Frost Amphitheater

Yacouba Sissoko is a master of the kora, a 21-string West African harp, and will lead a guitar and kora workshop at Stanford Live with South African guitarist Derek Gripper. Photo courtesy of Yacouba Sissoko.

Stanford Live Welcomes Fall Visiting Artists for Residencies on Campus

Many artists that we present at Stanford Live are not only remarkable performers, but also gifted speakers, educators, and creative collaborators. Whenever possible, we invite visiting artists to join us for residencies in which they can share these aspects of their artistic practice. The free campus and community programs that are part of artist residencies make it possible for many more members of our community to engage with additional dimensions of our guest artists’ work.

As we open our season, the upcoming visit by Derek Gripper and Yacouba Sissoko exemplifies the kind of possibilities offered by a residency format. Gripper, a South African classical guitarist, has developed an extraordinary technique for evoking the sound of the kora, a 21-string West African harp, on the guitar, while Sissoko is both a master of the kora’s traditions and a musical innovator known for absorbing new styles and collaborating with artists across multiple genres.

Bookending their two performances in the Bing Studio on October 8, Gripper and Sissoko will share aspects of their artistry with multiple communities. On October 7, Derek Gripper will lead a workshop for K-12 music teachers, sharing his innovative method for class guitar teaching as part of our teacher workshop series. As devoted to education as he is to performance, Gripper has created a Montessori guitar method, served as the Head of Classical Guitar at the University of Cape Town, taught workshops on African guitar, and has even taken a hiatus from the guitar to teach yoga. All of these elements come together in the inclusive approach for young learners that he will share with our community’s educators.

Derek Gripper, known for his groundbreaking technique for evoking the West African kora on the guitar, combines Bach's music with the oral traditions of Africa. Photo by Elaine Graham

Residencies also contribute to Stanford Live’s many collaborations with colleague arts organizations. The evening of October 7, Yacouba Sissoko will be featured in a special event to launch the Silicon Valley African Film Festival, a celebration of African and African diaspora cinema featuring over 100 films and visits from dozens of film artists. In Parque de los Pobladores, the heart of San Jose’s art-filled SoFa district, Sissoko will perform and join in conversation with Festival founder Chike Nwoffiah, reflecting on the personal and artistic journey that has taken him from Mali to his longtime home in New York. Coming from a long family line of djelys, West African oral historians who perform on the kora, Sissoko has mastered his culture’s traditions and kept his ears open to many others, “from Indian ragas to Appalachian tunes,” that have contributed to his unique style and collaborations with Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and jazz violinist Regina Carter.

On October 8, the duo’s concerts will allow our community to fully experience their musical brilliance, with onstage cabaret-style seating in the main Bing Concert Hall offering an intimate environment to see the musicians’ virtuosity and deep communication with each other.

They’ll return the next day for a free community workshop, inviting guitarists, kora players, and listeners to join them on the Bing Concert Hall stage to learn about the instrumental techniques and collaborative approaches that come into play in their musical dialogue. Both artists balance devotion to a musical lineage with a quest for new means of expression, and they’ll discuss how this led to the meeting of their creative paths.

The generosity of our Stanford Live members and donors allows us to present these engagement programs at no cost to participants, providing enriching and accessible experiences for multiple communities in our region. To learn more about supporting Stanford Live’s Artist Residency and K–12 programs, please contact Nicola Rees, director of development, at 650.497.4809 or