Resonance Music Project
In partnership with the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Smiling Figure


Smiling Figure


Ashley Daneman

Musician’s Notes

“Historians guess that the smiling figure either represents the god of dance and joy or the dead victims from a sacrificial ceremony. What a dichotomy to choose from! And isn’t that just like life sometimes? Things can be interpreted either way, and only you get to decide if it is good, bad, or neither.

“I decided to choose joy for this piece because smiling is contagious, and I could feel this ceramic smile making me smile. I began my piece copying his face, which makes a very forward, bright sound, and making a musical laugh. Because laughing is contagious, others are then layered in laughing with me and it rises into a whole circle of singers contributing to the energy shift into communal joyous wellbeing.”

About the Artwork

Smiling Figure
Date: 550-950
Artist: Unknown, Mexican
Medium: Ceramic
Credit Line: Gift of Mary Meader
Object Number: 2002.14
Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of ArtsVisit website

About the Musician

Ashley Daneman

Ashley Daneman is a singer who a combines “a literary sensibility with a driving experimental jazz style where the heart of the song can find itself anywhere and always in a personal intimate space” (Marlbank). Her new release, People Are Fragile (Flood Music), traverses the emotional waters of pain, recovery, and rebirth following a series of losses.

Daneman grew up in Toledo, Ohio, studying classical voice and performing in musicals before turning to jazz and songwriting in her twenties. She honed her craft in Washington, DC, New York City, and by touring in the U.S. Daneman was also a resident artist at The Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter’s JazzAhead and The Banff Centre’s Jazz and Creative Workshop in Alberta, Canada. She earned her master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of Peter Eldridge, Kate McGarry, and Theo Bleckman.

People Are Fragile follows her 2015 critically acclaimed album Beauty Indestructible. Selected by DownBeat Magazine as “Editor’s Pick,” her music draws comparisons to Becca Stevens, Laura Nyro, and even Stephen Sondheim.

Ashley lives with her husband, trumpeter Benje Daneman, and their three children in Kalamazoo, MI.

Ashley Daneman on Bandcamp

Daneman’s photo by Grant Beachy

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