Meet the FOUNDER: Akilah Newton
Akilah Newton has a deep appreciation for performing arts. Early in life, she discovered a fascination with dramatic arts while performing in an elementary school production of Annie. She continued to nurture her interest with training in music, drama, dance, and stage production. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Arts, Music & Entertainment Management, she felt a need to give back to the community that had helped foster her own dreams and aspirations in performing arts. Recognizing that not all kids have the means to participate in arts programs, she set out to make training accessible to young people from all socio-economic backgrounds. She founded Overture with the Arts in 2011 to share her passion and experience with the youth in her community. Reaching out to her network of talented artists and friends, Akilah assembled a team of dedicated instructors to deliver fun, power-packed educational sessions. The first program launched in 2011 and provided an 8-week summer session of Jazz and Hip Hop dance classes for youth ages 12 and up. Since then, new programs have been added to OWTA’s arts education, responding to the creative needs of Montreal’s youth.
Tamara Brown, Actress | Director | Writer | Singer
A graduate of Concordia’s Theatre Performance program, Tamara Brown is a stage and screen actor, singer, director, writer, and educator. Her favourite credits include Snapshot (Imago Theatre), Humans, and Lion in the Streets, (Tableau D’Hote Theatre), Blacks Don’t Bowl, Afrika Solo, Nutmeg Princess, New Canadian Kid (BTW), Inherit the Wind (Segal Centre), and most recently Intimate Apparel, and Urban Tales (Centaur Theatre). You can look for her in the new Syfy series, Helix as Dr. Sulemani. Directing credits include productions for Black Theatre Workshop, Sheep In Fog, and MaryBeth Productions. Tamara has had the incredible fortune to perform with artists such as Buena Vista Social Club, Bebel Gilberto, Ranee Lee, Paul Anka, Mario Pelchat, Dubmatique, Corneille, Sylvie Desgroseillers and many others, and has toured with her own bands across Canada, the US, and Asia. In 2010 she co-founded Metachroma Theatre, the only independent English-language company of professional actors of colour in Montreal, whose inaugural production of Richard III in 2013 opened to critical acclaim. Metachroma Theatre addresses the under-representation of visible minority actors in Canadian Theatre, challenging current perceptions by telling stories with a diverse cast in order to normalize the presence of these artists on stage.
Kristen Cudmore, Musician
Community, pride and self-expression are pillars of inspiration when it comes to Kristen Cudmore’s life’s work as a musician. She has carved out her own niche both as an original song-writer and as an educator. Having taught people of all ages and abilities, she is able to relate to and cater to any learning needs. At the age of 12, Kristen began studying classical guitar. One short year later, her work as an unofficial music therapist began when she performed for residents at a local nursing home on the weekends. Her guitar proved an effective outlet for dealing with adversity and supporting the healing process. She went on to pursue her talent for teaching and performing, educating at Acadia University and the Maritime Conservatory for Performing Arts in Halifax. She was also the first female guitarist to teach children at Vancouver’s Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach. Today, Kristen shares her passion for music at the Dixon Hall Music School in Regent Park, Toronto and performs original music with her band, Language Arts. Read More…
Jason ‘Blackbird’ Selman, Poet | Author | Musician
Jason “Blackbird” Selman is a Montreal born poet, author and trumpet player. He is the author of “The Freedom I Stole” and co-editor of the poetry anthology “Talking Book”, which chronicles the writings of the Kalm Unity Vibe Collective (of which he is a founding member). Additionally, he is the producer of the “Intimate Sky” performance series. For many years he has had the privilege of running youth workshops in Poetry/Spoken Word. Selman’s work is grounded in the themes of ethno-musicology, surrealist expression, love and the intersection of masculinity and emotional vulnerability.
Omari Newton, Actor | Writer | Comedian | MC
Montreal-born artist, Omari Newton, is a professional actor, writer, poet, Comedian and MC whose work can be seen on television, film, stage or heard on radio. He is currently a City of Vancouver funded Artist in Residence with Urban Ink. His stage work in Québec has earned him a number of favorable reviews and awards. Some career highlights include a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in the Centaur Theatre’s production of Joe Penhal’s “Blue Orange” (Soirée des masques). The play also went on to win Best English Language Production (Soirée des masques). He is the winner of Champion of Vancouver’s 2010 Pan African Poetry Slam, a qualifying event in the Van Slam Poetry season.
Jonathan Rist, DJ Instructor
Jonathan began his career as a hip-hop DJ/Turntablist for local Montreal acts. Having opened for KRS-ONE, Wu-Tang,Obie Trice, Guru, and others, Jonathan quickly fell in love with the performance side of DJing. The world of Hip-Hop DJing inevitably led into sound production which Jonathan still undergoes today under the alias ‘Morbin’, composing music for various online licensing agencies as well as cultivating his own personal music projects. Furthermore, for the past three years, Jonathan has worked as an integration aide in various High-Schools for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, as well as a competitive swim team coach at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre. With a background in education and experience working with youth, Jonathan brings patience, lucidity, and enthusiasm towards instruction. Combining music and instruction is the perfect convergence of professions for Jonathan.
Barbara Ford, Public Relations
Barbara has been involved with the performing arts in one way or another for most of her life, first on stage as a professional dancer and choreographer and latterly behind the scenes as an arts administrator and communications specialist. She has had the great honour of working with established artists at the top of their game however supporting the development of emerging talent is one of the most rewarding aspects of her profession. “I love Akilah’s dedication, vision and boundless energy. We can never give up on our youth and Overture with the Arts is abundantly clear on that important message. If we invest and believe in them, they will too; then there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
Lisa Ursano, Marketing Communications
Known as the MarComPro, Lisa is a copywriter, marketing maven, social media savant and all-round word whiz. She loves to inform, influence and persuade. Over several years, she studied dance, drama and voice, attending prestigious vocational schools in Toronto. She later pursued her education and career in marketing communications, capturing audiences from the stage to the page with her rhythmic writing and authentic tone. Throughout her career, she has contributed to organizations both public and private, adeptly working with start-ups, small and medium sized businesses, non-profits, high-tech companies and large corporations. Lisa supports Overture with the Arts as a copywriter, online community manager and branding consultant. Get to know Lisa at www.MarComPro.ca.
Kim Sullivan, Radio Personality | Educator
Born and raised in Montreal, Kim obtained 3 degrees, traveled to over 30 countries and lived on 3 continents before becoming a teacher for the deaf. Too quiet for her, 3 years in, she threw herself into Montreal’s radio scene! After enjoying broadcasting stints in Winnipeg and Ottawa, where she also had her own bucket-list-accomplishing TV show, move #3 brings Kim back to Montreal! It’s been 9 years since she first started her career in the city and she’s thrilled to be back! Kim loves to give back to the community and teaches broadcast journalism for our student run radio program, Overture Radio.
Sarah Holmes, Dancer | Choreographer
Sarah first started dancing and choreographing in highschool participating full force in the school's dance program and taking over the reins. For four years she assisted her teacher in choreography as well as performing with Excel Danse and her hometown's multiple theatre companies. After graduation, she continued to pursue dance studies in jazz, ballet and hip hop including theatre, musical theatre and voice training at George Brown college in Toronto. Upon returning to Quebec Sarah moved to Montreal and began training at the 8Count Dance Complex for several years. It led her to countless opportunities, including a role in the last Step Up movie, Step Up 5 : All In. Although performing is an immense passion of hers, recently Sarah has found it a lot more satisfying to teach. Aside from teaching, Sarah also works with the mentally and physically deficient in readaptation. Born with an endless supply of optimism, Sarah puts her energy towards helping and caring for others. Thus, teaching dance to small children as well as teens satisfies her in a way no other job can. She's responsible for spreading love and giving self confidence to the world's most important humans: the next generation.
Jordann Ades, Youth Ambassador
Jordann Ades is a 16 year old student at St. Thomas High School. She’s been volunteering since the age of 9 for various residences for the elderly, and started working with The West Island Mission and Overture with the Arts when was 10 years old. Her passions include dance, music, acting and helping others. She is looking forward to fulfilling her love of the arts and making a difference in other people’s lives as a member of the Overture with the Arts family.