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Tuesdays on the Terrace | Coco Elysses: Robbins Juke Joint

June 13, 20235:30 pm - 8:00 pm

This event is free, but capacity is limited. Reserve a Fast Pass for expedited entry.

Due to inclement weather, this event is being held in the Edlis Neeson Theater on the museum’s first floor.

A woman of color poses against a garnet red backdrop. Her face is painted and she wears a black fedora and a leather jacket. Her hands frame her face as she holds onto the front and back of her hat.

Coco Elysses. Image courtesy of the artist.

About the Event

Summer Tuesdays come alive on the MCA terrace with free concerts highlighting artists from Chicago’s internationally renowned music community. Enjoy live music while relaxing on the lawn with your own picnic, or savor snacks and drinks available for purchase. Then head inside to catch the MCA’s summer exhibitions—we’re open late on Tuesdays and free for Illinois residents.

Modern day renaissance woman Coco Elysses is a Chicago-based musician, actress, composer, beat-maker, diddley bow virtuoso, and the Chair of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Kicking off the 2023 Tuesdays on the Terrace series, Elysses gathers a group of friends and musicians to pay tribute to her hometown of Robbins, Illinois, and the luminous people of the town who have shaped and influenced the community over the decades. A few Robbins luminaries include soul singer Jan Bradley, actresses Nichelle Nichols and KeKe Palmer, and athlete Duane Wade.

The first set features DJ Allen Moore with Elysses on vocals; in the second set they expand into a six-piece band in celebration of their friendship and lifelong creative partnership.

Band Member | Instrument

  • Aum Mu Ra | Guitar
  • Casper | Drummer
  • Coco Elysses | vocals, congas, diddley bow, DJ
  • Allen Moore | DJ
  • Darius Savage | Bass
  • Keya Trammell | Vocalist
  • Shawn Wallace | Keyboard

About the Artist

Hailing from Robbins, Illinois, Coco Elysses is the chairwoman of the venerable AACM (The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). Elysses has completed her MFA in creative writing and was a published poet before graduation. Her poetry is featured in 99 New Poems: A Contemporary Anthology. In 2014, Elysses was a semi-finalist in Lifetime Television’s “Unscripted Development Pipeline.” And in 2018 she won the ALTA Award for Best Original Music in a Play and received the 2019 non-equity Jeff Award for Best Original Music in a Play for Tilikum, the first for an African American woman.

Elysses is a member of Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth SWAY, playing percussion and diddley bow. Black Earth SWAY has been featured at Harvard University; San Francisco Jazz Festival; SESC Jazz, Pompeia, São Paulo, Brazil; and The Promontory, Chicago. She has also performed with Renee Baker’s Chicago Modern Orchestra Project; with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble; with Generation Now of the AACM at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival in Germany; with Voice Heard—a collective of women musicians of the AACM—at the Made in Chicago Jazz Festival in Poznan, Poland; with the Great Black Music Ensemble of the AACM in Pisa, Italy, for the Insolent Noise Festival; and at Millennium Park Chicago, The Chicago Blues Festival for the Chicago Jazz Festival. She was a featured artist in Taiko Legacy 8, 10, and 11 at the MCA with Tatsu Aoki, and Tsukasa Taiko’s Miyumi Project at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Elysses’s Elixir Ensemble has been featured at the Havana Jazz Festival, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Women’s History Month concert series.

A few of her noted recordings were in Chile with Raiza, on their CD Latin Soul-EMI, Nicole Mitchell’s Afrika Rising, Skylanding (The music of Yoko Ono) by the Miyumi Project, and Resurrection Suite with Carlos Pride and Ben Lamar Gay. Elysses is featured in Black Women and Music: More than The Blues, a book documenting historical female musicians, and has been a featured musician on the critically claimed FOX drama Empire during their second season and on Chicago Med.

Elysses is also established as an actress. She has composed music and acted in Baltimore Center Stage’s touring mobile unit of Antigone as Tiresias, and was a featured actress in George E. Lewis’s film Afterword via Fantasia, in the opera of the same name at the MCA, and on Chicago PD. She also appeared as an actress in the Midwest premier of Detroit 67’ at Northlight Theatre, directed by Ron O.J. Parsons. Her voice can be heard in the Adler Planetarium’s installation “Skywatchers of Africa,” and in the video games Saint’s Row and Watchdogs, and in the EverQuest II online game. Elysses is a member of AFTRA-SAG, AEA, AACM, and the AFM.


Tuesdays on the Terrace is presented by Univision Chicago and made possible in part by a generous gift from Luminarts Cultural Foundation.

This event is supported by a Chicago Presents grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

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