LaFrae Sci is an internationally sought composer, drummer and educator who teaches at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and is also a founding teaching member of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in N.Y.C. As a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, she has taught master classes and performed in more than 30 countries. This experience led LaFrae to develop and launch the NGO Groove Diplomacy, whose mission is to create youth engagement programs internationally using musical expression as a vehicle to empower, ignite, heal & create mutual understanding.
LaFrae’s band, Sonic Black, is an educational collective that creates interactive presentations focusing on the genius of the Black American musical contribution to U.S. and world history. Our presentations are tailored to the specific mission of our requested visit. Recent examples are: “Music and Social Justice”, “Finding Your Voice Through Improvisation”, “Women’s Empowerment”, and “Music & Entrepreneurship”. Sonic Black has performed and taught interactive workshops in more than 100 NYC public schools, toured as representatives for Jazz at Lincoln Centers Jazz for Young People On Tour concert series, served as artists in residence at schools in Atlanta, Georgia and Dayton, Ohio and performed in NYC, Suriname, Albania, Paris and participated in the world premiere of two LaFrae’s jazz orchestral works, the first in 2014 written for 36 pieces inspired by the Russian novel The Master and Margarita , in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, and the latest being the Time Traveler Suite:Travel Journals of an Afro – Futurist, also performed in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia 2016 written for 60 pieces plus two choirs.
In the spring of 2016 Groove Diplomacy participated in the creation of the first Intercultural Garifuna Festival, a special project with the Afro – Guatemalans in the Livingston, Guatemala region. In December of 2016 Groove Diplomacy again partnered with Fundadela and the U.S. Embassy Guatemala to establish a teaching curriculum, repertoire and create a Gauatemalan/U.S.A. joint faculty establishing the First Annual Jazz Camp Guatemala! Additionally in December 2016 LaFrae had the pleasure of presenting a 3 hour masterclass on “improvisation and finding your voice” with members of the Orquesta Alaíde Foppa, the only all female orchestra in Latin America.
LaFrae has played drums for The Burnt Sugar Arkestra, The Black Rock Coalition Orchestra, Valerie June, Keziah Jones, Sandra Bernhard, Eli Yamin, Vernon Reid, Kelis, Nancy Sinatra (w/ Morrissey), Blues greats Jr. Mack and Pinetop Perkins, Irene Cara, Bumblefoot, Cyndi Lauper, Reuben Wilson, Rachel Z, Kelis and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
Charismatic and dynamic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin's electric stage presence and fiery sax work, has shared stages with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, The Roots, Macy Gray and many others, brings the soul and funk up to a fever pitch in a show that's guaranteed to keep crowds dancing day or night. Though her own music with her band Lakecia Benjamin and Soul Squad is immersed in the vintage sounds of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Sly and the Family Stone and the Meters as well as classic jazz, Benjamin's soaring, dance floor-friendly grooves take the classic vibe to a whole new level. The constant throughout it all is Benjamin's summery, sultry alto saxophone, adding something special on every cut - be it a smoldering late-night ambience, an erudite, forceful jazz intensity or the tight funk multi-horn harmony sections that pepper the proceedings throughout.
A streetwise New York City native born and raised in Washington Heights, Lakecia Benjamin has become one of the most highly sought-after players in soul and funk music. She first picked up the saxophone at Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, after which she joined the renowned jazz program at New York's New School University. By that time, she was already playing with renowned jazz figures like Clark Terry and Reggie Workman, which led to gigs and tours with a wide array of artists such as Rashied Ali, the David Murray Big Band, Vanessa Rubin and James "Blood" Ulmer. With her deep jazz roots, she was soon in demand as an arranger and horn section leader, landing stints with such acclaimed artists as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, the Roots, and Anita Baker.
Currently, Benjamin is a featured musician for Gregory Porter as well as a featured musician and arranger for comedy star Craig Robinson and the Nasty Delicious. (Robinson, best known for his work on TV's The Office as well as such popular films as Pineapple Express and Hot Tub Time Machine, tours regularly with the Nasty Delicious band serving as the main foil in his popular comedy act). Benjamin has also had the honor of performing at the White House at President Obama's inaugural ball. She's performed on four continents and her extensive recording credits include saxophone and arrangements for Santigold, Maurice Brown, the Clark Terry Big Band, Krystle Warren and Talib Kweli, among others.