Toni Lester is a composer, interdisciplinary artist, poet, playwrite and cultural critic. Her creative work is inspired by contemporary art, experimental and world music, sound, jazz, poetry, film, theater, dance and social issues. It has been presented in venues ranging from Carnegie Recital Hall to the Sorbonne in Paris, France. With degrees from the New England Conservatory, Georgetown and Northeastern Universities, she received artistic guidance from composers William Thomas McKinley and MacArthur Genius – George Russell, ethnomusicologist Robert Labaree, black arts poet Sonia Sanchez, and Newark Jazz Elder and Blue Note recording artist Connie Lester. She has studied with members of the Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, and is on the the international advisory board for the Transnational Sound Initiative (TSI) supported by the Berliner Kuenstler (DAAAD) Arts and Media Program in Germany.
Lester’s work has been premiered by Grammy award winners: baritone Dashon Burton (of Room Full Of Teeth) and soprano 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 artists. 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 Program, Mesa Refuge Residency Program, Sedona Artist Colony, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Ayatana Residency Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Margaret Jory Foundation, the Walker Fund, Brandeis University, Emerson College, Clark University, and Wellesley College, among others.
Recent 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.