. The Mama Foundation has produced a dozen theater productions, which have been performed on several continents. MFA's best known musical, Mama, I Want To Sing, is the longest running Black Off-Broadway show in American history.

Members of Gospel for Teens in front of the Mama brownstone, circa 2007

Members of Gospel for Teens in front of The Mama Foundation for the Arts brownstone in Harlem in 2007.

In 2003, Higginsen created the School of Gospel, Jazz, and R&B Arts. Three years later, she formed the award-winning Gospel for Teens program to train youth and "save the music." According to Lesley Stahl from CBS's 60 Minutes, "The Gospel for Teens program is not just teaching gospel, it is saving these kids." Mama Foundation members have performed at numerous special events including the TED2012 Full Spectrum conference, the Congressional Black Caucus, The Stellar Awards, and a reception for Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Madonna, Chaka Khan, opera singer Jessye Norman and gospel artist Shirley Caesar are among the many stars that have shared the stage with the Gospel for Teens Choir.

Mama, I Want to Sing, circa 1984

Steve Williams as Minister of Music in Mama, I Want to Sing, circa 1984. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.