About Gwen Laster
Phone: (718) 930-3522
Gwen Laster is a nationally acclaimed musician who has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jubilation Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Arts Mid Hudson, Lila Wallace, and the Cognac Hennessey 1st place Jazz Search. She’s a native Detroiter whose creative influences come from the Motor City’s exciting urban and classical music culture. Gwen started improvising and composing because of her parents' love of jazz, blues, soul, and classical music, and her inspiring music teachers from Detroit’s public schools.
Laster relocated to NYC after earning two music degrees from the University of Michigan. She began collaborating, performing and recording with internationally-known creative and commercial artists. that include Anthony Braxton, Nona Hendryx, Aretha Franklin, Wadada Leo Smith, William Parker, Danny Elfman, Sun Ra Arkestra, Tyler the Creator, Gladys Knight, Emeline Michel, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Alicia Keys, Rhianna, Shaggy, Andrew Baba Lamb, Natalie Cole, Solange, Mark Anthony, J Lo and Shakira at President Obama’s Inaugural Neighborhood Ball. Playing local jazz clubs and subbing Broadway shows (Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Carousel, Wicked, Porgy and Bess, The King and I) were woven around Gwen’s NYC performing and teaching rhythm. With this momentum, Laster began leading original music ensembles, orchestrating and composing string arrangements.
• Sneak Preview (1996) EP/album
• Pop/Jazz arrangements (1998-2000)- Educational/HSA
• I Hear You Smiling (2004) album
• Strings for Spring – (2004)-Educational/CSIO
• Sting International/Shaggy (2006) single “It Wasn’t Me”
• Night Calls (2007)
• Cliftone Records (2008) “Pop track”
• "Imaginary Planets" (2009)-Educational/CSIO
• Pop/Jazz originals and arrangements (2010- present)- Educational/CSIO’
• Gameboard (2012) EP/album
• "Black Lives Matter suite" (2014) commissioned-Arts Mid Hudson
• "Dristi, On the River"- Educational/Bard College
• Blue Lotus (2019) album- New Muse 4tet.
She’s the visionary founder of the Creative Strings Improvisers Orchestra (CSIO), a music education ensemble rooted in teaching young strings players improvisation, composition and global ensemble music. The CSIO concept has been presented through residencies and workshops at various institutions that include El Sistema Ravinia, Harlem School of the Arts (Director of Jazz Strings), St. Ann’s School, the Blue Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Wappingers Schools, Poughkeepsie Day School, Interlochen Summer Institute, the Sphinx Performance and Preparatory Academy, Eastman School of Music, the Center for Creative Education, the Howland Cultural Center, Bard College/adjunct Jazz Violin professor and the Beacon CSIO online classes.
Her symphonic, and creative chamber ensemble work includes the Sphinx Symphony, Sun Ra Arkestra, Go: Organic Orchestra, the Colour of Music Virtuosi Chamber orchestra. She’s co- collaborator with We Free Strings sextet www.melaniedyerviola.com/wefreestrings.html , and leader of New MUSE4tet, an improvising string quartet offering 20th/21st century works and original compositions as a vehicle for social activism.
Her feature in Chamber Music America magazine for her commissioned work Black Lives Matter Suite (composed for New Muse4tet) shares her personal reflection and experiences that motivated the work.
Laster’s music is available at CD Baby http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/gwenlaster2 , iTunes and other digital media sources. Her recordings as a leader are Sneak Preview , I Hear You Smiling and Gameboard.