Groove Diplomacy: using music to create unity, community, & change

Establishment of the first Garifuna Cultural Festival and workshops in Livingston, Guatemala
Establishment of the first Garifuna Cultural Festival and workshops in Livingston, Guatemala

Our definition of groove is – a Groove makes you move!
Movement creates unity, community, and change.

Diplomacy is in part the skill of managing international relations. Groove Diplomacy is a Non – Profit/NGO based in Brooklyn, New York that collaborates internationally with U.S. Embassies, other NGOs, academic institutions and organizations creating musically based projects that empower, engage and give agency to the participants.  Recent projects have focused on female empowerment, entrepreneurship, educational diplomacy, citizenship, cultural celebration, and sustainability.

We believe in healing by telling OUR stories through MUSIC and IMPROVISATION.

Groove Diplomacy has a roster of teaching artists as well as a performance units:

Sonic Black, which is rooted in the African American tradition and tours, performs and conducts workshops and master classes teaching about the African-American history, jazz, the blues, and improvisation.

S H U N G I T E, jazz folk fusion band based in Siberia, mix of African-American and Russian Folk music with a unique sound from a combination of folk instruments including balalaika, domra, and accordion with guitar, bass, violin, vocals blended with percussion and electronics.

LaFrae Sci: composer, drummer and educator

photo by Tatiana Vishnevskaya
photo by Tatiana Vishnevskaya

LaFrae Sci is an internationally sought composer, drummer and educator who teaches at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and is also a founding teaching member of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in N.Y.C.  As a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, she has taught master classes and performed in more than 30 countries.  This experience led LaFrae to develop and launch the NGO Groove Diplomacy, whose mission is to create youth engagement programs internationally using musical expression as a vehicle to empower, ignite, heal & create mutual understanding.

LaFrae’s band, Sonic Black, is an educational collective that creates interactive presentations focusing on the genius of the Black American musical contribution to  U.S. and world history. Our presentations are tailored to the specific mission of our requested visit. Recent examples are: “Music and Social Justice”, “Finding Your Voice Through Improvisation”, “Women’s Empowerment”, and “Music & Entrepreneurship”.  Sonic Black has performed and taught interactive workshops in more than 100 NYC public schools, toured as representatives for Jazz at Lincoln Centers Jazz for Young People On Tour concert series, served as artists in residence at schools in Atlanta, Georgia and Dayton, Ohio and performed in NYC, Suriname, Albania, Paris and participated in the world premiere of two LaFrae’s jazz orchestral works, the first in 2014 written for 36 pieces inspired by the Russian novel The Master and Margarita , in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, and the latest being the Time Traveler Suite:Travel Journals of an Afro – Futurist, also performed in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia 2016 written for 60 pieces plus two choirs.

In the spring of 2016 Groove Diplomacy participated in the creation of the first Intercultural Garifuna Festival, a special project with the Afro – Guatemalans in the Livingston, Guatemala region. In December of 2016 Groove Diplomacy again partnered with Fundadela and the U.S. Embassy Guatemala to establish a teaching curriculum, repertoire and create a Gauatemalan/U.S.A. joint faculty establishing the First Annual Jazz Camp Guatemala!  Additionally in December 2016 LaFrae had the pleasure of presenting a 3 hour masterclass on “improvisation and finding your voice” with members of the Orquesta Alaíde Foppa, the only all female orchestra in Latin America.

LaFrae has played drums for The Burnt Sugar Arkestra, The Black Rock Coalition Orchestra, Valerie June, Keziah Jones, Sandra Bernhard, Eli Yamin, Vernon Reid, Kelis, Nancy Sinatra (w/ Morrissey), Blues greats Jr. Mack and Pinetop Perkins, Irene Cara, Bumblefoot, Cyndi Lauper, Reuben Wilson, Rachel Z, Kelis and Dr. Lonnie Smith.

More information at

Sonic Black

photo by Lauren Farris
photo by Lauren Farris

Groove Diplomacy has a roster of teaching artists as well as a performance unit called Sonic Black, which is rooted in the African American tradition and tours, performs and conducts workshops and masterclasses teaching about the African – American history, jazz, the blues and improvisation.


Musicians clear the way for new adventures in sound.
Jazz Folk Fusion blast – emphatic, innovative and enjoyable.

Under Groove Diplomacy umbrella, LaFrae Sci launched a new band in Krasnoyarsk/Siberia called SHUNGITE. (pronounced shun-geet)

“I knew I wanted to build a band that was different and filled with energy. I wanted every song to stand out and be crammed with joy. I was the first jazz teacher to teach in this part of Siberia where outside of the Philharmonic orchestra, there are no other playing opportunities for young people,” says Sci who is very proud of the evolution of her students who are now professional level musicians.

SHUNGITE is an offshoot from the 7-year Youth Big Band collaboration between LaFrae Sci / Groove Diplomacy and the Ivanov Radkevich College of Arts in Krasnoyarsk / Siberia. Over the last 6 years, LaFrae has taught jazz improvisation, theory, and written and arranged 3 major jazz orchestral presentations with the students including The Master and Margarita Meet Jazz, Time Traveler Suite, and ENERGY. The members of Shungite are graduates from LaFrae’s program.

The name of the band comes from the name of the rock shungite that is known for its healing and purifying qualities. Folk traditions heal us, and bring us together while honoring our past, living in the present, and reaching for the future.

LaFrae Sci and SHUNGITE play a blend of African American and Siberian folk, jazz, Afro beat, blues with a mix of Siberian throat singing, and instruments – accordion, domra, balalaika – and electronica. They call it electro jazz folk fusion – a new sound in world music. Siberian Sound!

LaFrae says: “I am African American. African American folk music is the blues. The Blues is the mother of Rock. My Mother is Nigerian, and my Father is Afro-Cuban. Shungite is a unity of my culture and Siberian Sound as our presentations combine Blues, Rock, Nigerian rhythms, Afro-Cuban rhythms, with Siberian folk songs and instrumentation in a modern, electronic interpretation with jazz improvisation. A most diverse combination of folk traditions that also includes Ableton Live and moog synthesizer sounds marrying acoustic, analog and digital musical possibilities creating a sound we call “electro jazz folk fusion” where the groove is king”.

Currently the band has just finished a CD, and they are organizing an international tour.

S H U N G I T E – Folk Fusion (arr. by LaFrae Sci)



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CD “Groove Diplomacy Vol 1”

Groove Diplomacy Vol 1 Cover Art“The blues is not a museum piece to be pulled out for festivals, it is a tool that we can use in our daily lives. The blues informs jazz expression, gives us permission to express our authentic selves, it heals, it builds community, inspires, protests, can be altruistic and/or capitalistic, reflects our collective history and democratic values, and is at the root of the United States of America.”       ~LaFrae Sci

Groove Diplomacy Vol 1 is a collection of pieces that are included in the international teaching curriculum of Groove Diplomacy. Students and teachers worldwide have studied these pieces theoretically, philosophically with the performing teaching artists of groove diplomacy in creative international project collaborations that have included teacher training seminars, women’s empowerment presentations, entrepreneurship workshops, and creative expression masterclasses for all ages and experience levels.

Available at CDBaby