About Imani Winds
The Imani Winds quintet has gained wide recognition for innovative programming that includes commissioned works with African American and Latin American elements as well as traditional wind repertory. The group has collaborated with jazz musicians as well as with classical composers.
Imani Winds were formed in 1997 by flutist Valerie Coleman, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, clarinetist Mariam Adam, hornist Jeff Scott, and bassoonist Monica Ellis. Coleman has been replaced by Brandon Patrick George, and Adam by Mark Dover, but otherwise, the group's membership has remained stable. The name "Imani" means faith in Swahili. Imani Winds rapidly found success in its early years, appearing at Carnegie Hall in New York after winning the Artists International Annual Prize, and also performing at Kennedy Center in Washington, the Ravinia Festival in suburban Chicago, and later, Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, among other prestigious venues. Imani Winds appeared on National Public Radio's Performance Today and CBS television's The Bob Edwards Show as well as in other national broadcast media. The group has toured Australia and New Zealand, Brazil, and the Asian and European continents. The quintet has collaborated with or commissioned music from a culturally diverse group of composers, including jazz saxophonist/clarinetist/composer Paquito D'Rivera, composer Mohammed Fairouz, and baritone saxophonist/composer/bandleader Fred Ho.
Imani Winds issued its debut album, Umoja, on its own label in 2002. The group moved to Koch International for The Classical Underground, which featured music by D'Rivera, Coleman, Astor Piazzolla, Lalo Schifrin, and other composers. Imani Winds made several more albums for Koch, including a Christmas release, before moving to E1 in 2010. It released a wind arrangement of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring on EMI in 2013 before returning to E1 and releasing Startin' Sumthin' in 2016. The group launched the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival in 2010, which also has an educational component. In 2019, the group members formed the Imani Winds Foundation, which "will attempt to steer the national conversation on instrumental music by commissioning composers of new music, training and mentoring the next generations of musicians, and implementing projects that highlight and strengthen the rich diversity of chamber music." Among Imani Winds' honors was induction into the classical music section of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which the group considers its greatest accolade. ~ James Manheim