For Maia, being a “Multi-Dimensional Expressionist,” means beings a multi-instrumentalist, composer, choreographer, actor and poet. Based in Southern California, Maia (aka Sonjia Hubert Harper), has carved her way through to perform on various main stages (Chicago--eta Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, Steppenwolf/; Los Angeles--Stage 52, The World Stage, LACMA, Ford Amphitheater and the Red Cat/ect.), on television (2012 BET Awards, National Commercials, etc.), radio (National Commercials, etc.) film (Truth Hall, Hit List, etc.) and music videos (India.Arie “Little Things”, etc.) in the USA and abroad. She is currently a member of SAG-AFTRA (actor), ASCAP and of two iconic music organizations: Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra since 2007 and with Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1992.
Maia began performing professionally as a musician, poet and dancer with the Peoples Revolutionary Art Ensemble (Atlanta, Ga) and with Laini Kuumba Dance Troupe in New Orleans in1975. In 1976, she moved to Chicago and began an apprenticeship with legendary trumpeter and musicologist (Kelon) Phil Cohran, was is also a co-founder of the AACM. Maia gained notoriety as an outstanding dancer and musician while performing with music luminary until 1991. Most noteworthy was the 1985 Chicago Jazz Festival. Over 18,000 devote’s stood in torrential rain while being mesmerized by Cohran’s 7/4 metered composition “Solomon” with Maia’s choreography while clad in a golden SunRa-esk, jump-suit. In 2011, with the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, Maia was noted for her "...otherworldly twists by a singer who goes only by the name Maia..." (Chris Barton; Los Angeles Times). She has also been recently featured as solo harpist on the “Target Sundays” Performances at California African American Museum (CAAM).
Maia gained critical acclaim as bandleader and co-founder of AACM’s first all-female vocal-instrumental ensemble, SAMANA, that was named "fest favorite" at the Women of the New Jazz Festival by Chicago Sun-Times music critic, Lloyd Sachs 1994. Other credits with SAMANA included: Chicago’s ETA Theatre’s Sor Juana Festival Tribute to Women with Mexican Harpist, La Negra Graciana, Women Of The New Jazz Festival, Steppenwolf Theater’s Traffic Arts Performance Series, Groundbreaking Ceremony of The Hilary Rodham Clinton Women’s Park in Chicago, IL, King Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and the Chicago Jazz Festival.
Maia has recorded and performed with several AACM artists including Nicole Mitchell and Roscoe Mitchell at the “Made In Chicago Jazz Festival,” (Poznan, Poland, fall of 2008 and The Province of Sardegna; 2009): Tribute to Alice Coltrane. Also Wadada Leo Smith, Oscar Brown Jr., (Bobo) Oscar Brown III, Vandy Harris’ Front Burners, Edward Wilkerson Jr.’s Shadow Vignettes (Odd Eye O Mambo Jumbo Documentary is available now on DVD), Ameen Muhammad’s Chicago 3D, Mwata Bowden, Samana and Ernest Kabeer Dawkins New Horizons + 5 in tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk to name a few. Her most recent CD release “The Day The Earth Shook Haiti”, a “We Are The World” type jazz/poetry project to benefit Haiti, is Maia’s most valued composition on CD to date and includes notable talent from the Leimert Park Jazz Scene such as Jesse Sharps, Dwight Tribble, Derf Reklaw and Michael Sessions to name a few. (available @cdbaby.com)
Much of Maia’s mission in life has been focused around women’s concerns. She was a practicing Doula and Health Educator for women and children (1976-86). As an educator, Maia was the Musical Director at Performing Arts Studio West (1999-2007), a performing arts program for adults with developmental disabilities, located in Inglewood, California (PASW Ensemble Voices). She continues musical mentorship with her private vocal and piano coaching.
A Power Stronger Than Itself (The AACM And American Experimental Music) by George Lewis; Black Women and Music (More Than the Blues) by Eileen M. Hayes and Linda F. Williams; Natural Woman/ Natural Hair by T’Keyah Crystal Keymah (In Living Color, Cosby) and Jazzography (A Portrait of the Chicago Jazz Festival 30) by the Jazz Institute of Chicago are published books that highlight Maia’s thoughts, portraits and contributions). Discogarphy include: PURE FIRE, Katumbi Records; SAMANA, Storywiz Records; THE DAY THE EARTH SHOOK HAITI, M’Ladiah Publishing; and a soon to be released recording with Roscoe Mitchell’s Card Orchestra.
As a member of SAG-AFTRA, Maia has several notable acting and voice-over credits including FOX TV’s “On The Lot” Film Short “Soft, BET’s Original Short Film, “Walking On Sunshine” (NAACP Award Nomination), “The Lockhavens”, several music videos such as India.Arie’s “Little Things” and Jay Z’s “Guilty ‘til Proven Innocent”, Lifetime’s Television Series “Strong Medicine” and feature length movies such as “I Dance In Jasmine”, “Truth Hall” and “Hit List”.
Other stage productions featuring Maia’s talents include IHBF Blues School House (LA), “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf” (Chicago and LA) “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” which earned her two BTAA Nominations for Best Actress in a Musical (1997-98). Maia toured with “Body Language” featuring the music of Patti Labelle by Michael Ajakwe, Jr. and has gained respect in Hollywood as Musical Director of “Dairies of God’s Perfect Nectar” produced by Kellita Smith of “The Bernie Mac Show”.
Maia has received several Awards and ARTS GRANTS that have sponsored her travels and artist residencies in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil (1996) where she held lecture/demonstrations at Dida Escola de Musica (all female drum school), ST. CECILIA MUSIC SOCIETY GRAND RAPIDS, MI (1997), THE CHICAGO ARTS INTERNATIONAL GRANT (CAIP) of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs sponsored a compositional/performance collaboration and residency with Hortencio Langa of Maputo, Mozambique, S.E. Africa which included lecture/demonstrations, Music Workshop with the children at Organizacao Continuanadores, appearances on radio, television and in public performances held in Chicago and in Maputo, Mozambique (1998-99). DREAMS, CHANCES, AND CHOICES, sponsored by MOSTLY MUSIC, INC, NORTH LAWNDALE AND RAVINIA FESTIVAL MUSICAL OUT REACH PROGRAMS are additional funding organizations that contributed to the work that Maia has done with children.
Maia is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA) with a focus in graphic design and illustration.
Decades of experience as a multi-talent in someway has influenced todays arts thinking. Maia has spent many years developing her music style, which is greatly influenced by her paternal grandmother, Katie E. Boyd. In Maia’s words: “Grand mama would start her day with a tune. I’d hear her humming tunes, like the Negro Spirituals, Gospel and that old time stuff like Dr. Watts, while she did her morning chores. She was an early riser, which is a habit that I picked up from her. These songs are at the core of my being and is the root of my creative musical and otherwise art expressions. Creating value through arts & communications is what I do best”.