Neili Sutker is a Los Angeles native, now residing in Spokane, Washington. She started her musical endeavors as a flutist at age 11. When in high school, Neili began playing percussive instruments in her high school marching band, and continued on to learn Western Orchestral Percussion.
When she began her studies at the California Institute of the Arts with David Johnson as her mentor, Neili was introduced to music from West Africa, North India, Bali, Java, and Latin America, while still studying Contemporary Western music. Her attention was hooked by the intricate rhythms and dances from Ghana that were taught to her by Kobla Ladzekpo, Beatrice Lawluvi, Yeko Ladzekpo-Cole, Sulley Imoro, and Andrew Grueschow. Some of Neili’s other significant teachers include Randy Gloss and Susie Allen. In 2007, Ms. Sutker graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Multi-Focus Percussion, and in 2009, she traveled to Ghana, where she took private lessons from master Ewe and Dagomba drummers. While in Ghana, Neili had the opportunity to perform with Sulley Imoro’s ensemble, Mbangba Cultural Troupe, for several ceremonies, including a special performance for the induction of the new Chief of Suhum and at a convention for Voices of African Mothers, where the First Lady of Suriname, Liesbeth Venetiaan-Vanenburg, was a featured guest.
Through the CalArts based non-profit organization, Community Arts Partnership (CAP), Neili performed for and taught West African drum, dance, and song to kids of all ages in schools throughout LAUSD. Through CAP, she also taught for ArtSMART, a program created by the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, which provides different types of therapeutic art classes at Probation Camps for minors. Aside from CAP, Ms. Sutker was a Co-Instructor of the Calfornia State University, Long Beach West African Ensemble and the Assistant Director of the Loyola Marymount University West African Ensemble. Future plans for Neili include traveling back to Ghana to continue studying and performing so that she can provide a wider variety of music and dance styles for her students.