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Geva Theatre announces the 2024 Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Award recipients

Geva Theatre’s annual Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Award will take place on Thursday, March 28th at 6 p.m. prior to the 7:30 p.m. performance of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. This year’s “Essie” Award recipients are Gateways Music Festival, Lisa Helen Hoffman (posthumous), Annette Ramos, and Herbert Smith.


Presented annually be Geva Theatre, the Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Award recognizes that art allows for expression of truth and beliefs, and helps us gain an understanding of one another and the world.

The “Essie” Award statue was created by glass artist Nancy Gong. The 2024 Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Awards are, in part, made possible by the support of its sponsor, Volvo Cars Rochester.

Learn More about Our Award Recipients

Gateways Music Festival Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the mission of Gateways Music Festival is to connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent and enlighten and inspire communities through the power of performance.

Lisa Helen Hoffman (posthumous) was one of the few audio description consultants and trainers in the nation who brought her experience to the world of theatre and arts. Born with Retinoblastoma, cancer of the eyes, Lisa was totally blind by the age of two. As a child, she enjoyed Broadway shows with her parents, which kindled her passion for the theatre and the arts. These early experiences helped her develop an inclusive team-based approach as a consultant overseeing Geva's audio description over her 25 years.

Annette Ramos Originally from New York City by way of Los Angeles, Annette Ramos now serves as a Recruiter /Voter Registration Coordinator for the Monroe County Board of Elections where she advances the BOE branding platform and community engagement outreach. Locally, Annette continues to serve on many community-based committees including the Latino Round Table and still finds time to advocate on issues impacting BIPOC Artists, Latina pay equity, youth empowerment, and community-driven initiatives.


Herbert Smith… trumpeter, conductor and composer. Herb holds the third trumpet chair with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, is cofounder of his group called the Freedom trio and performs across the nation in the Gateways Brass Collective. Connecting with the community, Herb founded his program Herb's City Trumpets, a program that teaches trumpet and mentors black youth ages 8 - 16.

Congratulations to Gateways Music Festival, Lisa Helen Hoffman (posthumous), Annette Ramos, and Herbert Smith!