The SOTA Summit Series is an exciting new virtual roundtable. Led by Michael Hatton and Daryl Harris, the series hosts guest professionals in the arts to prompt conversation and the exchange of ideas.
Gee Horton is a Cincinnati-based self-trained Hyperrealist visual artist who has recently transitioned from a career in the corporate world to focus primarily on making art and building communities. Using graphite and charcoal pencils, Gee's drawings capture a heightened sense of realism, but it is important to note that the Hyperrealist style is only one facet of comprehending his work. Having earned a master’s in social work from the University of Louisville, he often incorporates his education and life experiences into his art to achieve a kind of power that for many triggers’ emotional associations. With this in mind, his current work makes a connection between his African roots and their juxtaposition to American attitudes on the social and emotional development of the African American male experience.
Gee is currently working on a series of work entitled, “Coming of Age”. In collaboration with photographer Jason Carter, the series is autobiographical and offers a complex multilayered conversation about black-male adolescence and their search for identity, acceptance, purpose, and love.
Gee has been drawing for the last three years and has been featured in local art exhibits and media publications. He is currently serving as the Mercantile Library’s first African American Artist-in-Residence. He has been commissioned to draw a 6ft portrait of Peter H. Clark, the Mercantile Library’s first African American member. Gee played a major role in the Black Art Speaks collective to paint the Black Lives Matter! mural in front of Cincinnati's City Hall. Gee currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Artworks, WavePool, and is a Co-Host of the Urban Consulate Cincinnati Chapter.
Globe-trotting, trombone playing Jaime Morales-Matos can be found on the conductor’s podium of the Central Ohio Symphony each concert. Now in his fifteenth season as Music Director, he has brought new direction to the Symphony’s artistic programming and performances.
As a conductor, Jaime has conducted throughout the United States, Europe, and Latin America, as well as in his native Puerto Rico. He conducted members of the New York Philharmonic at the prestigious Casals Festival in a concert broadcast on public television in 2003 and was selected in 2007 as one of the most promising young conductors by the American Symphony Orchestra League.
In addition to his conducting, Jaime has wide-ranging experience as a trombonist. He has performed in this country and elsewhere, including Europe and Latin America, and has premiered various pieces written for him. Jaime directs and plays trombone with Son del Caribe, a Cincinnati-based Latin music ensemble considered by many to be the top salsa band in Ohio.
Jaime is Associate Professor of Trombone at Miami University of Ohio. He is very active as a Master Class artist in the United States and Latin America, and has taught trombone extensively. He received his undergraduate training at Indiana University and holds a Master’s degree from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Darnell Pierre Benjamin has been a professional performing artist, director, choreographer, educator, and activist for about 15 years, now. He attended University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and earned a BFA in Performing Arts. Following undergrad, Darnell attended University of Houston, and earned his MFA in Classical Theatre Performance, with an emphasis in Shakespeare.
Since 2010, Darnell has become an Associate Artist and Resident Ensemble Member with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, where he works as an actor, choreographer, and director in the season's offerings. He’s performed in and been on the creative team of over 30 productions with the company. In addition, Darnell regularly works in Cincinnati's arts scene in all capacities as a proud Actor’s Equity Association member.
When not performing, Darnell works as a teaching artist and adjunct professor. Since 2011, he’s worked with local dance group, Pones, as both an educator and board member, where he leads inner-city students of all ages through using the arts as a vehicle for social change. Most recently, Darnell has also joined the board of Stop the Stigma Productions, a company based in Cincinnati that spreads awareness about mental health through song and storytelling. Darnell has taught at College-Conservatory of Music and Xavier Universities; and most recently, he began teaching at Northern Kentucky University in The School of The Arts.
Darnell has led countless workshops and discussions on how the arts and activism work hand in hand. He is the co-producer of Queen City Pride Cabaret, a successful, annual cabaret that donates to local LGBTQ organizations aimed at education; companies, like PFLAG and Proud Scholars, have benefited in the past. For a year, he helped start up the company, HIVAINTTHEBOSSOFME, which helped provide access and resources to individuals living with HIV through nights of storytelling and education. Darnell has also led discussions about mental health through the organization 1n5, which is working to educate and empower individuals living with mental health challenges.
Most recently, Darnell has been working on directing/choreographing his first film, "13th and Republic", which is a psychological horror film that explores the mental health aspect of Black trauma. The film contains original music composition, choreography, and storytelling that leans into the phrase "I can't breathe".
Meghan Bennett leads a diverse career as an educator and solo, chamber and orchestral musician. She was awarded top prizes in the South Carolina Flute Society Young Artist Competition, Morning, Afternoon and Eau Claire Music Club Competition, Atlanta Flute Club Young Artist Competition, Flute Society of Kentucky Young Artist Competition and Greater Philadelphia Flute Society Collegiate Young Artist Competition. Bennett has also competed as a quarter finalist in the National Flute Association Young Artist Competition and the Fischoff Competition.
Passionate about collaborating with communities of color through classical music, Bennett recently traveled to Chile and Ghana for residencies at Centro Cultural San Antonio and the Matic Music Club where she taught flute and music theory. Bennett has also led master classes and workshops throughout the nation at the University of Washington, Princeton University, Baylor University, Pennsylvania State University, Stephen F. Austin University, University of Tampa, Charleston Southern University, University of Central Arkansas and Harding University.
She has been a guest soloist with Chamber Music International in Dallas, TX, joined the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players on tour and was principal flutist with Spotlight on Opera in Austin, TX. In addition, she has performed with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Waco Symphony Orchestra, Round Rock Symphony and the Palmetto Opera Orchestra. Dr. Bennett has been a recipient of fellowships to attend the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Brevard Music Center, Marrowstone Music Festival and the National Music Festival.
Bennett is an active chamber musician. She is a founding member of Li5ten quintet, 2017 quarterfinalist at the Fischoff Competition and recipient of the Chamber Music Residency Fellowship at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Dr. Bennett is also a member of Emissary Quartet [4 flutes], who recently performed a recital at the DiMenna Center featuring three winning compositions from EQ’s 2017 Call for Scores Competition, a workshop and recital for the New Jersey Flute Society and a workshop for composition students at Princeton University.
Dr. Bennett is Assistant Professor of Flute and Woodwind Area Coordinator at Northern Kentucky University. She previously served on the faculties of Prairie View A&M University, OrchKids, Floot Fire, the Longhorn Music Camp and the Carolina Summer Music Conservatory. Her primary teachers include Marianne Gedigian, Marina Piccinini, Jennifer Parker-Harley, Julie Diamond and Regina Helcher-Yost.
Dan Davidson, a.k.a. Sparkle Leigh, graduated from UC's College-Conservatory of Music with a BFA in Theatre/Acting. Having over twenty years' experience in theatre, film, stage management, performance art, drag, SFX makeup, photography, graphic design, and most recently puppetry, he considers himself a Swiss Army knife of an artist. Dan has performed in venues from stairwells to professional and regional stages, both nationally and internationally.
Aleksa Manila (she/her) is Seattle's sweetheart of social activism. As a genderqueer FilipinX immigrant, her passion lies in honoring and uplifting marginalized communities especially BIPOC and gender diverse people. Her early years started with HIV education and intervention targeting young Asian Pacific islander gay men. This commitment blossomed working closely with LGBTQ organizations like Public Health - Seattle and King County, Seattle Counseling Service, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, People of Color Against AIDS Network, Entre Hermanos, UTOPIA among others.
Finding her platform as a performance drag artist, she focuses on the power of voice and visibility for human rights centered on LGBTQ history and legacy. She's a sought after keynote speaker, expert panelist, fundraiser, auctioneer, moderator and emcee at various events extending the boundaries of the traditional queer venues - like Seattle City Hall, King County Superior Court, Filipino Community Center, University of Washington, Seattle University, Department of Health, Asian Counseling Referral Service, and the White House to name a few.
From Miss Gay Filipino, Miss Gay Seattle and Empress of Seattle - she continues to champion communities and collectives that honor the diverse LGBTQ narrative - from Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera to Harvey Milk and Mama Jose. She has gained recognition through her selfless act of creating safe space for others - from Seattle Mayor's Award for Outstanding Leader, Filpino Community of Seattle Lifetime Achievement Award for Community Leadership, Seattle Women's Pride Champion Award, Greater Seattle Business Association's Humanitarian Award for Community Leadership, Grand Marshal at the 40th Seattle Pride, and Jose (Sarria) Honors to name a few including being sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
In 2012, she founded Pride ASIA, a Queer and Asian collective whose mission is to celebrate, empower and nurture the multi-cultural diversity of the LGBTQ2+ communities through the Asian Pacific Islander lens. Through her respected networking and collaborative efforts, Pride ASIA has the honor of disbursing $25,000 to individuals impacted by COVID.
With her Master of Social Work from the University of Washington, she centers her professional expertise on harm reduction, equity and social justice. She is in private practice focused on LGBTQ BIPOC populations, including health advocacy and consultation, and as a Case Manager at one of the HIV clinics in the city. Mx. Manila is a past and present member of the International Court Council, Heir Emeritus and Heir-in-line-of-succession to Empress Nicole The Great de San Diego, Queen Mother of the Americas; and various advisory boards centered on diversity for the arts, field of medicine, transgender health, public health and social work. She is currently an Ambassador for the "Drag Out To Vote" national campaign to educate LGBTQ representation in the polls this fall.
For two decades, Aleksa continues to amplify the disenfranchised, unseen and unheard so that no one is left behind and as a whole, we rise, step out, and come forward to celebrate each