An Easier Way to Request Accessibility Services

As many of you know, accessibility is one of Town Hall’s core tenets. We aim to provide a space that convenes community, hosts new ideas, and inspires connection for all — $5 tickets and free tickets for everyone 22 and under are just some of the ways we bring those values to life.

There are many more ways to continue to improve access for all at Town Hall, whether you’re in the building or engaging through the magic of technology. One of the simplest ways of showing up for our community comes in the form of a single question: What do you need to fully engage with Town Hall Seattle? 

Last month, we rolled out a new ticketing system that promises a more streamlined and intuitive ticketing experience. As Executive Director Wier Harman explains in the video below, our patrons told us that one of the things they needed most was being able to purchase a ticket easily, free from frustration. Indeed, a vital first step on the journey to engaging with Town Hall!


Even more exciting, because of our improved ticketing platform, there’s one small but mighty option that now appears each and every time anyone makes a ticket purchase: An Accessibility Services Request.

When an Accessibility Services Request is added to a cart and the purchase is completed, our Patron Services team is notified and will reach out for more information so that Town Hall can meet each patron’s needs. Whether it’s ASL, CART, wheelchair or service dog seating, or something else, we want to hear about what our community needs as we work to normalize and operationalize accessibility on our virtual and live stages.

Questions? Contact our Patron Services team at or call (206) 504-2857.

A Ticketing Reboot

As we jump into the energizing days of spring, we’re excited to unveil an important project that promises to make your Town Hall experience a whole lot breezier. From our historic building to the events themselves, we strive to inspire, excite, and fulfill curiosity — and our ticketing system is a critical part of the patron experience. We’ve worked to improve ticketing over the past few years, but not without challenges. We know that our current ticketing system hasn’t met your needs, we’ve taken your feedback seriously, and we’re pleased to announce a change!

On April 27, we’ll take Town Hall’s ticketing to the next level with a new, improved system. It’s been quite a journey, and we’re grateful for your patience and feedback and for weathering the shifts right alongside us. Here are a few of the perks of our new system:

  • More intuitive interface
  • Streamlined member account login and checkout
  • Member vouchers applied automatically at checkout when logged into your account
  • Simplified event check-in process
  • Direct access to virtual videos – no login required!

We want to extend a special note of gratitude to our members. Town Hall members have always been core to our mission and community and have been instrumental to Town Hall’s growth —  from providing feedback to help us shape our ticketing needs, to the financial support to help us take this critical step forward.

Current ticket holders and Town Hall members: Please keep an eye on your email this week for important information!

We know change isn’t easy, but we hope you’ll spring forward with us as we enter this new era. As always, please reach out to if you have any issues with your membership or if you have any issues purchasing tickets.

Disability in Fiction with Sarah Salcedo, John Wiswell, and Ross Showalter

On April 26th, authors John Wiswell and Ross Showalter will join our Writer-in-Residence, Sarah Salcedo, for an evening of short fiction and craft talk. Amongst other topics related to the craft of writing, John, Ross, and Sarah will specifically discuss how they approach the topic of disability within their work

Sarah Salcedo, who planned the event as part of her residency, explained what she was looking forward to most about the evening. “We live in an ableist society with a truly abysmal national sense of what the word ‘healthcare’ means. We approach disability for ourselves in our work as a deeply personal practice, but we also consider how we write these identities for those both within and outside of our communities. We write about our joy, our pain, our day to day experiences, and with every story, the practices of how we balance ourselves and our exploration of self within our work varies.”

“I am a bit in disbelief that I get to talk to these writers and have this discussion. Both John and Ross have written stories that have not only made me feel seen as a disabled person but you make me want to be a better and bolder writer. When I received this residency, I was told I could create events that reflected the conversations I wanted to have in my writing, and I cannot wait to learn from and chat with these two amazing authors.”

“When I asked my guests about the discussion ahead of the event:

John Wiswell wrote, ‘I love normalizing various critical and underrepresented parts of life, and disabilities are among them. It’s wonderful to just happen to have characters share my hearing issues, or chronic pain, or whatnot, without it being centered. But there are bigger things that need saying, and those call for stories that center the experience. Yet in writing lived experience, there is always the questioning of how much of the truth will fit within the word count and the plot.’

Ross Showalter replied, ‘I see fiction as a channel of empathy, and if I could show folks what it’s like to live in this world and not be able to participate as much as you want to, then I’m inviting people to empathize with a point-of-view that, personally, I think should be given much more space. Selfishly, I think writing fiction also allows me to work through some complicated feelings regarding my own disabilities and my own state of being. All fiction is personal, in some way, in the questions we ask and the way we tell the stories, and we just have to acknowledge that it is something that can be seen objectively.’ ”

If you’re not familiar with the writers’ work, you can visit their websites below to find a full list of their stories available online.

Sarah Salcedo’s website // Twitter
John Wiswell’s website // Twitter
Ross Showalter’s website // Twitter

For more information, and to get tickets to Sarah’s free virtual event on 4/26, click here.

From the Town Hall Archives: Celebrating Black History Month

It’s Black History Month, and Town Hall invites you to deepen your knowledge of key historical figures like Fannie Lou Hamer, Phyllis Wheatley, Malcolm X, and more. The programs below are available to watch any time in Town Hall’s Audio and Video Library, a treasure trove of past events! 

Tamara Payne

An Unprecedented Portrait of the Life of Malcolm X | WATCH NOW

In 1990, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne embarked on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. Following Payne’s unexpected death in 2018, his daughter Tamara Payne heroically completed the biography.

Original Event Date: Sun 11/15, 2020, 6:00pm


Keisha N. Blain with LaNesha DeBardelaben

What a new generation of activists can learn from Fannie Lou Hamer | WATCH NOW

Fannie Lou Hamer was born in 1917, the youngest of 20 children in a family of Mississippi sharecroppers. Black, poor, disabled by polio, and forced to leave school early to support her family, she lived what seems like a lifetime of oppression by the time she reached young adulthood. As she continued to work and live in the south during the 1950s and 1960s, she became interested in — and later heavily involved in — the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the insurmountable challenges she faced (she experienced racist attacks, was sterilized without her consent in 1961, and was beaten by police in 1963), Hamer was committed to making a difference in the lives of others by advocating for Black voter rights and social justice. 

Original event date: Tue 11/16, 2021, 6:00pm


Annette Gordon-Reed with Marcus Harrison Green

The History and Future of Juneteenth | WATCH NOW

On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, the end of legalized slavery in the state was announced. Since then, a certain narrative and lore has emerged about Texas. But as Juneteenth verges on being recognized as a national holiday, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annette Gordon-Reed — herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people — reworks the traditional “Alamo” framework, forging a new and profound narrative of her home state with implications for all

Original event date: Mon 6/14, 2021, 7:30pm


Farah Jasmine Griffin

The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature | WATCH NOW

Phyllis Wheatley, the first African-American author of a published book of poetry, wrote, “Imagination! Who can sing thy force?/Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?” Wheatley could very well have been calling to the Black creatives, writers, orators, and leaders who would follow her. The imaginative force of Malcolm X and Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barack Obama, and Langston Hughes are imparted by Farah Jasmine Griffin in a series of meditations on the fundamental questions of art, politics, and the human condition in Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature.

Original event date: Mon 9/27, 2021, 6:00pm


Jeffrey Stewart with LaNesha DeBardelaben

Alain Locke, the Father of the Harlem Renaissance | WATCH NOW

A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence, and call them the New Negroes — the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness.

Original event date: Thu 2/18, 2021, 6:00pm


Tina Campt with Elisheba Johnson

Contemporary Black Artists Who Are Changing the Way We See | LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

Elisheba Johnson interviews Tina Campt about her latest book, A Black Gaze. In the book, Campt explores the work of eight contemporary Black artists who are shifting the nature of visual interactions with art and demanding that Blackness be seen anew. She considers, “Rather than looking at Black people, rather than simply multiplying the representation of Black folks, what would it mean to see oneself through the complex positionality that is Blackness — and work through its implications on and for oneself?”

Original event date: Mon 11/15, 2021, 1:00pm

Looking for more? Find speakers like Derecka Purnell, Keith Boykin, and more in our Audio and Video Library and on YouTube

For even more ways to celebrate Black History Month, don’t miss upcoming events with Laura Coates, Tiffanie Drayton, and Elie Mystal, held in-person, livestreamed, or both!

Five Questions with Kiki Valera

Take a peek into the mind of Cuban virtuoso Kiki Valera, who muses on his influences, his instrument of choice, and the art of making music. Be sure to join us later in February for a live concert with Kiki Valera y su son Cubano (2/25), part of Town Hall’s Global Rhythms series! 

Para español, haga clic aquí.

Town Hall (TH): Who were your musical influences growing up?

Kiki Valera (KV): I grew up in a musical family, heirs to the legacy of Cuban Son. We used to gather several times a year to celebrate with live music and dance. These were spontaneous reunions and at that time, we were unaware of the role my family was to play in preserving the authenticity of this musical tradition. In 1982, the musicologist Danilo Orozco was conducting an investigation on the origins of Cuban Son in the eastern region of our island and through my paternal grandmother Emilia Miranda, he discovered that he could trace the we played Cuban Son all the way back to the late 19th century. In this musical environment my main influence was the Cuban Son in its purest, simplest form. After that, I began my classical guitar studies at the Esteban Salas Conservatory in the city of Santiago de Cuba, where I had the opportunity to expand and enrich my knowledge from a theoretical point of view.

 TH: What do you love most about playing the Cuban cuatro? For those who might be unfamiliar with the instrument, how would you describe its difference from a standard guitar? 

KV: What I like the most about the Cuban cuatro is its versatility from a melodic, harmonic and rhythmic point of view. The Cuban cuatro is a mid-sized guitar with eight strings, tuned in pairs of two. It has a distinctive sound that is soft and sparkly and the extra pair of strings (as opposed to the six-stringed Cuban tres) offers me the creative freedom to improvise.

TH: Your roots are in Cuba, but today you’re living, teaching, and making music here in the Pacific Northwest. How does this region inform your music? 

KV: Coming from Cuba from a musical environment like that of my family, I have tried to preserve the traditional Cuban music style as authentically as possible. Most artists are unconsciously influenced by other currents, and I am no exception. Being surrounded by a different musical environment than the one I come from, I have really enjoyed playing with excellent musicians of other genres and attending concerts of world music, jazz, Latin jazz, salsa and rock. I can say that I feel lucky to be in the cultural atmosphere of Seattle.

TH: Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed anything about music for you? 

KV: For us musicians, interaction with the public is very important. It is a kind of necessary feedback to continue offering the best of ourselves through music. I have used this time to dedicate myself to working on new projects and remote recordings with my musician friends in other parts of the country and world. Musically speaking, COVID-19 has not changed anything in me but I think that it has changed the way we socialize in a general sense and I miss playing live concerts.

TH: What, in your opinion, are the biggest gifts of son Cubano?

KV: The best gift that Cuban Son has given us is that it has allowed us to transmit joy and above all to share with the world our cultural identity.


Cuatro preguntas con Kiki Valera

Eche un vistazo a la mente del virtuoso cubano Kiki Valera, quien reflexiona sobre sus influencias, su instrumento preferido y el arte de hacer música. ¡Asegúrese de unirse a nosotros más tarde en febrero para un concierto en vivo con Kiki Valera y su son Cubano (2/25), parte de la serie Global Rhythms de Town Hall!

Town Hall (TH): ¿Quiénes fueron tus influencias musicales mientras crecías?

Kiki Valera (KV): Crecí en una familia musical, heredera del legado del Son Cubano. Solíamos reunirnos varias veces al año para celebrar en vivo con música y baile. Estas reuniones eran espontaneas y en ese momento, desconocíamos el papel que mi familia iba a jugar en la preservación de la autenticidad de esta tradición musical. En 1982, el musicólogo Danilo Orozco estaba realizando una investigación sobre los orígenes del son cubano en la región oriental de nuestra isla y a través de mi abuela paterna Emilia Miranda, descubrió que podía rastrear el son cubano que interpretábamos hasta finales del siglo XIX. En este ambiente musical mi principal influencia fue el Son Cubano en su forma más pura y simple. Posteriormente inicié mis estudios de guitarra clásica en el Conservatorio Esteban Salas de la ciudad de Santiago de Cuba, donde tuve la oportunidad de ampliar y enriquecer mis conocimientos desde el punto de vista teórico.

TH: ¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de tocar el cuatro cubano? ¿En qué se diferencia de una guitarra estándar?

KV:  Lo que más me gusta del cuatro cubano es su versatilidad desde un punto de vista melódico, armónico y rítmico. El cuatro cubano es una guitarra de tamaño mediano con ocho cuerdas, afinada en pares de dos. Tiene un sonido distintivo que es suave y brillante y el par de cuerdas extra (a diferencia del tres cubano de seis cuerdas) me ofrece la libertad creativa para improvisar.

TH: Tus raíces están en Cuba, pero hoy vives, enseñas y haces música aquí en el noroeste del Pacífico. ¿Cómo influye esta región en tu música?

KV: Viniendo de Cuba y de un ambiente musical como el de mi familia, he tratado de preservar el estilo de la música tradicional cubana de la manera más auténtica posible. La mayoría de los artistas están inconscientemente influenciados por otras corrientes y yo no soy una excepción. Al estar rodeado de un ambiente musical diferente al del que vengo, he disfrutado mucho tocando con excelentes músicos de otros géneros y asistiendo a conciertos de world music, jazz, latin jazz, salsa y rock. Puedo decir que me siento afortunado de estar en el ambiente cultural de Seattle.

TH: ¿La pandemia de COVID-19 ha cambiado algo sobre la música para ti?

KV:  Para nosotros los músicos, la interacción con el público es muy importante. Es una especie de retroalimentación necesaria para seguir ofreciendo lo mejor de nosotros a través de la música. He aprovechado este tiempo para dedicarme a trabajar en nuevos proyectos y grabaciones remotas con mis amigos músicos en otras partes del país y del mundo. Musicalmente hablando, COVID-19 no ha cambiado nada en mí, pero creo que ha cambiado la forma en que socializamos en sentido general y extraño tocar conciertos en vivo.

TH: A su juicio, ¿cuáles son los mayores dones del son Cubano?

KV: El mejor regalo que nos ha dado el Son Cubano es que nos ha permitido transmitir alegría y sobre todo compartir con el mundo nuestra identidad cultural.

Artist-in-Residence Gretchen Yanover: Final Findings

As cellist Gretchen Yanover wraps up her time as Artist-in-Residence at Town Hall, she shares her final reflections about the beauty — and sometimes discomfort — of creation. We’re delighted to have shared this time with Gretchen, and hope you’ll join us for her final Findings Night: Cello in Connection performance on 1/21.

You can read more thoughts from Gretchen on her personal web log.

Final Findings

I feel a lot more at peace than I did a month ago! I am inspired by so many people I’ve seen through Town Hall and beyond, sharing their messages in different ways. There is so much good work happening. I can accept what I do seem to do pretty well, which is to offer some beauty and some comfort. I can also offer some discomfort (but not too much, or I seem to hurt myself). I took stock of the pieces I’ve created since my last album of original music, and I now have enough pieces for a 5th album. Yay! 

What have I seen? 

One of the events I (virtually) attended in the final month of my residency was a presentation by Benjamin Hunter & Joe Seamons on re-defining protest through music. I’ve had the honor of working with Ben, and appreciate what he shares about music and our human experience. I was inspired by the themes of practice and protest and how they intertwine. I decided I wanted to present two songs which have both resonance and dissonance when combined: Lift Every Voice And Sing, and America the Beautiful

I also attended an in-person concert by Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader, which felt like going into another world. The audience was beautifully diverse, and being together in physical space with the sound and lights all helped draw me into another state of mind. The performance of Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader was absolutely astounding. There was virtuosity, incredible rhythmic interplay, as well as entrancing beauty. Almost no words were spoken the entire evening. I love that with instrumental music, I can let my mind focus on the sound, or let the sound carry my mind freely…I didn’t know what to expect, and even when I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect as there were no selections listed on the program. There is a certain thrill in not knowing what will happen next (in this context!) and there is for me, also a bit of anxiety of not knowing what is on a program. This final blog post is also serving as program notes for my January 21st Findings Night. The subtitle of the program is Cello in Connection, and I am with joy giving shout-outs to many connections that helped bring me to this place.

Lift Every Voice (America the Beautiful) And Sing 

Welcome into discomfort. I have been given the space to go places musically I have not gone… 

2 part untitled piece with The Willows dancing 

“The Willows” dance duo is comprised of my daughter, Willow-Anastasia, and her friend, Willow-Iris. The two met through eXit Space school of dance, and they now attend the same Seattle public high school. I was thrilled that they agreed to create choreography and perform with me. The first part of the piece grew from the introduction to Taken From Us. I told the Willows the context of the piece (of me trying to depict running from violence), and asked what they felt in the music. They felt the fearful, anxious urgency, and they created movement around it. I watched their dance, and responded to their choreography as I grew and adapted the piece. The second part of the piece is my depiction of a journey out of the aftermath of violence which grew out of music I created for LeVar Burton’s reading of Nisi Shawl’s story, Black Betty. As I watched the Willows dancing, I felt the hope and beauty of their youth and resilience, and I changed the music to add some optimism into the loop I build. They embody the “why” we persist. 

I follow the 2 part piece with a composition that represents strength. I want to venture into painful territories to express those feelings; however, I wish to stay on the path of optimism as much as possible…

New composition for Different Drummer 

Different Drummer is my band. Anna and Brandon, the core members of the quartet, are my people. It is the one project I play in just for the love and fun of it! Anna and Brandon are my colleagues in Northwest Sinfonietta, and we’ve known one other for years. Our paths converged in the classical realm, but we all have different branches to our musical lives — fiddling for Brandon, jazz for Anna, and my journey from indie rock & electronic music to looping. I love how we work and play together. 

There was no grand scheme in mind as I began to write for and perform as a soloist; however, I did eventually see that the solo path was one in which I could sustain myself financially. It is occasionally lonely. Anna and Brandon have been patient and kind with me over the years, as I navigate my level of involvement in a project that isn’t career-driven. It has been amazing to be financially supported by Town Hall in my own work, and given resources for collaboration. And so, I have now written my first composition for our ensemble, joined by our Different Drummer for this piece, Ben Thomas (who is releasing his own album of original tango music on January 27th)! I envisioned swirling bubbles, playing children, and general ease and joyousness. 

A bit of background on the band: Anna started this group as a trio of bass, violin, and tap! Mark Mendonca was the amazing tap-dancing original Different Drummer. I joined for a few tunes, and Anna and Brandon continued to create arrangements that included me until I was also a part of the ensemble. Perhaps in a foreshadowing of this chosen band name, we proceeded to have a number of “different drummers,” leading to our current Principal Percussionist, Don Dieterich. 

Greenland Man’s Tune – I’ve asked Anna and Brandon to perform one of my favorites of their arrangements. This is a traditional Irish tune, and they play it with beauty and grace. 

Sluggo ( in 3 movements) – Anna definitely has a wide expressive range in her compositions, and this one is groovy and fun! There is, of course, a story… It involves a slug that found its way onto the motherboard of an automated entry gate to Anna’s driveway… The first movement is “crawling along”, followed by “zappy”, and ending with “crawling along” once more — this time perhaps into The Great Slug Beyond… 

Be the Butterfly 

In 2021, I wrote a composition commissioned by Dr. Sarah Bassingthwaighte for her flute choir at Seattle Pacific University. I searched some of my favorite poets for inspiration and landed upon Reagan Jackson’s poem, On Being Black And A Butterfly. I incorporated looped sections (played by alto and bass flute parts) with the text of the poem spoken by the players. I visited the flute choir in rehearsal back in October, and it was lovely to meet the students working on the piece. Dr. Bassingthwaighte had herself on the bass flute part, and so the ensemble was working without a conductor. They felt like it would be very helpful to have a conductor, and so I was recruited for that position! It was fantastic to be a part of the process of bringing the piece to life this fall. We premiered the piece in November at SPU, and the ensemble was kind enough to create a recording of the piece in December, which Dr. Sarah mixed. (I edited a new version that did not involve looping pedals or spoken text.) I am thrilled to present the piece in this form at Town Hall, with Nia-Amina Minor dancing. Nia-Amina and I first connected through a virtual collaboration. Scholar and filmmaker B.J. Bullert combined my music with Nia-Amina’s dance and Jourdan Imani Keith’s poetry in her film, Space Needle — A Hidden History. I was introduced to Reagan Jackson through poet Jordan Chaney, another very inspiring human. Reagan gave her blessing for me to speak the poem. The piece is dedicated to my sister, Natasha. 

My “Duh/Aha” convergence  

I’ve been thinking a lot about naming my pieces — finding those few words that will express what I hope to articulate through my music… and it didn’t occur to me until very recently that there are so many powerful phrases in poetry — phrases I may be able to utilize as titles for my compositions (with the blessing of the poets, and attribution…) I had already just done this very thing with the piece Dr. Bassingthwaighte commissioned me to write for the SPU flute choir. My boyfriend, Ben Thomas has used many lines from poems as titles for his compositions. I’m so happy to have this realization and to hopefully utilize (and hopefully also in some way amplify) poetry. I’m honored to be connected to poets such as Jordan Chaney, Abby Murray, Jordan Imani Keith, and Reagan Jackson. I hope people introduce me to more poets who have spoken on themes related to the idea of home. I feel like there was a convergence with the experiences around poetry from the Town Hall presentations (of Allison Cobb, and Ian Boyden with Shin Yu Pai), and going into the process to present Be the Butterfly, along with the continued realization/internal reassurance that I don’t have to come up with so much myself…. I will continue to read poetry, and search for phrases that resonate as potential titles for my pieces. I will joyfully point to those poems so that others can explore those words if they wish. 

Final set: 

Part 1: (a feeling of home) 

Part 2: (loss—go where…?) 

Part 3: (the spiral shell, the iridescence inside, what holds us) 

I wrote about this set of pieces in my mid-residency reflections blog post. I know that whatever feelings I have around loss of home are infinitesimally small in relation to the losses actually experienced by my ancestors, by Indigenous peoples, by people experiencing homelessness right now…  It is with all this in mind that I wrote this music. 

As a related side note: through a series of kindnesses (which involved a couple attending my Town Hall Scratch Night), I was nominated for and awarded a microgrant in December! I donated some of the money to WHEEL, the women’s shelter on the block south of Town Hall (on the other side of the large LMC apartment project). I also donated to the Tenants Union of Washington State, and Town Hall. I really appreciate the support, which I could then turn around in some support! 

With gratitude, I thank every person at Town Hall who has supported me through this residency. I have been floored by the level of care given to every aspect of my involvement with Town Hall. This has been an incredible, enriching experience, and I’m so glad for the opportunity to perform my music on the Great Hall stage, along with the gift of seeing so many fantastic presentations over the last few months. I will look to make more connections with people creating film content as a place my music can potentially enhance what is being communicated, and I know also that I’ll be back in the studio when the time is right to record my 5th album! I so appreciate this connection to Town Hall, and I look forward to attending many more events here in the future.

Artist-in-Residence Gretchen Yanover: Mid-residency Reflections

Earlier this winter, Town Hall’s Artist-in-Residence, cellist Gretchen Yanover, reflected on the midpoint of her residency and shared some thoughts about finding inspiration at Town Hall. In an excerpt from her blog at, she writes: 

“Since last year, I’ve been feeling this almost desperate desire to do more with my (musical?) voice, to say more, to be less ambiguous with the few words I do use. I’m so inspired by people like Julian Saporiti/No-No Boy, who share so much through stories and history. (What a great podcast talk he had with Tomo Nakayama!) I’m inspired by all of the people taking on the huge issues of our times. I was particularly struck by Howard Frumkin’s talk on Planetary Health (with all of the intersections…).” 

Gretchen goes on to describe a back-and-forth that most artists will find familiar: the dichotomy of feeling insignificant, yet knowing the worth of creative gifts; the desire to speak up, and the fear of causing harm; the discomfort and pain of the process, and the creative energy that can come from intersecting ideas. 

It’s such acts of questioning, connection, and expression that make Town Hall residencies a joy to watch unfold. We hope you’ll join us this month for Gretchen Yanover’s Findings Night (1/21) as she shares her residency explorations in a program of musical collaboration, interlaced with poetry and dance.

A Letter from Joshua Roman to the Town Music Community

The unveiling of our exciting new season, In The Room, is bittersweet. After 15 years of serving as Artistic Director of Town Music at Town Hall Seattle, 2021-22 will be my final season. I have been blessed to bring amazing musicians and music to the stage to share with you. I’m proud of the niche carved out by Town Music, where we can hear both familiar and new music with fresh attention and appreciative ears. Our collective enthusiasm stems from the musical journey we experience together in the room.

While Town Music has never been a series dedicated solely to new music, we have commissioned and presented some of the most exciting innovations in music in the last decade. I’ll spare you the list and offer instead a playlist from our collaboration with KING FM’s Second Inversion, which has captured many of these performances in beautiful video and audio. Among the star performers, you’ll recognize players from the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, and other local stages. Highlighting Seattle talent has been a key feature of Town Music, even before I took over the series. I have loved watching the incredible influx of new players, new ideas, and new energy into a city that has wowed me with its vibrant music-making since I first came to the scene.

The trust of an audience is something I cherish, and the Town Music audience is one of the best audiences I know. Over the past 15 seasons, your insight, feedback, and real-time reactions have taught me valuable lessons about continuity, growth, and thinking long-term. Thank you for being key players in our music community by showing up and by supporting Town Music financially. None of what has transpired in my time as Artistic Director would have been possible without you, and I am humbled by the faith and support you have given over the years.

From the moment Executive Director Wier Harman approached me with the gift of carte blanche freedom in programming — or in his words, “I want to hear what’s on your iPod!” (it was 2007, after all.) — the challenge to share perspectives on music that go beyond my own recital and concerto appearances has been crucial and formative in building my understanding of musicianship. It is no stretch to say that my time with Town Hall has been absolutely transformational to me as an artist and as a person. 

After this season, I will focus on new endeavors and continue exploring the world through the cello. I remain grateful for  and inspired by  the unique relationship we share through Town Hall Seattle; I look forward to seeing the next phase of Town Music, as well as the next chapter of my own Seattle story, which I hope will continue to flourish.

The Great Hall is a wonderful place for music, and what makes it truly great is all of you there, participating. I look forward to seeing you at each of our concerts as we join together again, in the room.

With deep gratitude, 




Joshua Roman

Artistic Director, Town Music 

Town Hall Seattle 


P.S. Joshua’s final season as the Artistic Director is monumental for Town Music, and this season will be filled with special moments. You’re essential to bringing Town Music to Seattle, and your support has never been more important than right now. Please consider making a gift to support this season’s work — donate here!   

An Interview with Fall ’21 Podcast Artist-in-Residence Samantha Allen

Town Hall Seattle is pleased to introduce our Fall 2021 Podcast Artist-in-Residence, Samantha Allen. Samantha is the author of Patricia Wants to Cuddle and the Lambda Literary Award finalist Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States. She’s also a GLAAD Award-winning journalist, and her writing has been published by The New York Times, Rolling Stone, CNN, and more.

As Town Hall’s Artist-in Residence, Samantha examines the intertwined human-animal history of Western Washington through the lens of six wondrous, wild things. The result of her extensive research and interviews culminates in a fascinating 6-part podcast series, Beasts of Seattle. We took a moment to talk with Samantha to learn a little more about the series, Seattle’s unique ecosystems, and how she really feels about Bigfoot.

Town Hall: How did you start to conceptualize Beasts of Seattle? What did that process look like?

Samantha Allen: I think the seed for the series was probably planted when I saw the salmon run at Pipers Creek in Carkeek Park the very first autumn I lived here. What an incredible thing to be able to watch amid an urban environment! We’re a city that values green space, that loves nature, that takes pride in our wildlife — and yet the longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve realized how precarious our beloved creatures are. Hence the series!

TH: The series covers six pretty iconic animals, but are there any creatures you wish could’ve been included? Which ones didn’t make the cut?

SA: Oh, gosh! I was tempted to choose either squirrels or raccoons — arguably our two most famous “nuisance animals,” as they’re sometimes called. I also thought about picking cougars because of how plentiful they are in Washington and because of how often they’re seen in residential areas. Earlier this year, people thought they saw a cougar in Discovery Park but state officials said it was probably something else. It would have been nice to have a land mammal on the list — well, besides Bigfoot, of course.

TH: How did you decide who to interview for each animal that’s discussed in the series? 

SA: While I’m sure I could have gleaned a lot from strictly interviewing conservationists, I wanted to talk to an array of folks who could each offer a unique lens on the creature in question. That’s why I’m interviewing the artist behind a steel salmon installation in Olympia, for example, and a working dog photographer. I put on my journalistic research cap and tried to assemble the most interesting and eclectic group of interviewees I could find for each episode.

TH: What do you think it is that makes Seattle’s creatures so iconic and fascinating to both locals and folks from outside the region? 

SA: Anyone who visits this city, even for a day, is blown away by its beauty — especially once they realize it’s not constantly downpouring here like it is in the movies. You’ve got the Olympics on one side, the Cascades on the other, and water all around. We’re the biggest city in the country that’s built on an isthmus. I think we’re so powerfully situated in nature, and surrounded by trees, that we’ve been able to build up this reputation as a wild, wonderful place. But unless we take care of our environment, we’ll be just another city — and I’d like for us to stay unique.

TH: What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve encountered while working on the series so far? 

SA: I knew that orca whales were threatened by a lack of salmon and by water pollution, but I didn’t know quite how badly noise pollution impacted them until I talked with Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home author Lynda V. Mapes. Killer whales hunt with echolocation so if there are noisy propellers nearby, they can’t hunt. They’re apex predators, kings and queens of the ocean, but a loud boat can essentially ruin their ability to catch prey.

TH: What does exploring these creatures teach us about where we live and how to interact with the world around us?

A: At a minimum, it’s a valuable exercise to see the world through the eyes of the eponymous beasts. At best, though, it can encourage us to be more responsible stewards of the environment and to remember that we live in an interconnected network of animal life. There’s a selfish motivation here, too: The kind of world in which salmon thrive and the orca swim free is a better world for us, as well. We need to care for our creatures if we want a habitable planet.

TH: Which animal from the series would you like to study and learn about more?

SA: Of the animals in the series, I probably knew the most about sea otters and salmon in advance. But I’d like to learn more about crows. That’s why I’m glad Dr. John Marzluff is joining me for the live crow finale! I hadn’t really spared a thought for any corvid before I started researching for that episode. I see them everywhere and I wondered once why they were cawing so much in Leschi Park, but apart from that, I didn’t pay them much mind. Come to find out, they’re wildly smart and endlessly fascinating.

TH: If you had to get one of the animals from the series tattooed on your body, which one would you choose?

SA: Bold of you to assume I don’t already have a sea otter tattoo! But you’re right, I don’t have any animal ink yet. If I had to choose, it’d have to be the sea otter. Just look at their little faces! I wish I were goth enough to rock a crow tattoo, but I’m a big softie at heart.

TH: Who would you love to listen to this podcast?

SA: Anyone who wants to think about our region from a fresh perspective. I think in an election year, we’re going to be talking a lot about some very important and timely issues affecting Seattle, and I’m glad those conversations are happening. I think my hope is that amid that essential dialogue, Beasts of Seattle can remind us of the long view of our history and our future in this place. We’re nothing without our nature.

TH: Bigfoot believer: yes or no?

SA: To quote Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

Image with words Beasts of Seattle and drawings of animalsThe Beasts of Seattle series kicks off with a fascinating dive into the world of the iconic salmon. Listen in here!

Learn more about the Residency Program at Town Hall Seattle and explore work by past Artists-in-Residence here.

Program Director Shin Yu Pai on Highlights from our Fall Calendar

Shin Yu Pai is no stranger to Town Hall Seattle. She began her relationship with us back in 2018 as an Inside/Out Artist in Residence for the Phinney/Greenwood neighborhood, curating programs that brought new local voices like author Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma, Kathleen Alcalá, Rex Hohlbein of Facing Homelessness, and artist Susan Robb to the Town Hall Stage. In 2020, she wrote the vital blog piece, Town Hall Land Acknowledgement: Beyond Gestures, and pitched the concept to produce what would eventually become Lyric World, her podcast series centering on poets and poetry by BIPOC writers, with an emphasis on AAPI authors.

Over the years, Shin Yu’s presence at Town Hall has brought intention and community focus to our programming; it only seems natural that she became our Program Director earlier this year. Town Hall is thrilled to have Shin Yu onboard— read on to learn about what she looks forward to the most this season.

Season notes from Program Director, Shin Yu Pai

Shin Yu Pai, Program Director

In many ways, 2021 feels brand new. As we begin to safely host in-person events, I am honored to develop programs that reflect new relationships with community partners, center conversations on racial equity, and increase the visibility of work done by BIPOC creators. (Learn more about our racial equity statement and commitments here.) Below is a small preview of what the season holds:

Our Arts & Culture series elevates the work of local artists and brings world-renowned cultural icons to Seattle audiences. This fall is no exception as we welcome national luminaries like Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith and Guggenheim Fellow Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, along with South Seattle Emerald founder Marcus Harrison Green and illustrator Susanna Ryan of Seattle Walk Report in conversation with Crosscut‘s Knute “Mossback” Berger

The new season also offers more musical opportunities than ever before. Our five-concert Global Rhythms series (tickets on sale soon!) begins in October with Quetzal, a Los Angeles-based rock group founded by Chicano Artivista and guitarist Quetzal Flores. Further into the series, we’ll hear from master of the rubâb Homayoun Sakhi, Korean shamanic folk-pop band Ak Dan Gwang Chil (ADG7), and other exciting artists. 

 Bridging the realms of literature and music, The Bushwick Book Club Seattle will present their entire 9-concert series in The Forum, including songs inspired by Michele Zauner’s Crying in H Mart and a tribute to children’s author Beverly Cleary

Gage Academy of Arts founder Gary Faigin returns to host a series of conversations with visual artists, including Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio and critically-acclaimed portraitist Rose Frantzen. Later in the season, our Short Stories Live series makes a grand return.

Town Hall’s Community Partnerships start the season strong with a mayoral candidate forum presented by Inspire Washington. Later this fall, look for several free, interactive racial equity workshops, the first of which will be led by Seattle-based MIT author and speaker Ruchika Tulshyan

Our Civics series brings New York Times best-selling author Keisha N. Blain, journalist and former White House aide Keith Boykin, youth literacy advocate Tracy Swinton Bailey, radio host Thom Hartmann, and many more thought leaders to our stages for thought-provoking discussions on social and political issues. 

 Last but not least, our Science series explores topics like longevity with Dr. Nir Barzilai and Dr. Nathan Price of the Institute for Systems Biology, the response of plants and animals to climate change with natural historian Thor Hanson, and a lifetime of musings on animals with author Susan Orlean. Town Hall and Grist will also present Dr. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel as they explore systemic racism and its impact on the human body. 

So much more awaits us as the season progresses and I’m excited to bring even more diverse events to Town Hall this year. You can see the full list of upcoming events and purchase tickets on our website; new events are being added every day so check back often. And if you have ideas for events you would love to see on our stages, let us know! 

– Shin Yu and the Town Hall Seattle Team

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