Skip navigation links

Sept. 9, 2020

New artist-in-residence at MSU

International recording artist and instrumentalist Damien Sneed to focus on social impact

Multigenre recording artist Damien Sneed – whose latest tour stop at Wharton Center at Michigan State University celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  will be returning to campus as an artist-in-residence. Sneed will work with Wharton Center and MSU’s College of Music, helping to bring social impact programming to both institutions.


Wharton Center and the College of Music have jointly appointed MSU Music doctoral candidate and student leader Jadrian Tarver as co-leader and project manager of this important initiative. Tarver will work directly with the College of Music, Wharton Center and Sneed to develop relationships across campus, and cultivate programming and activities important to MSU students and other stakeholders, incorporate student voices into music programming, and unleash the power of music as an ally of Black Lives Matter, advancing progress in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.


It is my hope that through the performing art mediums, we can engage and encourage students, faculty and staff to be active participants in the beauty of DEI,” Tarver said. “Mr. Sneed’s artistry, passion, vision and work in DEI is needed at this time to reveal the rich culture and diversity that is in our community.”


Sneed is a pianist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres. He has worked with jazz, classical, pop and R&B legends, including the late Aretha Franklin and Jessye Norman. He also worked with Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, Wycliffe Gordon, Lawrence Brownlee, J’Nai Bridges, Brandie Inez Sutton, Raehann Bryce and many others.


“I’m delighted to add my warm welcome to Damien Sneed, who returns to Michigan State University as artist-in-residence,” says MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff. “I look forward to his collaboration with our students and faculty, and the ways in which he will encourage our entire community to sing, celebrate, perform, listen, express and think.” 


Sneed’s credits include serving as music director for Grammy Award-winning gospel artists The Clark Sisters, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Kim Burrell, among others. Sneed is a featured producer and writer on the Clark Sisters’ new project, The Return, released on March 13, 2020.


“Having Damien Sneed on campus will be a strong addition to help us reach out to diverse audiences,” MSU College of Music Dean James Forger says. “This initiative can empower student voices to partner in the development of innovative programming to create a more universal sense of belonging through the musical arts.”


In January 2020, Sneed embarked on a 40-city North American tour, “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featuring Damien Sneed.” In honor of Dr. King, Sneed brought his brand of classical, jazz and sanctified soul to venues across the country during Dr. King’s holiday, Black History Month and Women’s History Month. “We Shall Overcome” is a joyous celebration reflecting on the triumphant and victorious moments during our history.


“I’m excited about returning to Michigan State University and the Wharton Center,” said Sneed. “We will be able to touch the lives of so many different people through the lyrics and messages in the music.”






Sneed is the founder and artistic director of Chorale Le Chateau, which has gained a global reputation for its vivid interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance period pieces to art songs to jazz, spirituals, gospel, and avant-garde contemporary music. He is featured on the recording of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass as a conductor, with Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau.

Sneed recently joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches graduate-level courses in conducting, African American Music History, a singer/songwriter ensemble, a gospel music ensemble, and private lessons in piano, voice, and composition. A graduate of John S. Davidson Fine Arts School in his hometown of Augusta, GA., Sneed studied at some of the finest conservatories and universities, including Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Music – Piano Performance; the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University; New York University, where he earned a Master of Music in Music Technology: Scoring for Film and Multimedia; and the Manhattan School of Music. Sneed will also graduate with his doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from USC in 2020. Sneed was a member of the faculty at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Nyack College. His other professional affiliations have included The Juilliard School as a staff accompanist, Jazz at Lincoln Center as an artistic consultant, and the City University of New York (CUNY) as a professor of music. In 2015, Sneed established the Damien Sneed Performing Arts Institute, a division of the Damien Sneed Foundation.


By: Michael Sundermann