About Our Artist Roster
VSA arts has been privileged to work with some of New Hampshire’s finest teaching artists over the past three decades. On this website we have included information about a few of the ones who are currently most active with our programs.
We are also happy to discuss other potential teaching and performing artists who might meet your needs. In addition the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts maintains an extensive roster and many of these artist have had associations with VSA arts of New Hampshire and have experience working with people with disabilities.
Randy Armstrong- Musician
Hailed by the Boston Globe as a “sure-fingered guitar virtuoso” guitarist/percussionist, Randy Armstrong performs on more than 25 instruments from around the world including acoustic-synthesizer, classical guitars, and instruments from Africa, India, South America, and Asia. He has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Recital Hall and Lincoln Center. Randy has been a composer and performer with DOAHWorld Music Ensemble and the Armstrong.Nahrmann Group as well as adjunct faculty at Phillips Exeter Academy. He scored the original music soundtrack for the four-part PBS series, Dinner on the Diner, and has received numerous grants and commissions. Randy has performed and conducted workshops for thousands of students at schools, universities, and cultural institutions throughout the country.
Emile Birch – Sculptor
Emile Birch is a professional sculptor whose public artworks have been commissioned by many businesses and communities throughout New Hampshire. His most recent sculpture, The Eternal Shield, commissioned by the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Committee is the first sculpture in over 100 years to be sited on the State House grounds in Concord. His sculptures include mathematical abstractions found in relations of the Golden Mean and figurative relief. Emile has exhibited his sculpture in galleries and at festivals throughout New England. He has served as the director of visual arts for First Night New Hampshire in Concord for many years, and as art director of the Kearsarge Arts Theater in New London. Emile has had extensive experience as an artist-in-residence in schools and communities throughout our state.
Will Cabell- Musician/Puppet-maker
For over 25 years, Will Cabell has been a performer, director and workshop leader with Starbird Puppet Theatre, bringing classic and traditional folk and fairy tales to vibrant life through that most interdisciplinary art, puppetry. Weaving the sculpted figure, design, color, movement, voice, music, sound effects, lighting and costume, puppetry offers a world of opportunity for creative collaboration. By using simple designs from easily accessible materials for rod or shadow puppets and providing illustrated manuals, residency time is spent on movement, acting and staging skits or plays. Developing a live music component can be a powerful way to integrate even more students as performers. Residency special emphases have included: local histories, fairy tales, undersea characters, found objects, homemade sound effects, masks, and giant puppets (parades/pageants). Performance is available of the Eskimo creation tale “Raven and the Village without Daylight”.
Becky Darling – Visual Artist
Becky Darling received a BA in Art and Art Education in 1973 from Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC. She taught Art in the public schools in New Hampshire for five years and then decided to devote herself full-time to her artwork. She continued her education by attending classes and workshops. She has studied with W. Robert Paine, Kay Kandra, and Carlton Plummer, Michael Vermette, and Don Andrewsall accomplished artists who have helped her develop her skills in different ways. In 1982 she was juried into the New Hampshire Art Association. She is also a member of the York Art Association, The Sharon Arts Center, and The Monotype Guild of New England. She has participated in regional and national exhibits. Much of her subject matter is drawn from the landscapes of New Hampshire and coastal areas of New England. Becky has taught to a wide variety of ages and populations from preschool to adult- in a wide variety of formats, from enrichment classes to residencies to workshops. She has a special interest in young children and the inclusion of children with special needs. She also has a keen interest in projects that promote literacy as well as teacher training and support. She has also worked extensively with VSA arts of New Hampshire as a workshop presenter for NH Reads and the Start With The Arts Program (a program developed for Early Childhood Educators to promote literacy through the arts.)
Steve Ferraris – Percussionist/Drum Maker
“This is an experience I’ll never forget. I’ll take it on with me for the rest of my life.” -Jessica J., 6th grader Percussionist Steve Ferraris challenges, cajoles, entices and delights children with rhythm exercises, drumming, songs, movement, and drum making. Using Djembe drums, Afro-Cuban conga drums and the African xylophone called Balafon to involve children in the beauty and challenge of polyrhythmic percussion music. Steve’s residencies teach values such as teamwork and group consciousness while individual self-esteem thrives with participation in this type of collective music making. Since 1985, Steve has performed and taught drumming for audiences of all ages, both nationally and internationally.
Segun Olorunfemi – Visual Artist – African Arts
Segun Olorunfemi is an artist from Nigeria. His highly colorful work in a variety of materials- yarn, batik, linoleum block- has a contemporary feel, however, Olorunfemis work and his view of art are part of the African tradition. Olorunfemi believes artists must instruct the young. He belongs to a group called NAFANA, Nigerian Artists for a Nation Anew. VSA arts of Nigeria, in which Olorunfemi is a part, was established in 2001. They conduct programs in traditional dance, drumming, painting, and batik for individuals with disabilities, particularly children and youth. Through its annual teacher training seminar, VSA arts of Nigeria introduces the importance of arts-based learning for scholastic success and, as a result, has been asked to conduct arts workshops in numerous schools in the Ibadan area. Many of these, such as the Junior Club and the VSA arts Children’s Choir, are aimed at bridging the gap between children with and without disabilities.
Kelly Doremus Stuart – Dancer
Dance educator, choreographer and performer Kelly Doremus Stuart has been sharing her love of dance with children and adults through New Hampshire since 1985. As a roster artist with Very Special Arts NH, adjunct theater faculty at New England College, and associate artistic director of the children’s dance company Petit Papillon, she has enjoyed working with students of all ages and abilities in a wide range of venues. Kelly prefers to tailor her residencies to each school’s specific needs. She served as a member of the NH Curriculum Frameworks for the Arts Task Force as a writer of the dance standards. She applies these standards in her residency planning.
Deborah Stuart – Musician
Deborah has worked for forty years with children, teaching, writing and directing childrens musical plays and Revels, and directing a childrens choir. She has performed alone and with David Colburn and Will Cabell in the USA, British Isles, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, and Russia. She has been listed on the NH Touring program roster, and active in the Arts in Education Program in New Hampshire, and in Rural Arts Initiative. She has been a member of the Governors Right to Read Commission, on the Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Music Festival, Committee on Teacher Preparation and Professional Growth, Arts in Schools Basic Education Grant. Deborah served as President of the parent organization, VSA arts and is still active with them as a speaker, trainer and writer. Deborah is the editor/author of several publications on the use of the arts in education and in developing literacy, with an emphasis on the inclusion of children with different learning needs.
TJ Wheeler – Blues/Jazz Musician
Artist T. J. WheelerT. J. Wheeler is a blues and jazz guitarist, vocalist, educator, and overall musical activist. As a soloist or with his band, T.J. takes his audience from Delta Blues to New Orleans second line jazz to his contemporary blues and jazz original compositions. His workshop/concert tour Hope, Heroes and the Blues has been performed for over 150,000 students throughout the country and won accolades from such diverse sources as the The Memphis Blues Foundation, Face Magazine and the Boston Globe. T.J. has performed at major jazz, folk, and blues festivals throughout the U.S., Europe and Canada. He is a 1993 recipient of the WC Handy “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” in education and received a 1996 Artist Fellowship from the State Arts Council. TJ was the resident blues scholar on the Magic Bus seen on C Span in the fall of 1997. In January, 2000, he won the music in the school award from the National Music Foundation.