In part three of our series celebrating Women's History Month, we're showcasing women in music and performing arts. These women are among the critical few who give voice to our hopes and fears, and through the unifying power of their work, allow us to celebrate the best parts of our community.
Kam Franklin is the lead vocalist for the gulf coast soul band, The Suffers. She has been publicly singing since age 5, and she is a 3-time recipient of the Houston Press Music Award for Best Female Vocalist. Franklin has performed with The Houston Symphony, and featured in Buzzfeed, Refinery 29, and Nylon for her unique sense of style. With The Suffers, she has performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Franklin is also a very active participant in the Houston music scene. She has put on multiple events that have featured up and coming acts from around the Houston area, and she is always coming up with new and creative ways to represent the city while performing with The Suffers around the world.
Paige Mann has been a part of Houston’s ever-evolving music scene for more than a decade. Mann started with Live Nation for 10 years and involved with House of Blues in Houston since its opening. In that time, Mann has brought 3,000 shows to the venue. In addition to serving as Director of Ticketing at House of Blues, Mann books live acts at Houston’s oldest bar, Leon’s Lounge.
But her love of music began long before her career in the field did. From booking shows as a student at Texas A&M to managing record stores locally with what was once Sound Warehouse, Mann loves music.
So what about Houston’s music scene? Mann says while the scene is wildly underrated, the local talent is not. From The Contagious to Paperwolf, Campfire Soul to Stoo GoGo and Luis Cerda of Bling St, her list of reasons to love Houston artists is endless. Luckily for Houston, Mann strives daily to nurture, encourage and promote that message to the rest of the country.
Say Girl Say is a multi-instrumental indie pop, singer-songwriter duo from Houston, Texas composed of members Brigette Yawn and Suzan Zaghmouth. What started out as a friendship in 2012, grew into a local staple at open mic nights and bars, eventually becoming a popular act for events within Houston's underground art community. The band's first album, self-titled "Say Girl Say", was released to local acclaim in May of 2015, earning accolades such as "Best Alternative Act" and "Most Weird Act" from the Houston Press Music Awards '15-'16. Since then they continue to perform at major festivals like SXSW, CMJ, and Super Bowl LIVE at Discovery Green and have opened shows for BADBADNOTGOOD, Lord Huron, Quiet Company and many others.
Here at home, they have helped raise funds for local non profits like Girls Rock Camp Houston, and Trae The Truth's Hurricane Relief Gang. Keep an eye out for the release of their next album later this year.
A native Houstonian, Lauren Anderson joined Houston Ballet in 1983 as a corps de ballet, earning a promotion shortly after to soloist. In 1990, Anderson became the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer at Houston Ballet - and one of the few African-American ballerinas at the head of a major ballet company anywhere in the world. Anderson has performed leading roles in all the great classical ballets, appearing across the world to critical acclaim, and in the process, becoming one of Houston Ballet’s most beloved stars. She created the title role in Ben Stevenson's Cleopatra, earning accolades from international critics including a comparison by The New York Times to the legendary Italian actress Eleanora Duse.
In 2007, she assumed her new role in Houston Ballet’s education department, conducting master classes at area schools, and lecturing to students on dance and her historic career as one of America’s most distinguished African-American ballerinas. In 2017, Anderson received the Texas Medal of Arts Award for contributions to the dance world. Her shoes are on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Eileen J Morris has served as the Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre for 21 years and has worked with the theatre for over 36 years. She has produced over 116 productions and directed more than 78 main-stage productions, which include eight world premieres and 57 regional premieres. In 2007, The Ensemble Theatre was named Best Theatre by the Houston Press and the 2007 Best Showcase for African American Actors by the Ultimate Section of the Houston Chronicle. She received the 2016 Best Director Award from the Houston Press for Fences and is the ONLY woman in the world that has directed eight plays of the August Wilson Ten- Play Cycle.
Morris was most recently selected among five female artistic leaders Nationwide to be awarded part of a $1.25 million gift of The Pussycat Foundation and Northern Stage in support of women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States. The funds will be used to support programs that professionally develop emerging female artist leaders and designers.