Learning from Performers

Student instructed by opera singer Morris Robinson


The mission at the heart of the Learning from Performers program is that creativity and discovery are nurtured by engagement. To that end, the LFP team -- associate director for programming Alicia Anstead and program associate Deena Anderson , in conjunction with OFA director Jack Megan and many student co-producers -- works to develop immersive programs that put students and professional artists in the room together in creative, exciting, intellectual exchanges.

Under the OFA directorship of Myra Mayman, Learning from Performers was the brainchild of Jerold Kayden ’75, now the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Graduate School of Design. Kayden and Mayman worked together to establish the program in 1975, and Kayden ran it during its inaugural year, establishing the template for what would become a thriving enterprise that continues to this day. It was then fostered for many years by the former manager Tom Lee.

LFP hosts 15 to 20 artists and artist ensembles annually in music, dance, theater, film, TV, visual arts and inter-disciplinary arts. These artists lead workshops, classes, seminars and informal discussions, and also engage in longer-term residencies that sometimes culminate in performances, exhibitions and new works. In recent years, LFP programs have increasingly and more deeply involved students, faculty and FAS curricular courses and other Harvard departments such as the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, JFK School of Government, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, the Department of Music, the Graduate School of Education, the Harvard College Women's Center, the Office for BGLTQ Student Life, the Harvard Ed Portal, Harvard iLabs, Harvard Business School and more.

Highlights from the 2021-2022 season include

  • ArtsBites conversations with best-selling YA novelist Angeline Boulley (Firekeeper's Daughter), in partnership with Harvard Native American Program; international mezzo-soprano opera star J'Nai Bridges, in partnership with Harvard College Opera; playwright Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play), in partnership with Harvard BlackCAST; playwright and actor John Cariani (Almost, Maine), in partnership with Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club.
  • Learning from Performers conversations with Joey and Faith Soloway (collaborators on the TV series Transparent), in collaboration with the BGLTQ Office of Student Life; composer Matthew Aucoin '12 and soprano Erin Morley, in partnership with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and Harvard Music Department. 
  • Off Camera Series with Nicky Weistock '91 with actor Eduardo Franco (Booksmart); actor and singer Tika Sumpter (The Haves and the Have Nots). 
  • Entrepreneurship in Creative Careers Wintersession program with Jim Augustine '01, COO of Zuckerberg Media and Resident Artist in Drama at the OFA First-Year Arts Program.
  • Inclusions, a public art installation by students, in partnership with  Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science, the OFA Ceramics Program, the Presidential Initiative on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery, housed at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, and The Monument Project, as well as Inclusions: Envisioning Justice on Harvard's Campus, a public forum with the installation creators and Professor Tracy K. Smith and moderator Professor Stephen Gray.
  • 36th annual Cultural Rhythms Artist of the Year ceremony with Lady Gaga, in support of the Harvard Foundation.  
  • Harvard Student Composers Festival – CompFest – with Harvard College student musicians, salsa icon Rubén Blades LL.M. '85, composer Chaya Czernowin, composers Kris Davis and Stew Stewart, featuring journalist Ed Yong (The Atlantic).

Highlights from the 2020-2021 season include 

  • Off Camera series with Nicky Weinstock: Jameela JamilBen SchwartzOrlando Bloom; arts administrator Aaron Dworkin, choreographer Claudia Schreier '08; Harvard Jazz Band artists Cécile McLorin Salvant, Camille Thurston, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ingrid Jesen,  Henry Threadgill, Gerald Clayton, Luis Perdoma; theater artists Michael R. Jackson, Lydia Diamond, Paul Oakley Stovall, Tiffany Mellard, Bill Rauch, Lynn Nottage; fashion artist: Chromat founder Becca McCharen-Tran; Ceramics Program artists Fabio J. Fernandez, Roberto Lugo, Rebecca Hutchinson, Ruth Easterbrook, Paul Andrew Wandless, Syd Carpenter, Shawanda Corbett, Sanam Emami, Salvador Jiménez Flores, Donté K. Hayes; opera singers Lawrence Brownlee and Morris Robinson; AfroFlow Yoga founders Jeff and Leslie Salmon Jones; ARTS FIRST Festival artists: Yo-Yo Ma, Mira Nair, Peter Sellars, John Lithgow, Tracy K. Smith, Margaret Atwood, Tonya M. Foster. 
  • Harvard Student Composers Festival – CompFest – featuring original works by more than 30 students and conversations with visiting artists composer Tania León, sax player and composer Joshua Redman '91, composer Vijay Iyer, composer Yvette Janine Jackson and composer and percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington, and young alumni composers Phillip Golub ‘16, Zoe Sarnak ‘09, Sam Wu ‘17 
  • a conversation and workshop, in partnership with Harvard College Opera, with tenor Lawrence Brownlee

Highlights from the 2019-2020 season include

  • a conversation and performance with Mamma Mia! Broadway star Mary Callanan
  • a residency with actor BD Wong
  • a workshop and conversation with Broadway music directors Isaac Alter '16, Cynthia Meng '15 and Madeline Smith '14
  • a conversation and workshop with actor and director Adriana Colón '12
  • a residency with opera bassist Morris Robinson (pictured above)
  • a residency with jazz trumpeter Bria Skonberg

Students also enjoyed luncheon meetings with authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman HLS '91, fashion designer Walé Oyéjidé (whose work featured in Black Panther), In the Dark staff writer Daniel Rogers ’12, musician Rhiannon Giddens and others.

All artist residencies are planned in close consultation with the artist, and most are open to the general public. We encourage student participation, suggestions and partnerships. For more information, contact Alicia Anstead