Zahra has worked as a drama and vocal music Teaching Artist in several Chicago Public Schools for the past 25 years. She began her teaching career working as an early childhood music instructor in the Wiggleworms’ program at the Old Town School of Folk Music, where she also developed and implemented a Chicago Public School music residency highlighting African American acapella vocal traditions. She specializes in arts integration and finds collaborating with classroom teachers and students invigorating and inspiring. Other programs include residencies with Chicago Lights, Ravinia Music Festival, the Chicago Park District, Albany Park Theater Project, About Face Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, Highwire City Learning Centre in London, England, and eta Creative Arts Foundation.
Zahra gained in-depth experience when she became a Creative Dramatics Teaching Artist for eta Creative Arts Foundation in 2000. In 2006 she was invited to join their administrative team to serve as Arts in Education Coordinator. She was involved in projects that would create opportunities with which students could progress from learning about theater, storytelling, and music to both performing and analyzing the art forms. She coordinated eta’s Arts in Education programs in the Chicago Public Schools and also developed programs for the South Shore community’s Elementary and High School Afterschool programs until 2012. She was in constant communication with the teaching artists and the school staff regarding the development, progress, and evaluation of each program. She assisted eta’s President in furthering the organization’s efforts to strategically implement its Arts in Education Programs. She was responsible for selecting and training Teaching Artists, developing age appropriate lesson plans, and documenting outcomes. She was also the coordinator for eta’s Storytelling Workshop Series for Chicago Public School Teachers.
Zahra is an accomplished performer, recognized for her work as a folk and jazz vocalist, dramatic actor, and an engaging storyteller. Her performance history includes “In the Spirit” (Storytelling duo of African American stories and songs), Freedom Song Leaders (Co-founder), David Boykin’s Outet (Jazz Vocal Improvisation), Othello at Shakespeare Repertory Theater (Vocalist/Actor), and Classic Black (Jazz and Storytelling Ensemble). She has performed at venues such as the Old Town School of Folk Music Field Trip Series, the Chicago Jazz Festival, the National Association of Black Storytellers Conference and Festival, the Guild Literary Complex, the Chicago Cultural Center, Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival, Rhode Island Black Storytelling Festival, and countless schools, museums, and festivals for the past 25 years.
Read about an Urban Gateways residency program with Zahra: