We are an interdisciplinary team of scholars, artists, and professionals with a passion for studying Prince's signifance to the world of music and to the Twin Cities.
Arun Saldanha (Geography, Environment, and Society, University of Minnesota) - Main organizer
Arun had been thinking for over a decade about organizing a Prince symposium, puzzled that so few seemed to know about the uniquely tight connection between this city and the global pop icon. When in 2016 he finally started on the project as Imagine Chair of Arts, Design, and Humanities, Prince died unexpectedly a couple of weeks later. Arun’s research and teaching are broad but tend to focus on race, colonialism, gender, travel, and cultural theory. He authored Space After Deleuze and Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race, and he coedited Geographies of Race and Food: Fields Bodies Markets, Sexual Difference Between Psychoanalysis and Vitalism, and Deleuze and Race. He lives in Powderhorn.
Thom Swiss (Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota)
Thom Swiss has edited best-selling academic books on the internet, poetry and poetics, and Bob Dylan. He was a journalist writing about the South By Southwest (SXSW) in the early years of the festival and he has written extensively about popular music. His coedited book on the web and contemporary cultural theory was the first in what is now called internet studies. Another coedited book on the mobile internet appeared in 2015.
Sumanth Gopinath (School of Music, University of Minnesota)
Sumanth Gopinath is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He is the author of The Ringtone Dialectic: Economy and Cultural Form (MIT Press, 2013), and he coedited, with Jason Stanyek, The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies (2014). He is coediting, with Pwyll Ap Siôn, Rethinking Reich, forthcoming in 2018 (Oxford University Press). His writings on Steve Reich, musical minimalism, Marxism in music scholarship, the Nike+ Sport Kit, the ringtone industry, Bob Dylan, Benjamin Britten, and country music have appeared in various scholarly journals and edited collections. Gopinath's creative projects include serving as the bandleader for the country/ bluegrass/ Americana band The Gated Community.
Emma Balázs (Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, Australia)
Emma Balázs is the curator of The People's Museum for Prince which will hold its first exhibition in April 2018 in conjunction with the Symposium. Originally from Australia, Emma has worked in the arts all her life, as filmmaker, arts educator, arts manager, and curator. She has worked at Columbia University School of the Arts as Director of Visual Arts and Curator of the Neiman Gallery, and has held teaching positions in Arts Management at Columbia University, La Salle College of the Arts, and SUNY-Purchase. She has an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she focused on Collaborative Curatorial Practices. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
Elliot Powell (American Studies, University of Minnesota)
Elliott H. Powell is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota. His research and teaching sit at the intersections of race, sexuality, politics, and U.S. popular music. He is currently completing a book manuscript, The Other Side of Things: African American and South Asian Collaborative Sounds in Black Popular Music, which brings together critical race, feminist, and queer theories to consider the political implications of African American and South Asian collaborative music-making practices in U.S.-based black popular music since the 1960s. He is also at work on a second project that is tentatively titled Prince, Porn, and Public Sex, which explores the politics of sex(uality) and music in Minneapolis during the 1980s.
Zenzele Isoke (Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota)
Zenzele Isoke is a black feminist theorist, urban ethnographer, and political storyteller. Drawing from the ideas of black decolonial thinkers, Isoke writes the contemporary history of cities through the political struggles of self-identified black/queer women of the African diaspora. Writing across the fields of geography, political science, and urban anthropology, her scholarship spans several cities in the U.S., Middle-East, and the Caribbean. Her book new project Unheard Voices at the Bottom of Empire develops a set of “counterpoetic” writing practices to theorize and explore black feminist politics through the mediums of collaborative art-making, breath and meditation, and conventional grassroots organizing in racially segregated urban spaces. She is author of Urban Black Women and the Politics of Resistance (Palgrave 2013). Her writing has been featured in several peer-reviewed journals and anthologies, including Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, Transforming Anthropology, Gender, Place and Culture, among others. She is also the mother of two teenaged black girls and a (slowly) rising poet and organizer in her own right. She is currently writing a genre-blending memoir/self-help book titled Head Above Water: Black Womanhood and the Afterlife of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Bryan Schmidt (Theatre Arts and Dance, University of Minnesota) - Administrative Assistant
Mike Alleyne (Department of Recording Industry, Middle Tennessee State University)
Professor Mike Alleyne teaches in the Department of Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author of the Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae (2012), contributing editor of Rhythm Revolution: A Chronological Anthology of American Popular Music, 1960s to 1980s (2015), and author of the forthcoming The Essential Hendrix. He has lectured and presented internationally and his work has been published in Popular Music and Society, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Rock Music Studies, Journal on the Art of Record Production, the Grove Dictionary of American Music, Popular Music History, Social and Economic Studies, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, and Billboard. He was co-organizer of the "Purple Reign" conference in Manchester, UK, the first open academic event dedicated to the life and career of Prince. His involvement with popular music also includes roles as a writer and publisher member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Performing Right Society (PRS).
Kirsty Fairclough (School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK)
Dr Kirsty Fairclough is Associate Dean of Research and Innovation in the School of Arts and Media at the University of Salford, UK. She is the coeditor of The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop (Routledge), The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment (Bloomsbury) and Music/Video: Forms, Aesthetics, Media (Bloomsbury), and author of the forthcoming Beyoncé: Celebrity Feminism and Popular Culture (I.B Tauris). She has lectured internationally on popular culture and feminism, most notably at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, the University of Copenhagen, Second City in Chicago, Columbia College in Chicago, Middle Tennessee State University, Unisinos in Brazil, and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Kirsty developed the Popular Culture Conference series, including "I’ll See You Again in 25 Years: Twin Peaks and Generations of Cult Television", "Mad Men: The Conference", and in May 2017, "Purple Reign: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Life and Legacy of Prince".
Charles "Chazz" Smith (founding member of Grand Central and Prince's cousin) and Victoria Levy Smith
Charles “Chazz” Smith is the founder, original drummer, and lead vocalist of Grand Central, the band that spawned the careers of Morris Day, Andre Cymone, and the late music icon Prince Rogers Nelson. Charles grew up playing music alongside his cousin Prince on the Northside of Minneapolis. Together they formed the roots of what is commonly referred to as the Minneapolis Sound. Grand Central was one of the few black groups in Minneapolis who fused both rock and funk together. Prince credited Charles with introducing him to three things in his young life: music (drums), basketball, and girls. These exact sentiments were shared during the late music icon’s eulogy. Charles signed a solo deal with A & M Records in Los Angeles in 1986. He collaborated with writer Steven Ivory on one of the first Prince biographies. and He has since then worked on recording projects, live sessions, and assisting writers and journalists seeking information on his family and his cousin’s career. Charles currently resides in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, together with his wife Victoria, four children, and two Yorkies.
Victoria Levy Smith is a Senior HR Consultant with more than 20 years experience. She has worked in both the private and publically traded sectors. Victoria grew up in Northern Wisconsin and moved to Minneapolis in 1986. She married Charles in 1990 and attended the University of St Thomas.
Kristen Zschomler is the supervisor of the Cultural Resources Department at the Minnesota Department of Transportation and a Twin Cities-based historian who has been working to identify the location of key pre-Paisley Park locations associated with Prince's early life and musical development, and the sequence of dates for his association with them. Through primary-source research, including property records and interviews with some of Prince’s earliest collaborators, she has identified over 35 such properties, and is working to obtain historic designation for select buildings. For example, she has identified the locations where he first mastered the piano and wrote his first song as a child, mastered the guitar as a young teenager, and recorded the pivotal album Dirty Mind. Kristen collaborates with the Minnesota Historical Society, Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, and Preserve Minneapolis to get her research to a wider audience.
Jacqui Thompson has been an executive, consultant, and public relations specialist in the recording industry for more than two decades, working on projects with Prince, Carlos Santana, Outkast, Chaka Khan, and Larry Graham, among others. As manager of Prince’s Paisley Park company she was the conduit between NPG Records and other record labels. Jacqui oversaw all merchandising functions for 1-800-NEW-FUNK and helped manage Prince’s tours and public relations activities. She helped create a stand-alone distribution channel for the Crystal Ball album, one of the first for an independent major artist, and produced commercial visual spots for the Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic album. In other work, Jacqui is president of Revel Spirits, which imports Mexican agave. On the philanthropic side, she founded the project “Pave the Way” with Salvador and Carlos Santana to use music to create awareness amongst teenagers about healthy relationships. She serves as president of the PRN Alumni Foundation, which was set up after Prince’s death to bring his collaborators together and continue his charity work.
Suzanne Wint (independent ethnomusicologist)
Suzanne Wint is engaged in ethnographic fieldwork on public mourning in the Twin Cities since Prince’s passing. Housed primarily within ethnomusicology, Dr Wint has held joint appointments in Race and Ethnic Studies and African and African American Studies at St Olaf College, DePaul University, Reed College, and Northwestern University, and was a Martin Marty Junior Fellow in the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. Currently working on a book manuscript about postcolonial transnationalism in sub-Saharan classical music networks, Suzanne works toward diversity in classical music programming with the Chicago-based non-profit Crossing Borders Music.
Colleen Sheehy (Public Art Saint Paul)
Pamela Ayo Yetunde (United Theological Seminary)
Pamela Ayo Yetunde, ThD, is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Ayo directs the Interreligious Chaplaincy program at UTS and is leading their Theology of Prince project. A graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary, Holy Names University, and Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, Ayo has written journal articles on Buddhism and womanism and is writing a book on Buddhist psychology. She grew up in Indianapolis listening to the "black" radio station WTLC where she first heard Prince's music in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While at college she saw first-hand how Prince's music had a spiritually transformative effect on her dorm mate.
Carmen Hoover (English, Olympic College)
Raised in rural South Dakota, Hoover studied political science and women’s studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and worked at First Avenue and 7th Street Entry in the early to mid-1980s, leaving Minneapolis in 1989. Her funk-punk band Stand Up Stella was active from 1990 to 1995. She earned her BA in political science and MFA in writing at the University of Montana at Missoula. Hoover teaches English and the humanities at Olympic College in Shelton, Washington, where she also coordinates the Early College for Native Youth programs. She teaches Indigenous research theory and methods, as well as an annual class on the history of rock and roll.