MAMA = to nourish, to encourage & fine tune
FOUNDATION = to educate, to provide experience & access to opportunity
Our Core Values
We are a standard bearer of the cultural and musical inheritance of Black Excellence for which Harlem is internationally known.
BLACK MUSICAL EXCELLENCE
We centralize and amplify Black musical artforms - Gospel, jazz, R&B - and Black voices as essential to the American cultural experience.
We expand the expectation of potential by offering access, opportunities, training, and experience in the professional musical/theatrical field.
We hold space for an intergenerational community to connect, excel, heal and share themselves through music.
We are a catalyst for positive community transformation that begins with the promise that you will be seen, and you will be heard.
A Brief History
of Mama Foundation for the Arts
Vy Higginsen's name has been associated with Gospel, jazz, and R&B music for years. As one of New York City's premiere radio disc jockeys, she has built a solid reputation for identifying good music and developing a sound that resonates with music lovers. This knack led her and her producing partner, Ken Wydro, to create the legendary musical, Mama I Want to Sing in 1983. Mama was an international hit and is one of the longest running musicals in the history of American theater.
Many consider the success of Mama to be the start of Mama Foundation. However, it wasn't until Vy's own daughter's school cut arts programming from the curriculum that she decided to make a change. Inspired by world tours of Mama I Want to Sing in Europe, the Caribbean, Japan, and the United States, where the music liberated children on the margins, Vy Higginsen created Mama Foundation for the Arts to help re-establish Harlem as an artistic and cultural centerpiece of the world.
1983 – 1991
1986 – 1999
1999 – 2010
2016 – 2019
Mama I Want To Sing at The Heckscher Theater
Record breaking 8-year Off Broadway run.
Largest employer of Black entertainment talent, 52 weeks a
National and International Tours
Mama I Want To Sing tours across the United States as well as to Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Japan and London’s West End.
Vy becomes the Resident Producer at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, producing 4 original musical productions.
Mama Foundation For the Arts Established in Harlem
Vy renovates the brownstone on 126th St and starts Gospel at the Brownstone.
In 2006 with her daughter, Knoelle, Vy establishes the Gospel for Teens program.
In 2008, Sing Harlem tours to Japan.
10-year residency at The Red Rooster Sunday Brunch begins.
Gospel for Teens featured on 60 Minutes
Gospel For Teens is featured on 60 Minutes with Lesley Stahl,
and the double length segment wins two Emmy Awards.
Alive 55+ and Kickin’ Opens at The Dempsey Theater
Alive 55+ and Kickin’ runs for 5 years from 2013-2018.
Alive 55+ and Kickin’ is featured in a double-segment on 60
Minutes with Leslie Stahl.
High Profile Sing Harlem Gigs
Sing Harlem performs on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Chance The Rapper. (2016)
● Sing Harlem performs on Saturday Night Live and at the Grammy Awards with SZA. (2017, 2018)
● Sing Harlem performs at Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Week with singer and actress Zendaya. (2019)
Massive Disruption Due to COVID-19 and a Renewed Focus on the Racial Justice Movement
Mama Foundation transitions programming online
Mama Foundation is a partnering organization for the Black
Lives Matter Mural on 125th and the surrounding community
events concerning racial justice.
Mama Foundation launches Access to Opportunities.
Strategic Plan Process.