Acclaimed Performer Vanessa Daou
Collaborates with MCCC Theatre/Dance Program


This spring, internationally renowned singer/songwriter Vanessa Daou extended her hand to MCCC's Theatre and Dance students. In a lengthy Q&A session on campus in March, she shared her knowledge of the music business and her personal experience as an independent woman in a tough field.

Daou stressed that it's not who you know; it's how good you are. "In the end it's the quality and intrinsic value of your work that matters," she told a capacity crowd of theatre, dance, communications, visual arts, and entertainment technology students.

Daou advised students to branch out intellectually. "Explore art and science. Appreciate things that have nothing to do with you. I listen to artists that I'm nothing at all like," she said. Daou was a visual arts and art history major at Barnard College who approaches her music as a synthesis of sight, sound, written word and song with influences from jazz, blues, rock, folk, electronica and poetry.

She shared another gift with students in May when she gave permission for the Mercer Dance Ensemble to use selections from her just-released album, "Joe Sent Me," as the sultry, stylish and innovative accompaniment for its annual concert. Entitled "Joe Sent MDE," the show recalled the underground scene that emerged during the Prohibition era, when the code phrase "Joe sent me" helped people gain access to speakeasies.

Members of Mercer Dance Ensemble with Vanessa Daou, middle row, center.
MCCC Visual Arts student Ryan Lawyer used a variety of graphic elements for this Daou collage.

Dramatic lighting by Entertainment Technology faculty member Robert Terrano enhanced the performance, which was videotaped by TV students and faculty member Barry Levy.

According to Alex DeFazio, adjunct faculty member who initiated contact with Daou via e-mail, "The idea of building a dance concert around the album grew out of our e-mail exchanges. It was clear to me from the beginning that she would be a very special artist for our students to work with. Here is a woman who has achieved both professional and critical respect. I told her about our students' talent and dedication, and she didn't hesitate for a moment to offer her music and full spirit to the project."

The show was choreographed by MCCC faculty members Janell Byrne and Jody Person, and Dance alumna Jennifer Gladney, and featured 21 dancers. Following the show, which Daou attended, she wrote on her blog of "their absolutely stunning, scintillating performance of Joe Sent MDE."

DeFazio observes, "Daou is sharing her belief in our students with everyone who follows her music, and the result is that people are talking about Mercer, people who had never heard of us before." Daou is expected to post video from the concert on her websites and incorporate the footage into the ever-expanding multi-media project of her album.

DeFazio acknowledges that the bar has been raised as the result of this collaboration. "We plan to reach out to other artists like Daou in the future. Our students deserve every opportunity we can create for them."

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