“I have had a magical life,” says Thomas Warfield, assistant professor in NTID’s Cultural and Creative Studies Department; and former chairperson of RIT’s President’s Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion. Other titles Warfield can claim are world-renowned dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, director, producer, educator, activist and poet.
“In some ways I haven’t chosen my life’s direction,” he says. “I’ve tried to allow it to unfold and be open to the opportunities they present themselves.”
Warfield has welcomed many opportunities. Names of people he’s worked with—Spike Lee, Marvin Hamlisch, Carl Sagan, Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo, and places he’s performed—the Joffrey Ballet, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Alvin Ailey School—give an idea of the scope of Warfield’s experiences.
The son of a minister and a musical conductor, Warfield grew up in Rochester, N. Y., and started performing as a first grader. At age 12, he performed with the Opera Company Children’s Chorus in Rochester and by sixth grade, he had written his first play. After graduating from SUNY Purchase, he joined the Dragon Dance Company of Macao and was influenced by his global experiences to become the founder/artistic director of PeaceArt International, a global outreach not-for-profit organization using the arts and the creative process to foster world peace.
In 1995, he returned home from his world travels to help care for his ailing father. He took a temporary job at RIT and interviewed for a dance faculty position even though he wasn’t planning on teaching. Warfield has never left. His influence within the community is broad, serving on boards of Rochester City Ballet, Arts and Cultural Council and president of ARTWalk.
“Some people might think that working with deaf students might be difficult because of what some perceive as the hearing component to dance,” says Warfield. “Actually, it made me develop new ideas and expand my thinking about dance and the meaning of it as well as embrace the many levels of experience and the diversity here.” Warfield enjoys having the ability to create his own dance composition/choreography program and aims for an equal number of hearing and deaf students in his dance company. “The word ‘adventure’ comes to mind when I describe my work here,” says Warfield. “It’s both challenge and discovery. The challenge is making it all happen—the discovery through that process is unparalleled.” Thomas has been involved with producing World AIDs Day Celebrations and Benefits for over 10 years. He has communicated through song and dance the many aspects of AIDs expressing the myriad of people’s experience and feelings. Thomas will perform a musical selection from past World AIDS Days.
Sarah S. Kilborne is a writer, singer, performer and activist. She graduated from Yale University with a degree in Philosophy and has been a fellow at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, C-Span, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast and more. She has appeared on TV and radio and at venues throughout the United States. She lives in upstate New York.
A Personal Note From Sarah:
Bios tend to be all facts and you're often left wondering who is the person behind them. So here's a little more about me than the standard fare (which comes at the end!).
I was born in Michigan but grew up in Florida. Yet I'm not exactly a Floridian because most of my family is from New England. I was educated in both public and private schools, both day and boarding, both in the south and in the north. I'm kind of hard to pin down. That goes for my interests as well. I was your classic artsy kid. As a child I wanted to be a singer, an actor, a painter, a writer, an architect...and I pursued each interest with gusto until adolescence when a perfect storm of events made it really hard for me to accept that I was someone "outside of the box." What did I do? Like so many others I stopped doing things that drew attention to myself. Being different - or feeling that I was different - was scary, uncomfortable, and my free spirit went underground.
For years the only creative activity I embraced was writing, because you can do it in private and nobody has to know. I wrote my first book literally in secret - an approach that isn't uncommon for some writers. You're not really sure what you're doing or whether what you're writing will work and you want to figure it out on your own, without other people getting in the way.
Finding my voice and, more importantly, claiming my voice in all the ways it wishes and needs to express itself is something that has taken time. But I'm happy to say that the artsy kid has turned into an artsy adult after all. I sing. I write. I dance. I've designed spaces. (I'm a certified Feng Shui practitioner. It's true.) What is my north star? The ancient art of storytelling. I believe powerfully in the ability of stories to touch us, move us, shift us, educate us, and unite us like nothing else. No matter what medium I explore, I aspire to tell a story that is worthy of being told.
As a kid I also volunteered a lot, and being of service - being part of the larger story - is extremely important to me. This helps fuel my passion for activism. I feel everyone's voice deserves to be heard and treated equally with respect and dignity. I am a work-in-progress! And that's a good thing. I hope to be so until the very last page of this adventure is written.