Charlotte Blake Alston, narrator

Charlotte Alston Blake

For over 30 years, Charlotte Blake Alston has graced stages in venues throughout North America and abroad, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Symphony Orchestra Narrations, and regional, national, and international storytelling festivals. She is a frequent guest artist at universities, grade schools, museums, and cultural arts institutions around the country, but this former elementary school teacher also presents in day care centers and for special needs populations, as well as prisons and youth detention centers.

Charlotte Blake Alston breathes life into traditional and contemporary stories from African and African American oral and cultural traditions. Her storytelling skills were honed in childhood when her father introduced her to the work of African American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar. Her solo performances are often enhanced with traditional instruments such as djembe, mbira, or the 21-stringed kora. In 1999, Charlotte began studying the kora and the West African history-telling traditions of Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. Her teacher was the highly respected Senegalese griot (jali), the late Djimo Kouyate. She later resumed her studies with Malian Virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko.

In 1991, Charlotte became the first storyteller to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra on both their family and student concert series. Thirty seasons later, in 2021 she was named The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Official Storyteller, Narrator, and Host.

Since 1994, she has been the host of “Sound All Around”, the orchestra’s preschool concert series, and continues to appear as a guest host and narrator on family, school, and subscription concerts. For 6 seasons, Charlotte hosted “Carnegie Kids”, Carnegie Hall’s Preschool concert series. In 1996, she became the host and pre-concert artist for the Carnegie Hall Family Concert Series, a role that continued for 17 consecutive years. She represented Carnegie Hall in 2003 when she hosted a series of concerts in Miyazaki, Japan with the Eddie Arron String Quartet and fellow storyteller, Motoko.

Ms. Alston has produced several commissioned works for orchestras and opera companies including original narrative texts for Carnival of the Animals and Scheherazade. She has been a commissioned librettist for The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Commonwealth Youthchoirs. The Children’s March, a 90-minute work commissioned by Singing City Choir, retells the story of the children’s crusade in Birmingham in 1963.  The work premiered to critical acclaim at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) in 2013. She has also been a featured artist at both the Presidential Inaugural Festivities in Washington, DC and the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Children’s Inaugural Celebrations in Harrisburg, PA.