Geña Nieves is a performing artist, singer, percussionist, and Bomba dancer who shares the music of Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Latin cultures. The rhythms, the songs, and the dances of Sicá, Calindá, Bámbula, Belé, Congo, Yanvalou, Holandé, and many more help her to connect and engage with students of all ages.
Now residing in Pittsburgh after moving to New York City in 1997, Geña was the lead singer of two popular and well-known island bands, Cannabix and Doppleganger, in her hometown of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. In New York, Geña attended the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and sang on the soundtrack for the film “The Believer.” She is the singer and music director of Machete Kisumontao, a Puerto Rican rebel roots and riot salsa band.
Geña collaborates with artists across a wide range of genres and projects. She sings and plays percussion with the group Preach Freedom & Connect and sings lead for America’s Latin Orchestra and Noel Quintana and his Latin Crew. She works with Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl on a techno project called Ivivi Mori and duets with Carlos Peña performing boleros corta-venas as Geña y Peña. She is also collaborating with Kenia, Colter Harper, Mathew Tembo, Skip Peck, and Phat Man Dee and working on new compositions for her own debut album.
Geña and Preach have conducted residencies for children from Pre-K through 12th grade in the local school system, and facilitated adult and senior Workshops and audience performances throughout the region with organizations such as: Gateway for the Arts, the Latin American Cultural Union, ABC Spanish Playtime, the Institute for International Arts and Languages, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, the August Wilson Center, Coro Latinoamericano-Pittsburgh, Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association, Inc., and more.
She can easily develop multiple curricular tie-ins to the core academics. When people are able to express themselves musically, they are better equipped to express themselves through spoken and written language. Both music and math are languages, complete with symbols and vocabulary, and the mastery of one language helps the learner to acquire others. Through the study of music, students can gain skills needed to conquer complex subjects such as math, physics, and chemistry (such as drills, practice, long term concentration, and dedication to goals). Younger students can benefit through musical study, as it illustrates, through constructive learning, concepts such as fractions.
At-risk students, particularly those with limited English speaking skills, may find through music alternative ways to communicate their ideas, as well as to understand others, in an environment that may be less intimidating to them than a traditional classroom atmosphere. The confidence a student gains through the clearly observable and measurable progress that results from the study of music can be applied to academic subjects.
In 2018, a video clip of Geña drumming with Pittsburgh Beechwood PreK – 5 kindergarten students as a visiting artist for a Long Term Residency Project with Resident Artist Alison Zapata was featured as part of Google’s Year In Search 2018 highlights video. She appears in the search section “what makes a good teacher?” at 1:22!