Erika May – better known as EMay – has been called the “Renaissance Queen of the Pittsburgh Scene”. Awarded a Pittsburgh Creativity Project award through the STUDIO and Heinz Endowments in 2009 for her “contributions to Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape”, EMay has been called “one of the most multi -talented artists you will ever come across” (grassrootsy.com).
Born in raised outside of Boston, Erika moved back to her mother’s hometown of Pittsburgh in 2001. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in Fine Art in 2005, and “seems determined to apply her creativity to every available surface” (Pittsburgh City Paper).
These days, EMay lives and works at Healthberry Farm in Dryfork, West Virginia, where she apprentices to this beekeeping and mead-making operation while sustenance farming and tending to the homestead.
By day, she works for the Pittsburgh-based Saturday Light Brigade, programming the live music, in-studio appearances, youth expression showcases and phone interview segments of SLB’s Saturday AM radio program, having also been an audio engineer, staff educator and graphic designer for this non-profit organization.
By night, EMay is a singer/songwriter who releases demos online and is currently recording her first full-length solo album. Past projects include Turkish percussion ensemble Kirik Hava, acoustic trio Between Liberties and rock cover band The Sectionals. Her diverse musical and artistic interest has spawned collaborations across artistic genres, including dance (Continuum Dance Theater), Theater (No Name Players, Off the Wall), visual art (Joana Ricou), and other musicians (Agnes Wired for Sound, Sikes, Several Conclusions, Akrasia). She has supported many national acts including Dar Williams, Loudon Wainwright III, Raquy and the Cavemen, Toubab Krewe, Cabinet, Erik Mongrain, Eastern Blok, Marcia Ball and more.
Additionally, EMay is the founder of Steel Town Fire, Pittsburgh’s premier Fire Arts performance group. She co-founded the Pittsburgh Fire Arts collective in 2006 and sat on the board of directors for Pyrotopia – the East Coast’s first public festival for the Fire Arts. She has studied dance under Nick Woolsey, Zafira Dance Company, Rachel Brice, Zoe Jakes, and has taught poi, bellydance, and improvisation to children, adults, and special needs individuals.
Between all of her creative interests, she has performed for many recognizable institutions and events, including First Night, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s annual Gala, Google, TedXWomen, WYEP Summer Music Festival, Pittsburgh Glass Center, Sprout Fund’s Hot House, Sunstar Music Festival at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Punxatawny Groundhogs day Celebration, the August Wilson Center, SWAN Days presented by the No Name Players, and more.
Professionally, EMay is well versed in event planning, production and operations, including work with the City of Pittsburgh’s Special Events Department, the Pittsburgh Marathon, Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival, The New Hazlett Theater and more. While in Pittsburgh, she volunteered for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s BVA program and sits on GPAC’s Pittsburgh Artists Advisory Committee. She is a published writer with pieces in poetry reviews, professional journals, and music industry blogs, and has sat on panels about making a career in the arts.
When that doesn’t fill her time, EMay spends her days gardening, hiking, climbing big rocks, frequenting swim holes, cycling, making and discussing art and music, reading, trekking up mountains in the snow, snowboarding and skiing down them, volunteering, hosting house concerts and open mics, creating opportunities to collaborate and be creative, conversing with old friends and meeting new people. She tours through the midwest, mid atlantic and New England, and is steadily increasing this range, slated to play nearly 100 shows in 2014 alone.
Her philosophies in life can be summarized with these two Rumi quotations:
“Let the beauty you love be what you do”