Mason Artist-in-Residence Small Island Big Song Leads Events Across Campus and Community

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Mason Artist-in-Residence Small Island Big Song performs at the Center on April 20.

Mason Artist-in-Residence Small Island Big Song will perform at the Center on April 20. Photo taken by Gelée Lai, Tony Tsai, Samra Teague, and Kimmi Cranes.


Right before Earth Day, Small Island Big Song presents a "jaw-dropping" (Billboard) concert experience at the Center for the Arts on April 20, combining music, spoken word, and stunning projections to showcase unique oceanic grooves and soulful island ballads, while shining a light on the devastating effects of climate crisis on our world’s oceans. Indigenous artists from Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations mix their diverse styles to establish a contemporary musical dialogue between cultures as far afield as Madagascar, Taiwan, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, and Indonesia.  

Small Island Big Song Co-Founder, BaoBao Chen
Co-Founder BaoBao Chen joins Small Island Big Song at the Center on April 20.

“For us, the goal of Small Island Big Song is to bring the audiences to some places that we might not have the courage of going alone, to celebrate, to confront, to inspire, to mourn, to feel hopeful. Our performance goes to all these emotions and shares the stories of ‘Our Island’, but ultimately, ‘Our Island’ is the one we all share,” notes BaoBao Chen, co-founder of Small Island Big Song

Want to learn more about Small Island Big Song? Read more on the official website

As a Mason Artist-in-Residence, Small Island Big Song will also deeply engage with the community through a series of education and engagement programs, detailed below:


Open-to-the-Public Residency Events 

  • Climate Change: Our Response as Artivists on April 18 will explore ways in which artists can use their voices to expand global conversation on political, economic, social, and cultural questions at the root of the climate crisis. This event is co-presented with the Inclusive Collaborative Arts at Mason (ICAM) project with panelists BaoBao Chen, Co-Founder and Producer of Small Island Big Song; Mark Cooley, Associate Professor and Director of New Media Arts, Mason School of Art; founder of Green Studio; Moderated by Edward Maibach, distinguished professor at George Mason University and director of Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication; and is a part of the Artist-Activist Speaker Series, an initiative of the Inclusive Collaborative Arts at Mason (ICAM) project. This event is free, but registration is required

  • Small Island Big Song artist Sammy hosts "Trash to Music" on April 20.
    Small Island Big Song artist Sammy from Madagascar hosts "Trash to Music" on April 20.

    On April 19, Small Island Big Song invites local students to experience a schooltime performance that includes participatory dance and rhythmic activities, as well as an open Q&A with students. This performance is free, but registration is required

  • Led by Small Island Big Song artist Sammy and hosted by UpCycle Creative Reuse CenterTrash to Music on April 20 is an inspiring hands-on workshop demonstrating how to make musical instruments from trash, commonly recycled, and/or reused materials. Participants will be making a Malagasy-style berimbau and shaker. Recommended for ages 10 and up, minors must be accompanied by an adult. Limit of 20 participants with waitlist to notify if spots become available. 


Additional Residency Activities for Mason and Local Community 

  • Co-presented by the City of Fairfax and Center for the Arts, Small Island Big Song hosted a Friends of the Center for the Arts Artists in Conversation event, Our Shared Seafaring Heritage, Alive in Rhythm and Song, on April 2 at the Stacey C. Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax, VA. This lecture-demonstration provided geographical and historical background about the great oceanic migrations that affected the featured island nations of Small Island Big Song, and included musical demonstrations and an interactive Q&A. 

  • Small Island Big Song artists Sammy, Yuma, Mathieu, and Small Island Big Song Co-Founder Tim Cole will visit Mason’s Dewberry School of Music program’s “Music History in Society III” course taught by Professor Greg Robinson. 

  • In this Dancing Mauritian Sega workshop, approximately 100 second grade students from Hunters Woods Elementary School are invited to learn the Sega dance from Mauritius, led by Mathieu Joseph (Mauritius) with support from Sam Roem (West Papua).  

  • Small Island Big Song artists and co-founders BaoBao Chen and Tim Cole will lead a discussion on the topic of “Artivism in Action - Managing Cultural Initiatives” with students of Mason’s Arts Management and Folklore programs’ “Folklore and Festival Management” course.  

  • In collaboration with Mason Dining Services, Small Island Big Song artists will introduce Mason community members to a traditional dish of the Amis people of Taiwan through a Cooking a Traditional Meal with Local Twists workshop. 

In addition to these special residency events, a pre-performance discussion with Small Island Big Song Co-Founders BaoBao Chen and Tim Cole will take place in Monson Grand Tier prior to the performance on April 20. The discussion will be moderated by Center for the Arts Programming and Engagement Manager Vic Adebusola. 

Buy tickets to Small Island Big Song on April 20 and be transported to the musical islands that are just around the corner. 

This engagement of Small Island Big Song is made possible through the ArtsCONNECT program of Mid Atlantic Arts with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

The Mason Artist-in-Residence program is supported in part by the Wendy Frieman and David Johnson Fund. 

The Small Island Big Song residency is supported in part by Eloise Stinger. 

Thank you to the City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation Everybody Plays Grant program for making free tickets possible for the schooltime matinee program. This grant was funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).