Harman Writer-in-Residence Spring 2021
Stew Stewart is a New York City-based singer-songwriter and playwright from Los Angeles, California. Over the years, Stew has dipped his toes into multiple genres including R&B, punk, noise-rock, and jazz. In the early ’90s, he formed the band The Negro Problem—the problem being a rift between the music he wanted to make and the music that was expected from him. Albums with The Negro Problem include Post Minstrel Syndrome (1997), Joys and Concerns (1999), Making It (2002), and more recently Notes of a Native Song (2018), a meditation on James Baldwin. Stew has also had a successful solo career with albums like Guest Host (2000) and The Naked Dutch Painter and Other Songs (2002), which both won Entertainment Weekly’s Album of the Year.
His musical Passing Strange was nominated for several Tonys in 2008 and won for Best Book. Passing Strange also received two Obie awards for Best New Theater Piece and Best Ensemble, and was made into a 2010 movie by Spike Lee. Stew has also been featured in Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It. When he’s not experimenting and producing challenging and groundbreaking music and projects, Stew encourages creative thought and artistic transformation in classrooms at Harvard University, the New School, Sarah Lawrence College, Pratt, and many other institutions. In 2018, with students at LaGuardia Community College, he developed a new musical, Columbus is Happening, which he described as an “ode to Queens.”