2008 A Call for Unity Performers

Learn more about the performers at the 2008 A Call for Unity event.

Sacramento Children’s Chorus
The Sacramento Children’s Chorus was co-founded in 1993 by Lynn Stevens as part of her master’s degree project under the guidance of Dr. Donald Kendrick at Sacramento State. Under the baton of Mrs. Stevens, the Sacramento Children’s Chorus has grown to four choirs, with almost 200 singers from the greater Sacramento community. Their vision is to inspire a lifelong love of music in their students through the pursuit and enjoyment of musical excellence.

In addition to presenting three seasonal concerts each year, the SCC has performed with the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra, Sacramento Ballet and Sacramento Opera. The chorus has also traveled the world, performing in England, France, Norway, Sweden, Prague and Budapest, and has also performed during the inaugurations of Govs. Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Lua Hightower
LuAnne Hightower, known affectionately as Lua, started college with the intent to pursue piano and composition as her majors. She began singing jazz in New England in the late 1980s, but her encounter with Islam’s devotional music in the Sufi tradition changed her spiritual and musical trajectory. In 1999, she founded Beloved World Music Ensemble with guitarist David Seidel. Beloved performs original settings for the mystic poems and prayers of Islam, as well as traditional Middle and Far Eastern devotional music (Turkish, Persian, Afghani, Pakistani, Arabic), some of them adapted into English.

Hightower has performed at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the annual Rumi Festival in North Carolina, as well as venues in New England, New York City (St. John the Divine, Sufi Books) and Washington, D.C. After 9/11, Hightower partnered with Trinity Wall Street Church and presented lectures on the Sufi poet and saint Jelaluddin Rumi, Islamic ritual prayer and the mystical face of Islam at their national Spiritual Formation conferences. In 2004, after her mother was diagnosed with leukemia, she relocated to Phoenix, and there she continued her interfaith calling as director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter. She now lives in Sacramento and performs in the Bay Area, and is currently working on music for a dance piece entitled “Miriam’s Well,” on the central figure of Mary in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Cheewa James
Cheewa James is a professional speaker who works with corporations and organizations throughout the United States and Canada. Her speaking uses aspects of Native American principles to illustrate productive ways of living contemporary lifestyles and meeting challenges in today’s workforce.

James emphasizes the indigenous philosophy concerning the connection and relationship of all living things. “There is a beauty and strength in diversity,” she says, “and unity allows us to profit and grow from them all.”

Enrolled with the Modoc tribe of Oklahoma, James was born on the Klamath Reservation in Oregon and raised in Taos, N.M. Her father was America’s first Native American professional basketball player. She is the author of the newly released book, Modoc: The Tribe That Wouldn’t Die, about the 1873 Modoc War, the most expensive battle in Native American history.

James has also been published in Smithsonian, National Wildlife, The Kansas City Star, The Oregonian, Chicago Tribune and many other publications across the United States.

James is the recipient of numerous community awards, including the 1991 Sacramento State Award for Commitment to Human Diversity, the 1992 Sacramento YWCA Woman of the Year award in communications, and gold awards for video production from both the Sacramento Public Relations Association and Sacramento Ad Club.

She currently teaches at UC Davis.

The Truth Messengers
The Truth Messengers represent contemporary gospel at its best—uplifting and driven. They believe their purpose is in their name: to sing about God and deliver the truth. Their music connects universal spiritual messages with socially conscious messages. The objective is for listeners to reach out through the love of God and give a helping hand to the less fortunate. Their message is to ask all of God’s children to love and care for each other.

The Truth Messengers were founded by Darryl “Cappy” Lewis. The group performs at Christ Unity Church, in collaboration with the Spiritual Life Center.

Nancy Hilton of Christ Unity Church says, “They’re a favorite performing group at our Sunday services. People love them!”

The Truth Messengers are ready and willing to carry their message wherever necessary. They sing to open the hearts and minds of people all over the world to achieve religious harmony and world peace.

Mary Youngblood
Mary Youngblood is half Aleut (Port Graham, Alaska) and half Seminole (Hollywood, Fla.) and a two-time Grammy-winning Native American musician and Emmy nominee. She was the first woman to record the haunting Native American flute, a role that has traditionally been limited to men.

Classically trained on several instruments, Youngblood has been playing the flute for over 40 years and is one of the premiere Native American musicians in the country. Winner of numerous awards, she garnered the 2002 Grammy for Beneath the Raven Moon. She twice received Flutist of the Year along with Best Female Artist from the Native American Music Awards for her other releases. Her work can also be heard on her 2004 Grammy-nominated Feed the Fire, Heart of the World and The Offering. Most recently, in 2008, she was nominated for an Emmy as composer for her work in the documentary The Spirit of Sacagawea.

The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band
This four-piece ensemble from Sacramento has been entertaining Northern California audiences since 1995. The band has issued two critically acclaimed CDs, The Flower of Berezin (1998) and And I in the Uttermost West (2005), and is currently working on their third. The band was co-founded by director Andy Rubin, bringing great sound to the group with his claw hammer banjo and mandolin. The Freilachmakers have defined what may be called “the Sacramento sound” in klezmer and Sephardic Jewish music, using a particularly infectious blend of strings and reeds, with vocals in Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino and English. In the words of one reviewer, the Freilachmakers’ music “bubbles with exuberance and a great sense of fun,” their playing “highly virtuosic, yet subtle.”

Spiritual Life Center Choir
The Spiritual Life Center Choir is an award-winning choir under the direction of Paula Mandella. This dedicated community of singers is the voice of the music ministry at Spiritual Life Center, opening hearts and spirits through the gift of song. Their repertoire includes spiritual, rock, classical, gospel and world music. The choir sings monthly at SLC Sunday celebrations as well as events such as Earth Day, and at the Capital Rotunda and the Governor’s Mansion. The choir is accompanied by The Soul Light Connection, the fabulous resident band of Spiritual Life Center.