Creative Team

Lisa Kaplan and Matthew Duvall, executive and artistic directors

What kind of a connection develops after more than two decades of shared imagination, inspiration, and the work of creating art? Symbiotic experience. Anticipated actions. Unspoken conversations. The result is an extraordinary leadership team.

Lisa Kaplan and Matthew Duvall met and began making music together in curriculum ensembles at Oberlin College in 1992, driven by a compatible fascination with rigorous challenges and unexpected outcomes. Together with their ensemble mates, they created Eighth Blackbird, a four-time Grammy Award-winning sextet that commissions and champions the creation of new works, mentors emerging artists through the Blackbird Creative Lab and extensive residencies, and expands the boundaries of the concert experience focusing on the principles of collaboration and inclusivity. The fundamental goal of every artistic experience is community building for all constituents.

In addition to their world-traveling artistic exploits, Lisa and Matthew have ascended to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and descended into the basin of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro crater, discovering that stage fright is nothing compared to being stared down by an elephant. And by the way, they were born in the same Motown hospital (but not on the same day). The universe has a sense of humor.

Lisa exceeded all prior accomplishments in 2017 by becoming a single mom by choice. She is having a joyous time raising and learning from her happy-go-lucky and feisty toddler, Frida. Lisa is a true foodie, gourmet cook, avid reader, and crossword and Scrabble addict. She enjoys baking ridiculously complicated pastry and loves outdoor adventures. In addition to the Kilimanjaro summit, she has braved the Australian outback and survived close encounters with grizzly bears in the Brooks Range of Alaska. Lisa is a 2013 recipient of Chicago’s prestigious 3Arts Award, and recently has enjoyed doing some composing and arranging for Eighth Blackbird. She co-produced her first album When We Are Inhuman (released August 2019) with Bryce Dessner which features her arrangements of songs by Will Oldham, aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.

Matthew is amazed every day that in spite of the completely weird artist/musician lifestyle he leads, he has the most supportive spouse and kids in the world (and two dogs, and a bearded dragon named Sammy). With this family that loves humor and travel and culture, there isn’t time for much else. Hobbies include playing the drums (he is sorry this is so predictable) in @dadbandband, doing odd jobs around the house (mostly rearranging the furniture), and participating in whatever the kids are interested in at any particular time. Matthew is an unparalleled virtuoso in the kitchen, able to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces from whatever leftovers are in the fridge. Personal preoccupations of late include site-specific curation projects, particularly in museum settings, and a series of projects focused on climate science.


Nick Zoulek, managing director

Nick Zoulek joins the Eighth Blackbird Creative Team with a shared passion for human-centered new music, innovation, and connection. He brings a diverse skillset as a musician, collaborator, administrator, photographer, cinematographer, recording engineer, and community-centered friend.  Nick has previously held positions as Music Director with Wild Space Dance Company, Camp Coordinator with Shell Lake Arts Center, committee member with the Mid-American Center for Contemporary Music, and has held faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Oakland University. Additionally, his visual work often integrates contemporary classical music and has been featured with Vic Firth, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, New Music USA, and screened at film festivals worldwide. Nick first interacted with Eighth Blackbird as a 2018 Creative Lab fellow, and he is thrilled to continue working with the group in this capacity.

Outside of the Eighth Blackbird Creative Team, Nick is highly active as a saxophonist and composer. The Wall Street Journal writes, “….Zoulek’s performance, on saxophones in every range, is stunningly virtuosic, whatever the genre…None of that would matter much (except to saxophonists) if he were a less imaginative composer.” His work has been called “a no-holds-barred engine of avant-garde exploration” (Portland Press Herald) full of “pure mindfulness and talent.” (PopMatters) He holds a DMA in Contemporary Music from Bowling Green State University with additional studies from the Conservatoire de Boulogne-Billancourt and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. For more information, please visit www.nickzoulek.com and www.nzmedia.net.


Justin Peters, company manager

Justin joined the Eighth Blackbird team in 2016 as Studio Manager, adding tour managing duties in 2018. He manages Eighth Blackbird’s Chicago studio and offices, provides production support for local performances, and works with national and international presenters to help bring Eighth Blackbird to venues across the world.

Justin received his Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside of the studio, he freelances as a drummer, percussionist, and composer with many groups in Chicago and abroad. His numerous projects include Emily Blue, and a residency at Zen Yoga Garage.


Kimberly Sutton, business manager

Kimberly A. Sutton is a cellist, sound artist and composer living in Chicago, IL. Her sound work explores the subtleties of daily life and connections between the physical properties of sound and cultural signifiers of its content. As a composer and improviser her practice involves meditational exploration of a physical connection with an instrument. She has a BA in Political Science and Music from the University of Chicago and an MFA in Electronic Music from Mills College, where she studied with John Bischoff and Roscoe Mitchell. After three years accounting management in the for profit sector Kimberly is thrilled to bring her expertise to a vibrant arts community in Chicago.


Matthew McCabe, technologist

Matthew McCabe is currently assistant professor of audio technology at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Georgia. He holds degrees in music from the University of Richmond, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Florida, and has worked as an audio engineer with a huge variety of musicians. His creative output includes acoustic and electronic compositions, sound poetry, and performances with the Celtic music group Wolf & Clover, which released its first album in 2018. He has also been studying the Irish language for several years, earning certificates from Fairfield University and the University of Maynooth and has spent time in language immersion programs in County Donegal.


Carol Fox & Associates, pr & marketing

Carol Fox & Associates is an award-winning PR, branding, digital marketing and events agency based in Chicago. Founded on dedication, expertise and hard work, for 25 years CF&A has been building audiences, sparking relationships and raising standards. Specializing in lifestyle, hospitality, arts, education and entertainment we remain as passionate, ambitious and switched on as we were when we began. By being true to delivering on our objectives, we aim to make a name for ourselves by making a name for our clients.