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


Vy Higginson in front of Mama Foundation for the Arts in 2010

Vy Higginsen in front of The Mama Foundation for the Arts in 2010. Photo credit: Tyrone Rasheed.

CEO & Executive Director
Vy Higginsen

Born and raised in Harlem, Vy Higginsen is an award-winning author, publisher, playwright, media personality, and philanthropist. Vy was the first female advertising executive at Ebony magazine and went on to become a contributing editor for Essence. She created her own magazine, the African-American lifestyles publication Unique NY and served as its publisher and editor. Vy also spent a decade behind the microphone at major New York radio stations, including WBLS-FM, WWRL-AM, and WRKS-FM. On camera, she has been a contributing reporter for WNBC-TV (including the long-running "Positively Black" segment) and The Metro Channel. In 1983, Vy co-wrote, produced and directed the classic gospel musical, Mama, I Want To Sing. The show ran for eight years (2,500 performances) becoming the longest-running African-American Off-Broadway musical in history. The musical went on to play over 1,000 more performances through a three-year tour across the USA and London, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy; multiple appearances in the Caribbean, and seven tours throughout Japan. Vy also conceived and produced Sing! Mama 2, and Born to Sing: Mama 3. In March 1988, Vy co-produced Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson on Broadway.

In 1998, she created the Mama Foundation for the Arts to present, preserve, and promote Gospel, Jazz, and R&B as art forms for current and future generations. In 2006, she founded Gospel for Teens, a free educational program that offers a substitute for the arts programs removed from many inner city schools. For her outstanding contributions to gospel music, she was presented with the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award at the 2012 Stellar Gospel Music Awards. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture proclaimed Vy a Harlem Hero in "Harlem Is . . ." a public art and education project of Community Works. Learn more about Vy on her official site at

Creative Director
Ken Wydro

Director of Programs/Productions Ken Wydro is a published author, producer, playwright, and seasoned professional speaker. Ken has an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Rochester (1964) and a Master's Degree in theater from University of California, Berkeley (1967). His published works include Think on Your Feet and Flying Solo: The Art of Living Single. Wydro also co-wrote, produced and directed the long-running gospel theatrical, Mama, I Want to Sing. Ken is an active Broadway producer with credits including The Mountaintop, Evita, The Best Man, American Buffalo, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

In London 2012, Ken will unveil the revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night and the new musical Top Hat. Ken is also the author of two original plays: Secrets: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and Vice Versa which is moving toward production in New York in the fall of 2012.

Find out more about Ken on his official site at

Above: Ken Wydro in 2010. Photo credit: Divine Bradley.

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson in 2010

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson in 2010.

Vocalist & Instructor
Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson

Vocalist and Instructor Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson, daughter of Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro, is the current lead in Mama, I Want To Sing: The Next Generation. She began her professional career at seven years old starring in Sing! Mama 2 with Shirley Caesar at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden as well as in Japan. Ahmaya Knoelle has performed in Gospel Is…! and Sing, Harlem, Sing! internationally, as well as recording on several albums. She studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the American Dramatic and Music Academy in New York. Ahmaya Knoelle also teaches private vocal instruction at the Mama Foundation for The Arts and trains young students in the Foundation’s Gospel For Teens program. Find out more about Ahmaya Knoelle on her official site:

D'Atra Hicks in a scene from Mama, I Want to Sing, circa 1984

D'Atra Hicks (Doris Winter) in a scene from Mama, I Want to Sing, with the Halos (L-R) Fatima, Lynette Dupree, and Kim Edmond, circa 1984. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

Past, Present & Future
All Mama's People

Many talented and dedicated people have contributed to the success of Mama, I Want to Sing in the decades since its original conception. Find out more about them on the site dedicated to the history of the play, the stars, and the people behind the scenes at