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Johanna de los Santos, Founding Director

Johanna De Los Santos (BA-University of Wisconsin, Latin American Studies, MA-New York University-Latin American and Caribbean Studies) has dedicated over 20 years of professional work, community volunteerism and academic study toward using the integration of Latino/Latin American/Caribbean studies and general creative arts & media to advance inside-out personal and community development. With studies at La Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico (San Germán, Puerto Rico), Universidad de la Habana (Cuba) and Florida International University’s Haitian Studies Institute (Miami, FL), Johanna’s studies and work has centered on cultural arts within theories and praxis of social movements. Since 2007, she has been Executive Director of the national youth development non-profit, Art Start, that uses the creative arts to connect with historically marginalized youth. She currently serves as Board Chair for Bembé Drum & Dance, and Interim Director.

 
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Imani Jalil, Program Director, Dance Director

Imani Jalil was born and raised in Milwaukee. She began her dance training at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts. After graduating from RMSA, Imani became a dance major at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, before continuing on to UW-Milwaukee where she went on to earn her B.F.A in African Dance and the Diaspora. In 2015, she embarked on a dance study abroad to Brazil, where she studied different forms of Afro-Brazilian dance and movement. She has performed with African dance company, Ko-thi Dance Company, in Milwaukee under the direction of founder Ferne Caulker-Bronson, and currently performs with Panadanza Dance Company, under the direction of Director, Karlies Kelley. Imani has been teaching with Bembé since 2016.

 
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Bony Plog-Benavides, Musical Director

Bony Plog-Benavides is a native of Bogotá, Colombia, where she studied with Cuban percussionist Fran Calzadilla. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music with a concentration on Percussion Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where she studied with David Bayles. In May 2008, she finished her Master’s Degree in Ethnomusicology at Arizona State University. Her thesis research focused on the popularization of Gaita Music, a musical tradition of Northern Colombia. While at ASU, Mrs. Plog-Benavides studied with African music scholar Mark Sunkett and renowned drummer Dom Moio. In addition to her work at Bembé, Mrs. Plog-Benavides currently teaches for Milwaukee Public School as a Percussion Traveling Music Teacher as well as at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and Concordia University as a Percussion Instructor.

Shannon Effinger, Development Associate

Shannon J. Effinger (BA-New York University, English & American Literature; MFA-Sarah Lawrence College, Creative Nonfiction) has been a staunch advocate for the arts all her life. As a grant writer, she has successfully raised over $3.8 million to sustain and enhance arts, cultural and educational programs for select NYC nonprofits.

She has also worked as a freelance arts journalist since 2008. Her writing on music, race, and lifestyle/travel regularly appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Bandcamp, Fodor's Travel, Pitchfork, Jazziz, and NPR Music, among other publications.

In summer 2020, she made her cinematic debut as a featured critic in the documentary Universe, the rediscovered orchestral suite by Wayne Shorter, written more than 50 years ago for Miles Davis and left unrecorded and largely untouched until it was revisited by Davis’ protégé, the late trumpeter Wallace Roney. A native Brooklynite, she currently resides and writes in the Upper West Side.

Carlos Adames

Carlos Adames is a widely acclaimed percussionist known for his explosive soloing and inventive conga patterns, and a composer, arranger and educator who has worked professionally all over the Western Hemisphere and Europe. Mr. Adames was born into a musical family that inspired him and helped shape him as a musician. Carlos earned his Bachelors Degree in Percussion at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes of Mexico, as well as with world known percussionists such as Alex Acuña, Endel Dueño, Jesús Alfonso Miró, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Lamim Thiam, and many others. During his coursework to becoming a Master Percussionist he received conservatory training in Colombia, Brazil, Cuba and Veracruz, Mexico. He has additional acredidation in Planning and Evaluation of Musical Education from the Instituto Veracruzano de las Artes Hugo Argüelles, Mexico. Mr. Adames has taught music education and percussion to students of all ages, from elementary to college and Master level at: Mozart's Gym Academy, Milwaukee, WI; Universidad Cristobal Colón, Veracruz, Mexico; El Instituto de México, San Antonio, TX; North West Vista College, San Antonio, TX; Palo Alto College, San Antonio, TX; Oldenburg Universität, Oldenburg, Germany; and Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Mexico.

Beto Torrens

Alberto "Beto" Torrens, of Santurce, Puerto Rico, is a widely renowned musician and cultural educator throughout Latin America and the United States.

As an educator, Beto has given Master Classes at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, Liceo de Arte y Tecnología, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (Chicago, IL), El Batey (Buffalo, NY), The Nash (Phoenix, AZ) and Camelback High School (Tempe AZ), New College of Florida (Sarasota, FL) among others. In 2020 Torrens received a Residency from Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) to teach Bomba history and percussion to music and musical therapy students. Beto has also offered percussion workshops in Paris, Barcelona, Canada, and teaches daily classes from his studio in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Beto began his musical career with Batucada Baobá, alongside Anthony Carrillo, Luis Vélez and Fernando "Freddy" Díaz. He is a founding member of Bayanga (later Calle 13), and has worked with bands and artists like Puya, Calle 13, Cultura Profética, Gomba Jahbari, Jerry Medina, Batacumbele, Brazuca Matraca (Barcelona), Macaco (Barcelona), Ricky Martin, De La Roots, Tráfico Pesado, Ricky Rodríguez, and La Descarga Urbana de Medina Carrión, among others. Beto recorded in the Grammy nominated album “Urbano” by Elvis Crespo, and has contributed in recordings with De La Ghetto, Cultura Profética [Latin Grammy Winner], Plenéalo, Fusión Jonda, Monsieur Periné (Colombia) [Latin Grammy winner], La Tortuga China, Alegría Rampante, Hermes Ayala, OFERENDA, El Colectivo, amongst others. He’s played festivals in the U.S., Cuba and Puerto Rico and has played alongside Jazz luminaries David Sanchez, Miguel Zenón, Piro Rodríguez, and Adam Rogers.

Beto Torrens is a founding member of the groundbreaking group ÌFÉ alonside Mark Underwood (aka Otura Mun), and Rafael Maya and is very active in the folklore scene in Puerto Rico , directing two folkoric ensembles, Bloco Afro Oxalá and La Liga Rumbera; as well as being a member of the groups Desde Cero, Los Majaderos de Cachete Maldonado and Grupo Carabalí.

Beto Torrens plays exclusively Meinl Percussion.