Insight News

Feb 14th

Leading artistic and professional lives

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ashley-commodoreThis is the second in a series of artist biographies aimed at illuminating the depth of talent, creative and productivity Minnesota artist bring to their craft and to our community and culture in the broadest sense. This week we focus on three incredibly talented members of Grammy Award-winning Sounds of Blackness.

Ashley Nicole Commodore
Ashley Nicole Commodore was born into a truly musical family. Her mother, father and brother are all musicians.

After high school roles in “Fame” and “Godspell” and the lead role of Dorothy in “The Wiz” Ashley joined the cast of “Black Nativity” at the Penumbra Theatre, St. Paul MN and debuted as reindeer “Dasher” in the award winning Sounds of Blackness musical “The Night Before Christmas”. She was also featured in the “Twin Cities Tribute to Michael Jackson”.

Ashley Nicole Commodore has studied at the Children’s Theater, Minneapolis MN and recently graduated from DePaul University, Chicago IL, receiving a BA in Psychology. While attending college she was a member of the DePaul Gospel Choir (DGC) for four years.

bridget-dawkinsBridget Dawkins
Bridget Dawkins has held such titles as Miss Black Kansas, Miss Black America Finalist, Miss Black USA Finalist, Miss Wichita and Miss Wichita State (both as 1st Runner Up) and numerous other local & state titles. Upon graduating from Wichita State University as a Music Education major, , she traveled with her talented sister Vicki singing gospel and R&B throughout the Midwest.

Dawkins’s vocal ability has afforded her the opportunity to perform throughout the US as well as other countries. She was chosen from among over 500 students nationwide as the winner of the American Collegiate Talent Showcase, which took her on a USO tour of Germany, Norway, Iceland and Portugal. In Hollywood, she was a finalist in the Stairway to the Stars Talent Showcase hosted by Adam Wade and performed in such venues as Marla Gibbs’ Memory Lane in Los Angeles. She was also a finalist in the Twin Cities’ “Future Stars Parade”.

When several national artists performing in the Twin Cities have requested backup vocalists with excellent vocal ability and range, Dawkins’s name was referred to them and she was called to perform. As a result, she sang with Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow and most recently Grammy-Award Winning vocalist Larnelle Harris.

As a current member of the Grammy-Award Winning Sounds of Blackness, Dawkins performs nationally. Though a Star Tribune news review said that she “brings robust gospel joy” to her performance of Gladys Knight in the Sounds’ “Soul of the 60’s Revue”, many refer to her as “Tina” for her “Tina Turner-style vocal abilities. The local Kare 11 TV featured her as “Tina” as one of their “Extra” programs. Bridget also performs as “The Dawkins Project”, which features the music of jazz & R&B divas.

As dedicated as she is to music, Bridget Dawkins is also a supportive wife and First Lady to her wonderful husband Pastor Mark Dawkins of New Vision Christian Ministries in Rosemount, MN and sings every week in church as she has done since the age of 9. When the question arises about her singing of secular music, her response is “Just as Jesus did not minister to people who were only inside the church, I believe that God gave me my gift to share universally inside and outside of church. When you listen to the voices of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Al Green and others who sing both sacred and secular music, does their music not touch your spirit and soul?”

cynthiajohnsonCynthia Johnson
Cynthia Johnson is no stranger to the music business. She is best known for the first single she recorded as part of Lipps Inc., Funkytown. An award-winning smash hit, the song sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Cynthia’s unmistakable lead vocals sent Funkytown to #1 in 28 countries around the world. After the success of Funkytown, Cynthia went on to record three albums with Lipps Inc during the early 80’s. The song continues to be re-released on a regular basis as part of retrospective albums and hit collections.

Her work is documented at the Minnesota History Museum in the “Minnesota Musicians” feature, which even included a hands-on Funky Town exhibit.

Johnson’s stage and theatrical credits are also notable. As a regular member of Hey City Theater’s “Beehive” Cast, she portrayed the Tina Turner character and received rave reviews. When Tina herself was unable to make a scheduled engagement for Target Corporation, Johnson was invited to perform in her place!

Currently Cynthia Johnson is involved in creating, writing and recording her solo CD project “From Funkytown To Higher Ground”. She can be found performing with the Sounds Of Blackness, on the local Twin Cities jazz scene, and for private corporate functions.


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