We're excited to bring such an amazing group of speakers and performers together for the NIIC.

Learn more about them below.



Abigail Washburn & Wu Fei

Abigail Washburn is a Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter and clawhammer banjo player based in Nashville, TN, whose music often meshes traditional Appalachian and Chinese folk tunes. Abigail’s musical projects range from her string band, Uncle Earl, to her bilingual releases Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005) & City of Refuge (2011), to the mind-bending “chamber roots” sound of the Sparrow Quartet (featuring Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee), to Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for Sichuan earthquake victims.  Her most recent record with her husband, Béla Fleck, won a 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. Washburn is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has regularly toured in China, including a month long tour of China's Silk Road supported by grants from the US Embassy, Beijing. Abigail is a TED Fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach titled “Building US-China Relations…by Banjo”. In March of 2013, she was commissioned by New York Voices and the NY Public Theater to write and debut a theatrical work titled, Post-American Girl, which draws from her 17-year relationship with China and addresses themes of expanding identity, cultural relativism, pilgrimage, and the universal appeal of music.

Wu Fei, a native of Beijing and a current Nashville resident, is a master of the guzheng, the 21-string Chinese zither. She plays beautifully in the instrument’s vernacular–a musical language which is at least 2,000 years old–and in a contemporary idiosyncratic, experimental dialect nurtured by years spent at Mills College and immersed in the New York Downtown improvisation scene which revolved around venues like The Stone, where Fei has frequently performed and curated. Fei composes for choir, string quartet, chamber ensemble, Balinese gamelan, and orchestra; her commissions range from a composition for Percussions Claviers de Lyon that premiered in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing to live performances in Paris and Tokyo for luxury brand Hermès. In addition to her own original compositions, Fei has collaborated with many artists of different disciplines and genres ranging from Washburn to avant garde composer John Zorn, Fred Frith, Carla Kilhstedt, Billy Cardine, and Jeff Coffin, to name a few.

Together as an entirely unique banjo-guzheng duo, Abigail and Fei will sing and perform their original compositions inspired by the commingling of Appalachian and Chinese folk songs as well as improvised pieces and traditional tunes.



The Carmonas

The Carmonas take their roots-bound sound to fresh melodic and lyrical regions with cut-above song crafting, strong vocal choruses and ear-grabbing harmonies. The natural blend of the voices of primary members and siblings Chad, Alison, and Aaron Carmona is what really draws attention to the talent apparent in this Americana group. The band blends a wide range of musical styles into a cohesive, original sound. With fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and upright bass, one would expect a traditional bluegrass sound, but what you hear is something much more complex.

chinese arts alliance of Nashville

Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville (CAAN) was established in December 2002. Jen-Jen Lin, Director and Founder of CAAN, remembers when she first arrived in Nashville in 1994. One innocent kid pointed to Jen-Jen’s face and yelled “Chinese!” to his mother. Nashville was not a community that was aware of Chinese culture. Jen-Jen, who led a top Chinese dance company in Taiwan, and studied modern dance in the US, decided that it was time to expose middle-Tennessee to Chinese dance, art, and culture. She began CAAN to support Chinese artists of all kinds, and make Nashville a place where Chinese arts and culture was not so foreign. Each of CAAN’s productions brings to life on the stage of Ingram Hall folk tales that have been told and re-told in Chinese homes for centuries. Moving off of the proscenium stage, CAAN has brought Chinese folk culture to dozens of venues acrosstown. CAAN’s lion dancers and drummers have performed at Schermerhorn Hall, the Nashville Dragon Boat Festival, the National Folk Festival, the Frist Center for Visual Arts, Discovery Center in Murfreesboro and many community centers and parks across middle-Tennessee.

Inversion vocal ensemble

Inversion Vocal Ensemble (inversionsings.com) brings an eclectic vibe of various musical genres. Comprised of classically trained students and alumni of Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, Morehouse College, and Westminster Choir College, Union University, Inversion performs classical, contemporary gospel, jazz standards and inspirational music like never before!

Most recently, Inversion was the headliner in full concert for Sacred Space for the Arts Concert Series, Nashville’s most prominent independent concert series. In April of 2016, the Ensemble was requested by the National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel to sing at their inaugural memorial service for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and specifically to sing their rendition of "Precious Lord", Dr. King's favorite hymn. In October 2015, Inversion was selected as the only vocalists to perform on the mainstage of Schermerhorn Symphony Center's Laura Turner Concert Hall for the Nashville Symphony Free Day of Music, joining Nashville’s first independent Black orchestra, Diaspora. Inversion premiered the concert theatrical, FREDERICK DOUGLASS: The Making of a Prophet, and was chosen for this work by its composer, Grammy-award winning songwriter Marcus Hummon. Cheekwood Museum and the National Museum of African-American Music presented Inversion in concert to commemorate the work of artist William Edmondson. Past engagements have also included The Roland Hayes Museum, National Association of Negro Musicians, and Nashville Opera Club.

You can follow Inversion at @inversionsings.

Isaac & Marcela

Isaac & Marcela are a duo that brings together the rich musical backgrounds of mandolinist and Oklahoma native, Isaac Eicher, and vocalist/composer, Marcela Pinilla, transplant from Bogotá, Colombia. Having performed over the years separately in a variety of styles, the two meet in a shared musical space of jazz, latin and pop with a natural chemistry that is exciting and delightful to experience.

For more information visit marcelapinilla.com - isacceicher.com


The musical group REVOLFUSION fuses an energetic blend of traditional music from Brazil (samba/samba de roda, samba reggae), Central America (Punta) and rhythms from the Caribbean such as merengue, salsa, bachata, cumbia, rumba and ska, with the lively colors of modern music like rap, regueton, rock and others.  All of these flavors are in tune with the modern diversity of the “Athens of the South”, Nashville.

“Our musical creativity got pregnant in Latin America, but was born in the United States so it is un-deportable and protected by the XIV amendment ”. 

- Leon Berrios, Band Leader of REVOLFUSION


Southern Word

Southern Word is a non-profit education and youth development organization which makes these poet performances possible by serving more than 5,000 youth a year through residencies and workshops in 8 Tennessee counties. To help more young people develop their voice and position themselves as leaders, go to southernword.org

Khai Hardin is senior class secretary at John Overton High School, President of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Vice President of Tennessee World Affairs Council Club, Secretary for Latino Achievers, and Ambassador for the Academies of Nashville. She is also the manager of the Overton girls varsity basketball team. Born and raised in Nashville Tennessee, Khai started writing poetry her sophomore year and hasn't stopped since. Poetry is her way to talk to the community as a whole. She uses her voice so that others can be heard and know that they are not going through anything alone.

Leslie Shakira Garcia is a sophomore Psychology and English Major at Lipscomb University where she is a member of the Presidential Ambassadors Council. Leslie met Southern Word as a junior at Station Camp High School. She now performs and works as a poet mentor with Southern Word in addition to serving on their Board of Directors.