OUR CREW


CREATORS OF THE SENEGAL-AMERICA PROJECT

Massamba Diop
MASSAMBA DIOP is our ever-generous and wise host in Senegal. Born to a griot family, he has played the tama drum all his life. Massamba plays in the band of African pop superstar, Baaba Maal, and is admired for his tama virtuosity throughout Senegal. With friends all over the world, Massamba is the consummate ambassador for creating community through music.

Tony Vacca

TONY VACCA is an innovative American percussionist with Jazz and World Music roots going back to 1972. Over the course of his career, he has made a habit of pushing the already adventurous conventions of World Music into new territory, both as a soloist and as the leader of his World Rhythms Ensemble. He is part of a wave of 20th century musicians whose work has fueled the rediscovery of the power of the drum, and the power of music to build global common ground. His fourteen trips to West Africa have contributed to his unique approach to playing the balafon, and to his depth of knowledge regarding African and American musical traditions.

Tony also has over 20 years experience as an educator/instigator, doing hands-on educational workshops and concert performances in schools, working with students from elementary to post-graduate levels. All this is part of the reason he has recorded and/or performed with such a wide range of musicians. These include pop icon Sting, Senegalese Afro-pop star Baaba Maal, Jazz trumpeter and World Music legend Don Cherry, poet Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, Senegalese Hip-Hop stars Gokh-bi System, and Massamba Diop, Senegalese master of the tama or talking drum. He has produced three recordings of his own, with a fourth currently in production.

Tony’s plans for this trip include doing a recording session with Massamba Diop, Acca Wele, Barou Sall and Derrik Jordan, and returning to Ginaw Rails to visit friends and their families. (Link to Tony's story about the mayor's reception)


Jean Butler
JEAN BUTLER,  Senegal-America Tour Coordinator, is the mother of three grown children and pseudo mom to five artists working with Arts Are Essential, Inc. (including Tony Vacca). She can’t believe that she’s been an arts advocate for nearly 30 years, beginning with her parent volunteer time as an enrichment coordinator, progressing into an agent and then becoming the President and Founder of a non-profit arts in education corporation. “I’m not an artist, musician or educator, but I am a great facilitator. I’m enjoying meeting everyone here going along on the Virtual Trip and I’m looking forward to meeting old and new friends in Senegal.” (Link to Jean's Journal - travel in Senegal)

Travelers (in alphabetical order)


Kim Brosnan-Myers
KIM BROSNAN-MYERS teaches Kindergarten at West Chester Friends School in southeastern Pennsylvania. She loves to study the animals, cultures and geography of Africa with young children. Each March, her classroom is transformed into "An African Market" to share what they have learned with the rest of the school. Her interest in Africa began with a drumming workshop in 1992. Pretty soon the music, stories, and art of Africa captured her heart. After hearing a lecture by Wangari Matthai, who founded the Green Belt Movement, Kim joined a Green Belt Movement Safari to plant trees in Kenya in the summer of 2002. She learned how intertwined the communities are with the trees, animals, and water in their environment. Most importantly, she experienced the generosity, compassion, and kindness of the new friends she made. It made her determined to bridge the divisions between Americans and Africans. AIDS, deforestation, and violence affect families on both sides of the Atlantic. We can do more if we can be open to working together. The Senegal America Project does just that and she is thrilled to be part of it. (Link to Kim's Journal, 12/29/05)

Jason Buchea
JASON BUCHEA is from Laguna Beach in "The OC" region of California, and thus has the dubious distinction of having two TV shows about his home town debut within the same years' time. In 2001 he graduated from the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford with a degree in Jazz Studies. Now working as a freelance musician in Hartford, CT, Jason has geared his life towards both art and education. He has taught at every level in some form, from elementary school to college, public schools to private students, and spends his summers teaching at the National Guitar Workshop, the world's largest summer music institute. Jason plays in many different groups from Bluegrass to Jazz to Bachata. He is mostly known for his work in the Hartford hip-hop field with groups like El Vee and Filthy Kleen. His main band, however, is the Missing Fifths, a Jazz/Funk/Hip-Hop/Punk band that was named CT's "Best Hip-Hop Group" by the Hartford Advocate in 2005.

On the trip, Jason wishes to connect with the roots of his culture. "As Americans we're part European, part African, and part Native American; probably a lot of other backgrounds as well if not in blood, then certainly in spirit. My formal education gave me plenty of information about our European heritage, but our African roots have been greatly under-represented."

Katie Butler
KATIE BUTLER Katie Butler is finally getting to go on her trip to Africa! She was in high school during the last trip and she’s really excited about being able to travel with us on the adventure this time! She was majoring in math and performing in the marching band at College of Wooster in Ohio. She’s currently taking a break from classes to go on the trip with us to Senegal.

William Daniels
WILLIAM DANIELS is founder and president of The Hardwick Group, Inc. - a consulting firm specializing in human & cultural diversity, government and community relations, and historical research. He is a former musician and industry executive, law enforcement officer, security specialist, EMT and hemodialysis technician. William is a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice on issues regarding public safety, the revitalization of crime-ridden and impoverished communities and special youth initiatives. He currently co-chairs a federal Hate Crimes Working Group and develops, speaks, and instructs curriculum related to bias-motivated crimes, youth leadership and organizational change. His purpose for participating in this project is both personal (a pilgrammage to the land of his ancestors) and professional (to learn by conducting historical research on culture, music and diverse peoples, and to teach and share the American experience with the Senegalese). (Link to Will's Journal - "Going Home, An African-American Experience in Senegal")

Irma Gardner
IRMA GARDNER-HAMMOND is known around town as "Storytelling Irma." It is an appropriate label for someone who paints such vivid pictures with words. Storytelling Irma's early experience was shaped by growing up in a small segregated town on the eastern shore of Maryland. A strong sense of family, spirituality, and community are reflected in her stories. She magically spins improvisational colorful tales that weave the audience into their fabric through songs, movement, and drama. As a Creative Arts therapist she has worked in gerontology and mental health for over twenty years. Irma is well known in the profession for her therapeutic use of story and music as she also offers workshops, seminars, lectures and inservices on the therapeutic use of storytelling. (Link to Irma's Poem - the Ancestors Speak)

Burchie Green
BURCHIE GREEN has been a Montessori teacher for the past 15 years in Western Massachusetts. After her first trip to Senegal, she brought back stories, pictures, and artifacts to her classroom. Her students' enthusiastic response explains her eagerness to join this group. Burchie is also a singer-songwriter and has made two recordings of original children's songs. They have reached audiences worldwide through the Montessori community. Burchie's intent on this trip is to represent the needs of Montessori schools with special focus on the 'Fundamental Needs of Man' such as our need for food, water, and shelter and on documenting 'a day in the life' of a Senegalese child. (Link to Burchie's journal, visit to the village of Toubab Diallaw)

Siomara Green
SIOMARA GREEN is the Guatemalan-born adopted daughter of Tony Vacca and Burchie Green. Most of her life is currently spent listening to World Music, and she is especially fond of the tama drumming of her uncle, Massamba Diop. Some of her favorite CD's include Baaba Maal’s “Lam Toro,” and almost everything by Oumou Sangare or Acca Wele. On this trip to Senegal she hopes to get acquainted with Senegalese cuisine, since she has devoured nearly every food substance America has to offer. Other goals are to get some serious hang-time on the beautiful beach of Toubab Diallo, to learn some Wolof, and to meet some of her favorite Senegalese musicians.

Earl Gardner-Hammond
EARL HAMMOND is a high school senior who has crammed a rich life into his 17 years. He's been playing the djembe since he was seven and now teaches drum classes in recreation and community centers and schools in the Philadelphia area. He performs in six different bands: Meet Rainbow (punk rock), Heru Fire Drummers (African djembe and djun djun), Enox Trufdot (hip hop), Flame (punk rock), and Coldblooded (alternative rock and jazz). His goal in Senegal is to come closer to his people; his ancestors came from Senegal. Also, Earl's heart's desire is to come closer to the music of Senegal and the rhythms of the drum so that someday he can call himself an international drummer and eventually become a master drummer in the true sense of word.

Richard Haxhi
A middle level educator for over ten years, RICHARD HAXHI teaches geography and social studies in Fairfield, Connecticut.  He focuses on diversity and the interconnectedness of our planet in physical and cultural terms.  Rich possesses a rich background in history, earth science, and politics.  His goals for the Senegal experience are to establish cross Atlantic relationships, expand his knowledge of Africa, and help his students acquire a better understanding of the world around them.  Rich has worked closely with Lenny Moitoso in Fairfield Public Schools to develop a regionally recognized unit on Africa. (Link to Rich's Journal, 12/28/05)

Derrik Jordan
DERRIK JORDAN is an award-winning songwriter, singer, recording artist, producer, multi-instrumentalist and teacher. He plays 5 string electric violin, guitar, piano and a wide range of percussion including congas, kalimba and quica. His goals for the trip include playing with Senegalese musicians and studying one string African fiddle. He will be bringing his digital multi-track recorder and documenting our musical interaction as well as making CDs for local musicians as gifts.

Debby Kern
DEBBY KERN is our web author and one of the photographers for the first and the present trip. Newly retired from her job as middle school computer teacher/coordinator in West Chester, PA, she brings with her a joy in working with students of all ages. Over the past 10 years, Debby has brought the World Rhythms program to over 100 schools, conference centers, and concert venues. In addition, Debby initiated an on-going sister program between her school and a village in Malawi, E. Africa, consisting of an in-person cultural exchange and raising funds to build a solar powered grain mill in Zowe. Her other interests in life and on this trip are African drumming/dance, living in peace with nature, and sharing life experiences with new friends. (Links to Debby's Journal, 12/30/05, Debby's Journal - the Senegalese people remind us that life can be real)

Robbie Leppzer

ROBBIE LEPPZER is an award-winning independent filmmaker who has created documentary television programs about contemporary social issues and multicultural themes for national and international broadcast for more than 25 years. Leppzer’s critically acclaimed documentary works have been globally broadcast in 210 countries by CNN International and broadcast nationally in the United States and Canada by PBS, Cinemax, Sundance Channel, The Learning Channel, Free Speech TV, National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Robbie has worked with Tony Vacca and World Rhythms for many years. In 1989, he produced SONGS OF THE TALKING DRUM, an hour-long documentary which profiled Tony Vacca’s collaboration with saxophonist Tim Moran and theater performance artist Andrea Hairston. In 1998, he filmed the last Senegal-America group trip to Dakar and filmed interviews with many of Senegal’s top musicians for CNN International’s World Beat program.

Robbie's latest feature documentary, THE PEACE PATRIOTS, is narrated by Air America Radio host Janeane Garofalo and features music by Steve Earle, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Jonatha Brooke, Saul Williams, DJ Spooky and John Sheldon. He often speaks in middle schools, high schools, and colleges, using his films as discussion catalysts about contemporary social issues with students. For more information, visit his website Turning Tide Productions


Bob Lombardo
BOB LOMBARDO is a technical trainer, musician, and former high school teacher. He will be providing technical support for the group as needed. His goal is to have fun with the people of Senegal because when we are laughing, there are no cultural barriers.

Zan Lombardo
ZAN LOMBARDO joined the Senegal-America Trip to finally see firsthand the fine arts and culture of a continent she's been teaching about in public schools for more than 25 years. Her honors include Rotary's Outstanding Teacher of the Year (2001), Robert Rauschenberg Power of Art honoree (2002), Citadel Heart of Learning nominee (2003, 2004), and recognition for exemplary work on environmental education with gifted and talented students from the National Energy Foundation (2004, 2005). (Link to Zan's Journal, 12/29/05, Zan's journal, 12/30/05 )

Lenny Moitoso
LENNY MOITOSO has been a 7th grade World Geography teacher for 6 years at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield, CT.  His main passion in the subject area is the study of people and cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa.   For 4 years, along with colleague Rich Haxhi, Lenny has helped develop a multi-disciplinary unit on Sub-Saharan Africa that includes helping to build fresh water wells through the Peace Corps. Lenny's goals for the Senegal-America trip include setting up cross-continent correspondence with students and teachers, broadening his knowledge of the area, and learning about culture through music and traditions.   His other interests include playing acoustic guitar and coaching at the high school level. (Link to Lenny's Journal, 12/30/05)

Background music: "Suma Deuk Waay" from Senegal-America Project CD featuring Gokh-Bi System
(If you don't hear music, click here to download newest version of Quicktime)

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