Dr Ysaÿe M Barnwell

Dr. Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, a native New Yorker now living in Washington, DC is a musical, human rights, and international treasure. Dr. Barnwell is the songwriter of Breaths, and appears as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist on more than 30 recordings with Sweet Honey In The Rock, an African American acapella singing group whose music ranges from “African to blues to gospel and jazz. Throughout their sterling career, Sweet Honey has used their art form and their voices to defend civil rights, social justice, equality and freedom for all.”

Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell, a native New Yorker now living in Washington, DC is a musical, human rights, and international treasure. Dr. Barnwell is the songwriter of Breaths, and appears as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist on more than 30 recordings with Sweet Honey In The Rock, an African American acapella singing group whose music ranges from “African to blues to gospel and jazz. Throughout their sterling career, Sweet Honey has used their art form and their voices to defend civil rights, social justice, equality and freedom for all.”

Dr. Barnwell has, for the past 30+ years, spent much of her time off stage working as a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition” has during the past 28 years, been conducted on three continents, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers, a model of pedagogy for educators, and cultural activists and historians. After 34 years, she retired from Sweet Honey In The Rock.

Dr. Barnwell has been a commissioned composer on numerous choral, film, video, dance and theatrical projects including Sesame Street, Dance Alloy of Pittsburgh, David Rousseve’s Reality Dance Company, The New Spirituals Project, GALA Festival Choruses. 2001 saw the premiere of the work Suite Death, a setting of four poems by Langston Hughes for baritone, choir and orchestra, commissioned by the Plymouth Music Series in Minneapolis, MN.

Dr. Barnwell earned her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Speech Pathology (SUNY, Geneseo) Doctor of Philosophy in Speech Pathology (University of Pittsburgh), and the Master of Science in Public Health (Howard University). In 1998, Dr. Barnwell was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by her alma mater, SUNY Geneseo. She received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL (2009) and the Virginia Theological Seminary (2011); and in 2012, all members of Sweet Honey In the Rock, were awarded the Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Chicago Theological Seminary (2012).

She is producer of Sweet Honey’s 25th anniversary recording, ...TWENTY-FIVE..., and Endings and Beginnings: Sweet Honey In The Rock Community Chorus. Her workshop Building a Vocal Community® has been produced as a boxed instructional set: Singing in the African American Tradition. Her first children’s book, No Mirrors In My Nana’s House, illustrated by Synthia Saint James and published by Harcourt was released in 1998.