Musician, actress, and educator Ysaÿe Barnwell, PhD, MSPH, has performed as a member of the internationally acclaimed a cappella quintet Sweet Honey in the Rock for nearly 35 years. She has appeared as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist on more than 30 recordings with Sweet Honey, as well as with other artists.
Barnwell founded and for three years directed the All Souls Jubilee Singers in Washington, D.C. The music she has composed and arranged, has been performed and recorded by vocal ensembles around the world. She has been commissioned to compose music for numerous dance, film, and video projects, including Sesame Street, Dance Alloy of Pittsburgh, David Rousseve’s Reality Dance Company, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Women’s Philharmonic of San Francisco, Redwood Cultural Work, the Washington Choral Arts Society, The Waterbury Symphony, and others.
Barnwell began her 15-year study of the violin at the age of two and a half. Since the 1980s, she has conducted the Building a Vocal Community: Singing in the African American Tradition workshop throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.
In addition to degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Howard University, she has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from four academic institutions. She has been a professor at the College of Dentistry at Howard University and, in addition to conducting community-based projects in computer technology and the arts, she has administered and implemented health programs at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center and at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. In 2011-2012, Barnwell curated the year-long Fortune’s Bones Project, which featured her cantata: Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem to rave reviews.
Ysaye Barnwell’s acting credits include voice-overs, documentary film narration, a principal role in an episode of the TV show A Man Called Hawk, and an appearance in the film Beloved.