Landmark Harlem Stage Announces Gala 2023 Honoring Legends In The Arts

May 20, 2023

Harlem Stage, the nationally influential New York cultural institution that commissions and presents new work by visionary artists of color holds its 2023 gala on June 5, 2023.

Taking place at the landmark Harlem Stage Gatehouse, 150 Convent Avenue in Harlem, the event kicks off the organization’s year-long 40th-anniversary celebration, which will feature performances from many of the celebrated artists whose careers the organization has helped to launch, and will provide a platform for today’s most compelling emerging artists to break through.

The ceremony honors Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban American composer, conductor, and educator Tania León with the Harlem Stage Lifetime Achievement Award; Citi Foundation with the Harlem Stage Philanthropy Award; and award-winning dance artist Leslie Cuyjet with the Harlem Stage Emerging Artist Award.

“We are excited to celebrate 40 years of fearless dedication to visionary, risk-taking artists of color whose bold voices and ideas force us to examine the status quo,” said Cruz. “Harlem Stage has, and will continue to be, the place to discover the new, the unexpected, the place that dares to give birth to new ideas. Tania León and Leslie Cuyjet exemplify why we do what we do. And of course, we are grateful to Citi Foundation, for their generous support of organizations like Harlem Stage that focus on making a real impact in communities in need as well as their true belief in our mission.”

The star-studded evening will feature a program with performance and musical interludes by a variety of artists. Pianist Adam Kent will showcase León’s compositions for all to enjoy. Teaching artist Selena Tornez and students from A Philip Randolph High School who participate in The Frances Davis/Harlem Stage Arts Education Program Urban Opera After-School Program will perform a Latin dance number. The dancing will continue throughout the evening to the music of renowned turntablist DJ Raydar Ellis. Guests expected include Gelila Bekele, Patricia Blanchett, Hugh Dancy (Harlem Stage Board Member), Neil Gaiman, John Josephson & Carolina Zapf, Carey Lovelace, Sherman & Chris Meloni, Estelle Parsons, Wendell Pierce, Ted Snowdon & Duffy Violante, Tamara Tunie (Harlem Stage Board Member), Tom Viola, and more.

The 2023 Gala Co-Chairs are Courtney Lee-Mitchell (Harlem Stage Board President), LaChanze Sapp-Gooding (Harlem Stage Board Member), Gay McDougall, Ted Snowdon, and Duffy Violante. Gala sponsors include Agnes Gund, Citi Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, SESAC, Inc., Manhattan Beer Distributors, BET Media Group, Black Theatre United, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Perry Foundation, Interpublic Group of Companies, Berklee College of Music.

Tania León (Harlem Stage Lifetime Achievement Award)

Tania León (b. Havana, Cuba) is highly regarded as a composer, conductor, educator, and advisor to arts organizations. In 2006, she was among the first of three artists to be commissioned through Harlem Stage’s signature WaterWorks program. Her orchestral work Stride, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2022, she was named a recipient of the 45th Annual Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements. In 2023, she was awarded the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition from Northwestern University. Most recently, León became the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s next Composer-in-Residence—a post she will hold for two seasons, beginning in September 2023. She will also hold Carnegie Hall’s Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for its 2023-2024 season.

Recent premieres include works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Grossman Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, Modern Ensemble, Jennifer Koh’s project Alone Together, and The Curtis Institute. Appearances as guest conductor include Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille, Gewandhausorchester, Orquesta Sinfónica de Guanajuato, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuba, among others. Upcoming commissions feature a work for the League of American Orchestras, and a work for Claire Chase, flute, and The Crossing Choir with text by Rita Dove.

A founding member and first Music Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, León instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, co-founded the American Composers Orchestra’s Sonidos de las Américas Festivals, was New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic, and is the founder/Artistic Director of Composers Now, a presenting, commissioning and advocacy organization for living composers.

Honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement, inductions into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and fellowship awards from ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and The Koussevitzky Music and Guggenheim Foundations, among others. She also received a proclamation for Composers Now by New York City Mayor, and the MadWoman Festival Award in Music (Spain).

León has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin, SUNY Purchase College, and The Curtis Institute of Music, and served as U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. A CUNY Professor Emerita, she was awarded a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship, Chamber Music America’s 2022 National Service Award, and Harvard University’s 2022 Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award. In 2023, Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired Tania’s León’s archive.

Tickets are available at

Harlem Stage Emerging Artist Award

“A potent choreographic voice” (New York Times), Leslie Cuyjet is a dance artist in Brooklyn, New York.

Her tenure in New York is decorated with performances and collaborations, both formal and informal; with contemporaries, legends, and counterparts; on rooftops, good and bad floors, and alleyways; on stage, in film, art, on tour, and on the fly; since 2004. She was awarded a 2019 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for her sustained achievement as Outstanding Performer. And her 2021 solo, Blur, earned her a 2022 award for Outstanding Choreographer/Creator.

Her independent work has been presented in New York, where she aims to conjure life-long questions of identity, confuse and disrupt traditional narratives, and demonstrate the angsty, explosive, sensitive, pioneering excellence of the Black woman.

The Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant communities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit

Harlem Stage

Harlem Stage is the performing arts center that bridges Harlem’s cultural legacy to contemporary artists of color and dares to provide the artistic freedom that gives birth to new ideas. For nearly 40 years, the organization’s singular mission has been to perpetuate and celebrate the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture. Harlem Stage provides opportunity, commissioning, and support for visionary artists of color, makes performances easily accessible to all audiences, and introduces children to the rich diversity, excitement, and inspiration of the performing arts.

Harlem Stage fulfills its mission through commissioning, incubating, and presenting innovative and vital work that responds to the historical and contemporary conditions that shape our lives and the communities the organization serves.

With a long-standing tradition of supporting artists and organizations around the corner and across the globe, Harlem Stage boasts such legendary artists as Harry Belafonte, Max Roach, Sekou Sundiata, Abbey Lincoln, Sonia Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri, Maya Angelou, and Tito Puente, as well as contemporary artists like Mumu Fresh, Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité, Xian aTunde Adjuah, Tamar-kali, Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jason Moran, José James, Nona Hendryx, Bill T. Jones, and more. Harlem Stage’s education programs serve over 2,300 New York City school children each year.

The New York Times has saluted Harlem Stage as “an invaluable incubator of talent” and it has been hailed as an organization still unafraid to take risks. Harlem Stage’s investment in this visionary talent is often awarded in the early stages of many artists’ careers, and the organization proudly celebrates their increasing success. Five members of its artist family have joined the ranks of MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship awardees: Kyle Abraham (2013), Vijay Iyer (2013), Jason Moran (2010), Bill T. Jones (1994), and Cecil Taylor (1991).

Harlem Stage is a winner of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters William Dawson Award for Programming Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming.

Photo credit: Source.

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