The Kennedy Center

Ysaye Maria Barnwell


Ysaye Barnwell is a composer, arranger, author, actress, and former member of the Black women’s a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock. Barnwell joined the group in 1979 and facilitated their inclusion of a Sign Language Interpreter. As a vocalist with a three-octave-plus range, she appears on more than twenty-five recordings with the ensemble. For thirty years, and on three continents, Barnwell has led her workshop Building a Vocal Community: Singing in the African American Tradition. She also leads monthly Community Sings at the Levine School of Music where she is an artist-in-residence. |

Watch Past Performances

Video 6/29/2019: Sisterfire Showcase

Roadwork brings the social power of music to the Millennium Stage through the spirit of its Sisterfire Festival. Join us for an intergenerational, multiracial, post-genre hour of womensound.  With a special tribute to the late Dr. Shirley Childress Johnson, long-time sign language interpreter for Sweet Honey In The Rock. This year’s showcase features: Ysaye Barnwell -- singer, composer, arranger and Sweet Honey In The Rock alum; Ariel Horowitz -- violinist, composer, activist; Be Steadwell -- vocalist, composer and director; and Yasmin Williams — acoustic fingerstyle guitarist and composer.

This performance will be sign-interpreted.

Presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Social Power of Music  with support from WPFW, Busboys and Poets and Levine Music.

Video 7/7/2018: Roadwork's 40th Anniversary: Three Voices

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrates Roadwork’s 40th anniversary as a D.C.-based multiracial coalition that puts women artists on the road locally and globally, with a performance featuring D.C. artists Ysaÿe Maria Barnwell, Be Steadwell, and Carolyn Malachi. Founded in 1978 by women leaders from African American civil rights, women’s, global justice, and lesbian-feminist movements, Roadwork aims at transforming consciousness and creating new movements in global arts and social justice.  You can learn more about Roadwork here.

Presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. For more information, please visit