David Spelman's career as an artistic director, curator, and music advisor for international festivals and performing arts centers, and as a producer of film soundtracks, has embraced classical, jazz, rock, avant garde, and world music, as well as spoken-word poetry and the visual arts.
Educated at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University and the New England Conservatory (which named him one of their One-Hundred Most Distinguished Alumni), he worked in the early '90s for Jay K. Hoffman & Associates, a boutique classical music publicity firm, before founding his own New York-based public-relations and event production company representing some of the most distinguished artists and institutions in classical music. In 1999 he launched the first New York Guitar Festival, now a biennial event that presents the world’s finest guitarists in innovative, cross-genre, multi-media presentations.
Following on the success of the New York Guitar Festival, he's been appointed artistic director and guest curator for major festivals at the University of Illinois' Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Australia’s Adelaide Festival Centre, Toronto’s Luminato Festival, as well as The World Financial Center, Carnegie Hall, and other venues in Manhattan.
His projects have attracted worldwide press coverage, and have been broadcast on public radio across the United States. He has enjoyed the support of funders as diverse as Apple Computer, the Government of South Australia, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
NYGF General Manager/Producer/Curator A.J. Benson’s earliest musical memories are of puzzling over his parents’ Mamas & Papas, Dave Brubeck, Trini Lopez and Herb Alpert LPs as a kid in Connecticut. He’s spent the last fifteen-plus years in the music industry, in a number of executive and consulting capacities at A&M/Octone Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Arista/J/RCA Records, Virgin Records America, and Cherry Lane Music, overseeing various aspects of projects for Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Maroon 5, Ben Harper, OutKast, Johnny Cash’s estate, Barry Manilow, The Roots, Whitney Houston, Foo Fighters, The Notorious B.I.G., Dave Matthews, K'NAAN, several American Idols, and many other artists in between. He is currently running his own music and arts consulting venture called I Float Down The Liffey, LLC. He joined The New York Guitar Festival in 2005.
He co-produced (with David Spelman) January 2007’s capacity-crowd American Beauty Project at New York City’s Winter Garden, which featured Jorma Kaukonen, Jay Farrar, Mark Eitzel, The Klezmatics, Ollabelle, Railroad Earth, Espers, and many others interpreting songs from the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead” albums.
He also co-produced (also with David) The Big River Project, a Johnny Cash tribute concert, which included performances by John Doe, Jay Farrar, Ollabelle, Benevento-Russ Duo, Marshall Crenshaw, David Bromberg, and others, as part of New York City’s 2008 River To River Festival, the largest free summertime arts festival in the country.
Prior to becoming a productive member of society, and when not diligently studying in high school and working on his journalism degree at the University of Connecticut in the 1980s, he followed the Grateful Dead around the continent and wrote numerous published pieces covering music, politics, and social issues. He recently overcame his fear of the classroom and is nearing completion of New York University’s Arts Management program.
Biggest career coup to date: somehow persuading Bruce Springsteen to show up and perform at the Festival’s 2006 launch concert, The Nebraska Project. (Close runner-up: Landing Justin Vernon of Bon Iver to compose and perform an original score to several Charlie Chaplin silent films for the 2010 Fest.) He has a few good ideas for NYGF 2014. Stay tuned. . .
John Schaefer is the co-founder of the New York Guitar Festival, and is the host of WNYC’s innovative music/talk show Soundcheck, which features live performances and interviews with a variety of guests. Schaefer has also hosted and produced WNYC’s radio series New Sounds since 1982 (“The #1 radio show for the Global Village” – Billboard) and the New Sounds Live concert series since 1986. Schaefer has written extensively about music, including the book New Sounds: A Listener’s Guide to New Music (Harper & Row, NY, 1987; Virgin Books, London, 1990); the Cambridge Companion to Singing: World Music (Cambridge University Press, U.K., 2000); and the TV program Bravo Profile: Bobby McFerrin (Bravo Television, 2003).
Dylan Wise is a visual artist, and student at Brookdale Community College. He joined the New York Guitar Festival as an intern in 2011 and works with the festival team on graphic design and marketing assignments.
Joe Chellman is a web designer, developer, and drummer based in Los Angeles. A lifelong Mac nerd, he builds websites for a wide variety of artists, small businesses, nonprofits, and others under the guise of ShooFlyDesign. He is an active member of the LA Drupal community, one of the largest Drupal users groups in the world. As a musician, he has performed and recorded in many styles of music with some wonderful people, including Chicago's master saxophonist Von Freeman, klezmer-fusion weirdos Balkano, cabaret-pop crazies Chameleon World, pop-rock wonder purveyors Diana and the Dishes, harmony folk-pop superheroes Girlyman, and many others.
Mary Wagner is the founder and creative director of Verdant Studios. Together with a team of collaborators, she creates vibrant brands, sustainable communications and engaging web experiences for a variety of businesses and nonprofit institutions. Mary also serves on the board of Bowery Arts + Science and Project U.S.E., two organizations that foster creativity and holistic education. Off the grid, you can find Mary dancing, painting and in the mountains of Boulder, CO.
Jason Munn is originally from Wisconsin, but now calls Oakland, CA home. He began making posters almost ten years ago for local venues and independent musicians, designing under the pseudonym The Small Stakes. Now, working under his name, Jason continues to focus on posters, as well as design and illustration commissions.