Toni Lester is a composer, poet, playwrite, cultural critic and scholar. Her work often addresses themes relating to nature, spirituality and justice. Her creative work has been presented in venues ranging from Carnegie Recital Hall to the National Black Theater in New York. With degrees from the New England Conservatory, Georgetown and Northeastern Universities, she received artistic guidance from Sonia Sanchez, William Thomas McKinley, MacArthur Genius – George Russell, Robert Labaree, and Newark Jazz Elder and Blue Note recording artist Connie Lester. She is a Visiting Artist at MIT’s Spatial Sound Lab, and on the advisory board for the Transnational Sound Initiative in Berlin.
Lester’s work has been premiered by Grammy award winning vocalists: Dashon Burton (of Room Full Of Teeth) and Krista River; as well as flutist Robert Stallman, choreographer Aparna Sindhoor, interdisciplinary artist Indira Allegra, cellist Matt Turner, pianist Stephen Porter, and many other esteemed creatives. She is a two time National Composer’s Guild winner, and has received grants, commissions and/or residencies from the Mellon Foundation, the Common Counsel of California, the Lila Wallace Fund, Ragdale Artist Residency, Mesa Refuge Residency, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Margaret Jory Foundation, the Walker Fund, Brandeis University, Emerson College, Clark University, and Wellesley College, among others.
Noted performances have taken place at MIT’s Dissolve Sound and Music Festival, the University of Maryland’s Live Wire Festival, the University of Toronto’s Sounding the Inner Ear of Performance Festival, the National Black Theater’s Keep Soul Alive Series, The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance Blaktinx Festival, Massachustts Audubon Society, Wellesley College, Brandeis University, Old First Church Concert Series in San Francisco, and the Milk Bar in Oakland, California.