In the past, Spark and Echo Arts has commissioned a new artist each week to create a single work in response to scripture. This year we are expanding on that process by inviting a team of artists to work with us throughout the 2015 season.

Our Artists in Residence will each create a larger work during the year. Four times during the year they will check in to share their process, their ideas, and ultimately their new work.

Please join us in following these amazing artists throughout the year.


benje eyes closed (bw)Benje Daneman
 A sought after musician for his personal approach, creative musicality and strong versatility, Daneman got his start professionally in 2007 on a national tour with with Doc Severinsen’s Big Band. Since then he has performed with the world renowned Jose Limon Dance Ensemble, recorded for the Grammy nominated album “Elevation” (HMI Big Band) and has appeared as both a leader and sideman at prestigious venues across the country including The Kennedy Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, FONT (Festival of New Trumpet) Music Festival and The Iridium. As a composer/arranger, he has received commissions from the United States Air Force Band (in Europe), Dr. Steve Zegree, Spark and Echo Arts and Lutheran Music Missions.

His 2015 Artist in Residence for Spark and Echo Arts, is the catalyst for one of his newest projects called Search Party which approaches faith topics through original music, with a band including some of the top musicians on the jazz scene today, including Ike Sturm, Jon Cowherd, Jaimeo Brown and Ashley Daneman. Another new project of Daneman’s, Life Stories, calls upon his deep interest and history in musical storytelling by musically creating a personal and unique experience for the audience by aurally recreating true stories of people places and events. Daneman’s 2013 EP release Estelle’s Farewell Gift features all original compositions featuring Jeremy Siskind, Ashley Daneman and Andrew Rathbun and has been described as “Simple songs that open doors to complex reactions” (David Sumner, Bird Is The Worm).

A Teaching Artist for the New York Pops, Daneman is a passionate educator and has led clinics and workshops throughout the country at such institutions as McNally Smith College, Western Michigan University, Concordia University and for the Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association. He is also the co-director of the Jazz & Creative Institute (, which has a mission to inspire artistic development and cultivate creative entrepreneurship for all levels of creative musicians. Benje has attended and holds degrees from Western Michigan University, The Henry Mancini Institute (Los Angeles, CA), and Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY).

Benje lives in New York City with his wife, jazz singer-songwriter, Ashley Daneman and daughters, Rivi and Elise.


CSuarez_headshotChristine Suarez is a Los Angles-based choreographer, performer and educator. Born in Caracas, Venezuela and raised in Baton Rouge Louisiana, Christine made her first works of choreography to the Grease soundtrack.  Since then she has created eleven evening-length dance-theater works, numerous site-specific and community events and close to a dozen dances for the theater and film, along with teaching, creating and performing at school sites all over the U.S. While living in New York City from 1994-2006, her work was presented at various venues including Danspace Project, P.S. 122, HERE, Joyce SoHo and Dixon Place. In 1998 she founded SuarezDanceTheater, a not-for-profit, ensemble of dancers, actors and musicians. SuarezDanceTheater examines the unexpected – creating dance-theater in unexpected places with unexpected people about unexpected subjects. Christine and company were Artists in Residence at Tribeca Performing Arts Center from 2003-2006. Her work has toured nationally and internationally to over 20 cities. Her work happens in theaters, houses, parks, Churches, galleries, sidewalks and beaches. She collaborates with multi-generational performers along with parents, children, veterans, high school students and teen mothers.

Since relocating to Los Angeles, she has been invigorated by making dances in unexpected places. Wet Spots (2008) was a site-specific performance about female orgasm that she created in collaboration with a multi-generational cast of women. The Los Angeles Times called it “ingeniously crafted…poignant…hilarious.” She has organized community dance participatory performances in parks, beaches and classrooms in partnership with city governments, community based organizations and schools. She has also been touring Wet Spots: Solo to Tallinn, Estonia, Movement Research at Judson Church (New York City), The Garage (San Francisco), Emory University (Atlanta, GA), The A.W.A.R.D. Show! (REDCAT). Most recently she premiered her new evening length work MOTHER. at the Motion Pacific at the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival and Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, CA.

As an educator, Christine has worked at public schools all over the New York City and Los Angeles area. She has been a guest teacher/choreographer at California State University San Marcos, California State University Los Angeles, Emory University, Indiana University, Southeastern University of Louisiana and Louisiana State University. She holds an MFA in choreography from UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department and a BA in Theater and English Literature from Emory University. She is a government contractor co-creating a dance program for Veterans at The School for Better Living, a psycho-social research initiative a the West Los Angeles VA Hospital. She also works as a teaching artist with the HeArt Project. She has been awarded grants from the Center for Cultural Innovation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Puffin Foundation, Meet the Composer, the Association for Hispanic Arts, JP Morgan Chase Regrant, the Field and the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. She is honored to be a Hispanic Scholarship Fund/Cheech Marin Endowed Scholarship Scholar and recipient of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund McNamara Family Creative Arts Projects Grant. (Photo by CedarBough Saeji)




Melissa Beck’s work explores elements of the everyday redefining the familiar in unexpected ways so as to reawaken our eyes to what is often overlooked. She is an emerging artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Melissa grew up in Los Angeles and San Diego. She achieved her MFA in sculpture at Pratt Institute and graduated in 2013. Her dream is to create large-scale public artwork and to become an art professor. When Melissa isn’t making art, life for her consists of freelance sewing and display work, nanny-ing, dancing, laughing with her friends, visiting the California sun and taking life one step at a time with her Creator.

Screen+Shot+2013-09-11+at+12.19.07+PMJason DaSilva has been a prolific filmmaker for the past 10 years. He has directed four short films (OLIVIA’S PUZZLE, A SONG FOR DANIEL, TWINS OF MANKALA, and FIRST STEPS) and two feature-length documentary films (LEST WE FORGET and WHEN I WALK). Many of his films have won awards; OLIVIA’S PUZZLE premiered at the 2003 Sundance Festival and qualified for an Academy Award. Three of his films have had national broadcasts on PBS, HBO, and CBC. He also produced Shocking and Awful, a film installation on the anti-Iraq war movement, exhibited at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Each one of these works advanced Jason’s objective to give voice to those on the periphery of society. In 2006 Jason took a short break from filmmaking to earn his MFA in Applied Media Arts from Emily Carr University.

He recently produced and directed an Op-Doc (opinion documentary) for the New York Times called ‘The Long Wait,’ published in January 2013. DaSilva’s latest film, WHEN I WALK, was an Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won Best Canadian Feature at HotDocs 2013. Following the film’s theatrical release this fall, it will air on POV on PBS in 2014. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Interested in learning more about Jason’s creative process? Read his blog here.

featured_historychannelSpark & Echo is a family band of songwriting-storytellers led by husband and wife duo Jonathon Roberts and Emily Clare Zempel. Their music brings forgotten poetry and wild stories from the Bible to life: visions of sparkling wheels in the sky, hunger and thirst, and legends of love as strong as death weave with memorable melodies and captivating rhythms. Drawing from a classical background, influenced by the pianism of Rufus Wainwright and Ben Folds, and emulating Paul Simon’s narratival techniques, Spark & Echo sings epic tales of love and adventure.

They have a dual vision: as a band, they make music; as a non-profit, they seek to “create the world’s largest multi-disciplinary ‘illumination’ of the Bible.” Spark and Echo Arts engages artists from a diversity of styles and backgrounds working in the top of their field. The band grew out of and raises funds for the non-profit. A gallery of work they have commissioned over the years can be found at

Committed to longevity, Jonathon and Emily are now making a home together in a Beacon, NY (i.e. the New Brooklyn). This affords them the space to hone their musical, theatre, and managerial skills side by side.

They’ve just released their second full-length album Inheritance which was recorded and co-produced with the Foote brothers (Welcome Wagon) and elucidates  Psalm 42 in “Deep Calls to Deep”, Galatians 2:20 in “Buy Me a Hat”,  Proverbs 31 in “What a Day”, and many more. Their voices harmonize like “it was meant to be.”  They dance around complex stories with a whimsy indicative of their time spent in the theatre.

You’ve got to experience it firsthand and join them on this journey of a lifetime. See more at


dxn_headshot1Don Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam, grew up in Nebraska, and now currently resides in New York City.  As a playwright, Don has written several full-length plays including: SOUND, a sign language play which was a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and was previously developed at The Playwrights Realm.  Don’s first full-length play RED FLAMBOYANT was developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference and was both a finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival as well as the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.  THE MAN FROM SAIGON has been developed at Naked Angels and was a NYSAF Founders Award recipient.  THE COMMENCEMENT OF WILLIAM TAN was developed at New York Stage and Film and was a finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.  Don was also recently one of 48 playwrights commissioned for The Flea Theater’s 5 1/2 hour epic production of The Mysteries, directed by Ed Iskander, which was a stage adaptation of the Bible.  Don is a proud member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, a member of the inaugural Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater in New York and served five years as artistic director for The Shelterbelt Theatre.  Don is also a frequent volunteer for the 52nd Street Project.  Website:


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