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Jen Shyu And Sara Serpa Launch A Mutual Mentorship For Womxn Musicians

Jen Shyu And Sara Serpa Launch A Mutual Mentorship For Womxn Musicians

Co-founded in spring 2020 by vocalist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu and vocalist-composer Sara Serpa, M³-Mutual Mentorship for Musicians-was conceived as an initiative that empowers and elevates womxn musicians around the world (including BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ across generations) in a new model of mentorship comprising four sessions per year with each session culminating in a performance of new collaborative commissions.

With the aim of building new paradigms of mentorship, M³ encourages the reciprocal, intergenerational exchange of knowledge and experience; formation of new collaborations with musicians outside of one's inner circle; and cultivation of new ideas and formats for solo and collaborative performance, whether live or virtual. The initiative was announced by its co-founders on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 during a Facebook Live event hosted by Larry Blumenfeld titled "What Mentorship Means Now," presented as part of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem's Jazz and Social Justice series. The event can be viewed at

The M³ model is as follows:

  • Each season starts with the solstice or equinox and lasts three months.
  • Participants comprise 10-12 specially nominated womxn musicians who are randomly paired into 5-6 duos. Each musician is paired with a fellow participant with whom they have not collaborated in the past. Each musician receives a commission of $500 USD for their participation.
  • Meetings among participants are held regularly and take place online if in-person meetings are not possible. Meetings last for at least one hour, are confidential, and consist of the following over the course of the season:
    • Three group meetings for all 10-12 musicians, in which they discuss issues affecting their work and lives.
    • Three duo meetings, in which each pair of musicians collaborates to create a new M³-commissioned work lasting approximately 10 minutes.
  • The season concludes with a concert showcase of the 5-6 duo commissions, lasting approximately one hour in total. Each world premiere is performed by the duo that composed the piece and is followed by a short, audience Q&A with the two artists.
  • The 10-12 participating musicians nominate the next season's group and facilitate their first meeting.

Co-founders Jen Shyu and Sara Serpa said:

"From our experience, it is still a challenge for many musicians to have access to meaningful and respectful mentorship in the music and arts worlds. We hope that this concept helps build new paradigms of mentorship within our community, and helps connect womxn, BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ musicians, especially relevant in this time of isolation. We also hope that launching this initiative at this time will help us better prepare for industry shifts and create new strategies for perpetuating positive support for each other in our community."

The inaugural M³ season commenced with a group meeting via Zoom on Saturday, June 20. The participating musicians, who are all composer-performers, are: Romarna Campbell (UK), drums: Caroline Davis (New York), saxophone; Eden Girma, (US / UK), voice, multi-instrumentalist; Val Jeanty, (Haiti / New York City), percussion, electronics, turntablist; Maya Keren (Philadelphia), piano; Erica Lindsay (Rosendale, NY), tenor sax; Lesley Mok (New York City), drums; Tomeka Reid (Chicago / New York City), cello; Sara Serpa (Portugal / New York City), voice; Jen Shyu (New York City / East Timor), voice, multi-instrumentalist; Anjna Swaminathan(Brooklyn), violinist, vocalist, multidisciplinary theatre artist; and Sumi Tonooka (Philadelphia), piano.

This inaugural group of musicians has been paired off into the following duos:

  • Romarna Campbell + Val Jeanty
  • Lesley Mok + Tomeka Reid
  • Eden Girma + Anjna Swaminathan
  • Erica Lindsey + Sara Serpa
  • Jen Shyu + Sumi Tonooka
  • Caroline Davis + Maya Keren

Learn more about M³ at Inquiries about the initiative may be directed to

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