Creative Team

Lisa Kaplan and Matthew Duvall, executive and artistic directors

Lisa Kaplan and Matthew Duvall

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 expands the boundaries of the concert experience, commissions and champions music by living composers, and mentors the next generation of musicians through its Blackbird Creative Lab and extensive residencies.

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.


Deirdre Harrison, chief operating officer

Deirdre Harrisson, Chief Operating Officer

Deirdre Harrison became Chief Operating Officer for Eighth Blackbird in 2018, after having served as their Interim Director of Development for six months. Previously, she was the Director of Development for the MacArthur-funded shared advancement staff project Creative Partners, Director of Development and Communications for Rush Hour Concerts/Make Music Chicago through its merger with the International Music Foundation, and for several years Music Institute of Chicago’s first Director of Community Engagement. She is a member of the 2013 cohort of the Community Arts Education Leadership Institute of the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Additional non-profit administration experience includes launching Global Citizenship Experience Lab School and work as Director of Admission and Financial Aid for Baker Demonstration School. Deirdre earned a double BA at Yale before completing her theater training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. A dual American-Irish citizen, she worked in the UK, EU and US for many years as an actress, singer and director. Deirdre performs all over Chicagoland with her literacy chamber band, The Lucky Trikes, serves on the boards of performance ensemble MOCREP and New Music Chicago.


Justin Peters, tour manager

Justin Peters Studio 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 Matthäus, 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.


Estes Arts Projects, marketing and communications consultant

Amy Estes has 20 years of experience as a producer and curator of theater and as a marketer for arts events of all kinds. Throughout her career she has made a specialty of persuading audiences to try the new and unexpected. She currently serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for Bard Graduate Center Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper West Side; she ran her own Drama Desk Award-nominated Off-Broadway company, Marvell Repertory Theatre, from 2010 to 2014; and she served as Director of Marketing and Media for Peak Performances at Montclair State University from 2014 to 2018, promoting and developing audiences for new works by contemporary artists including Richard Alston, Maya Beiser, Raphëlle Boitel, William Bolcom, Romeo Castellucci, Nora Chipaumire, Emma Dante, Simone Dinnerstein, Faye Driscoll, Doug Elkins, Ashley Fure and ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Liz Gerring, Michael Gordon, Astrid Hadad, Deborah Hay and Cullberg Ballet, Scott Johnson and Alarm Will Sound, Bill T. Jones, David T. Little, Frank London and Music-Theatre Group with Mary Birnbaum and Maija García, Wayne McGregor, Richard Schechner, Shanghai Quartet, Caroline Shaw with Roomful of Teeth and American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Pam Tanowitz, Marianne Weems and The Builders Association, Robert Whitman, Robert Wilson, and Julia Wolfe. Estes studied theater, dance, and creative writing at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and she holds a BA in cognitive science and French from Vassar College and an MFA in theater management from the University of Alabama. She was the inaugural Oliver Rea Fellow in Theater Management at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.


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.