Ear Taxi Festival – Leadership Team

Jennie Oh Brown

(PC Foresst Strong Lafave)

“The irrepressibly creative flutist and new music advocate celebrates the release of her new album…”  Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2019 (Giantess Innova 043)

“The tone Brown draws from her flute is meltingly beautiful—rounded, seamless through all registers, robust. ” Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review, November 2019 (Giantess release concert, Constellation Chicago)

Best Classical Albums of 2019, Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, December 6, 2019 (Giantess Innova 043)

“The performances are flawless, and the recording quality excellent; Vox Balaenae is a timeless masterpiece.” Max Christie, TheWholeNote.com, May 5, 2020 (Vox Innova 040)

“As evidenced by this album, Jennie Oh Brown really understands Schwantner’s compositional intent, and her playing reflects the beauty, intensity, rawness, and virtuosity his music requires. She excels in changing characters rapidly, and her beautiful, expressive sound is perfectly suited to Schwantner’s emotional, lyrical, and acrobatic music.”  Jennifer Slaughter, National Flute Association Flutist Quarterly, Fall 2016 (Looking Back Innova 919)

A renowned flutist, collaborator, entrepreneur, and educator, Jennie Brown embraces an innovative spirit in her career. She is Executive and Artistic Director of Ear Taxi Festival and celebrates the release of her second solo album, Giantess. Produced by Innova Records and featuring the music of Carter Pann, Shulamit Ran, Augusta Read Thomas, Valerie Coleman, and Giantess has won widespread acclaim.

Brown is Executive and Artistic Director of Ear Taxi Festival, a showcase of Chicago’s vibrant community of new and experimental musicians. With over 110 proposals received, Ear Taxi Festival will launch in 2021 throughout Chicago with concerts, keynote panel discussions with leaders in the field, professional development workshops, and premieres of major commissions. Additionally, Brown launched and curated the New Music Chicago Presents series at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2019 as the first recipient of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ArtSpace grant.  The series features New Music Chicago members and friends performing 21st century music written by living composers in monthly noon-time concerts at Claudia Cassidy Theater. 

Brown is flutist and Executive and Artistic Director of Picosa, a Chicago-based chamber ensemble with concert series at DePaul University’s Holtschneider Performance Center and the Driehaus Museum. Picosa also holds residencies at Elmhurst College and North Central Colleges, where it is the featured ensemble for the Sounds of New Music annual festival. The ensemble will soon announce a new collaboration with the Epiphany Center for the Arts. The ensemble has been heard on many of Chicago’s prestigious concert series including Ear Taxi Festival 2016, Live from WFMT with Kerry Frumkin, Frequency Series at Constellation Chicago, and The Rush Hour Concert Series at St James Cathedral.

Brown is the founder and director of Credo Flute, now entering its sixth season, where she serves on faculty with Bonita Boyd (Eastman School of Music), Walfrid Kujala (Emeritus, Northwestern University and Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Elizabeth Ostling (Boston Symphony Orchestra), and Kelly Zimba (Toronto Symphony Orchestra).  She has performed in six National Flute Association conventions, will premiere the solo flute commission Sungji Hong’s Vidimus Stellam in 2021, and is also the coordinator of the National Flute Association’s Convention Performers Competition.

Brown is an active performer in Chicago, performed numerous times on WFMT, and was interviewed by Narimon Safavi for WBEZ’s Worldview regarding her Midwest premiere of Valerie Coleman’s powerful Hair, Cloth, Thread for flute and percussion.  Brown serves on the boards of Chamber Music America and New Music Chicago. She graduated from Eastman (DMA, MMPRL with Performers Certificate), Northwestern University (BM) and Interlochen Arts Academy (HS), and serves on the faculties of Wheaton College (since 2002), Elmhurst College (since 2012), and Interharmony International Music Festival, Italy (2019).  She performs on a Brannen 10k flute and a 18k Lafin headjoint, Yamaha brass alto flute, a Keefe and Powell grenadilla piccolo, and a Palanca/Wenner Grenadilla Traverso.

Recent Recordings
Innova 043: Giantess (solo, released in 2019)
Innova 040: Vox (Heare Ensemble – Trio, to be released in January 2020)
Innova 919: Looking Back: Music of Joseph Schwantner (solo, released in 2016)
Parma Recordings: Crimson and Lace (Ensemble, released 2015)


Michael Lewanski

Conductor, educator, writer, and curator Michael Lewanski is a champion of new and old music. His work seeks to create engaged connections between audiences, musicians, and the music that is part of their culture, society, and history. His programming seeks to recontextualize traditional repertoire, to make spaces for thoughtful and nuanced experiences of recent work, and to create an expanded sense of what concert music can be. Based in Chicago, he is conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente and Associate Professor of instrumental ensembles at the DePaul University School of Music.

Along with Artistic Director Jennie Oh Brown, Michael will serve as the Curatorial Director of Ear Taxi Festival, a festival of Chicago’s new and experimental musics. His wide-ranging guest-conducting has included work with Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW Series, the Toledo Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan, Ensemble CEPROMUSIC (Centro de Experimentación y Producción de Música Contemporánea, Mexico City), and Mocrep, among many others. He was resident conductor of the SoundSCAPE Festival (Italy) in 2017 and 2019. Michael has an extensive discography as both conductor and producer with Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, DePaul’s Ensemble 20+, and others. A native of Savannah, Georgia, he studied piano and violin in his youth; he made his conducting debut at age 13, leading his own composition. At 16, he was the youngest-ever student in the legendary Ilya Musin’s class at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. He attended Yale University; he subsequently studied with Cliff Colnot and Lucas Vis.


Jessica Wolfe

With over ten years of experience in arts administration, music, and education, Jessica Wolfe thrives in connecting communities through the transformative power of shared musical experiences. Presently, she serves as the Director of Production and Education at the University of Chicago Presents where she produces classical, jazz, early music, contemporary, and world music concert series and manages a range of educational programs. Jessica is excited to serve in the role of Managing Director for New Music Chicago’s Ear Taxi Festival and looks forward to celebrating the amazing musical identity and community of Chicago.

From 2015-2019, Jessica served as the Managing Director of Fifth House Ensemble where she enjoyed developing successful partnerships with community organizations, presenters, and collaborators, increasing international visibility through booking management, and creating innovative concert programs that engage diverse audiences. During her tenure, she managed the development of eight series programs, most recently managing the creation of a cross-genre collaborative program with the internationally acclaimed Tuvan throat singers, Alash.

Serving as an arts ambassador, Jessica completed a Civic Fellowship with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in 2016, where she implemented projects in communities not previously connected to the arts. In particular, Jessica led a team of fellows in acquiring funding to design, implement, and evaluate the first live music program for Easterseals Metropolitan Chicago, an Autism Spectrum Disorder Resource Center. 

Jessica also enjoys serving as co-director and board member of Unsupervised, Chicago’s member-organized conductorless orchestra whose mission is to build a community beyond the music, where she manages production of the orchestra’s performances. 

Jessica is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, DePaul University, and the 2018 Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Leadership Institute.

LaRob Payton

A native of Temple Hills, Maryland, Bass-Baritone, LaRob K. Payton developed a love for singing at an early age. He found a spirit in the Gospel songs he sang, passion in the R&B he heard, and nuance in the Classical music he studied.

A graduate of DePaul University where he received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, LaRob has studied with world-renowned teachers, directors, and coaches and has had musical opportunities that include traveling to study language, culture, and music. LaRob continues to sing around the Chicago-area (William Ferris Chorale/North Shore Baptist Church) and is the Founder and Artistic Director of Hearing in Color, an organization dedicated to uplifting those whose contributions and stories have been historically excluded from classical spaces.

As an Arts Administrative Specialist, he concurrently works at Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Learning and Creative Engagement Department, sits on the Board of La Caccina, a professional women’s ensemble, as Diversity and Community Engagement Advisor, is an active consultant with the recently formed Black Opera Alliance and Black Administrators of Opera groups.

LaRob also aims to use his voice to connect people from different communities as a newly appointed host of Chicago’s Classical music station, WFMT (98.7 FM) to continue changing the predominantly white, European, male-centered classical consciousness.