She’s a native Detroiter whose creative influences come from the Motor City's exciting urban and classical music culture. Gwen started improvising in high school with the educator Anderson White, whose orchestral rehearsals included electric violins, amplifiers and David Baker string arrangements.
“White would point to me and say ‘Stand up. Take a solo.’ Joe Striplin, the first African American in the Detroit Symphony , my first private teacher and first Black person I'd ever seen play the violin so amazingly was another tremendous inspiration. Both encouraged me to perform, compose and teach. “
After earning a Bachelor and Master degree from U of Michigan School of Music, Gwen relocated to NYC. Her collaborative performances and recordings with nationally and internationally-known artists include Anthony Braxton, Nona Hendryx, Aretha Franklin, Wadada Leo Smith, Danny Elfman, the Jimmy Fallon show w/ Tyler the Creator and the Roots, Gladys Knight, Emeline Michel, Andrea Bocelli, Alicia Keys, Rhianna, Natalie Cole, Solange, Mark Anthony, J Lo and Shakira at President Obama’s Inaugural Neighborhood Ball. Playing local jazz clubs and subbing Broadway shows that include Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Carousel, Wicked, Porgy and Bess and The King and I were woven around Gwen's NYC performing and teaching rhythm.
She’s won major performance, composition and teaching grants from the NEA, the Jubilation Foudation, ASCAP, Lila Wallace, Arts Mid Hudson and a first place, $10,000 award from Cognac Hennessey Jazz. Gwen performed the NY premiere of Concerto for Jazz Violin and Orchestra with the Dutchess Symphony Orchestra receiving an astounding standing ovation.
She’s the visionary founder of the Creative Strings Improvisers Orchestra (CSIO), a music education program rooted in teaching young strings players improvisation, composition and global ensemble music. The CSIO concept has been presented at Harlem School of the Arts (Director of Jazz Strings), St. Ann's School, Poughkeepsie Day School, Interlochen Summer Institute, the Sphinx Performance and Preparatory Academy, Eastman School of Music, the Center for Creative Education and other educational institutions reaching and teaching young musicians with the greatest needs and the fewest resources.
Gwen plays the Sphinx Symphony, Sun Ra Arkestra, Go: Organic Orchestra, co- collaborator with We Free Strings sextet www.melaniedyerviola.com/wefreestrings.html and is founder and leader of New MUSE4tet
an improvising string quartet offering 20th/21st century works and original composition as a vehicle for social activism. spaces.hightail.com/space/7dQjBIL2ct/files
Gwen has been featured in Chamber Music America magazine for her commissioned work Black Lives Matter Suite for string quartet.
Her music publications are available at CD Baby http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/gwenlaster2 , iTunes and other digital media sources. Gwen’s discography as a leader includes Sneak Preview and I Hear You Smiling.
Her next recording, Gameboard, will be ready for release in October 2018.
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