Verna Gillis is a free-lance producer who has gained recognition for her work promoting and producing music from various cultural backgrounds.
From 1972 to 1978, Gillis recorded traditional music in Afghanistan, Iran, Kashmir, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Peru, Surinam, and Ghana. In 1979, she opened Soundscape, a multi-cultural performance space in New York City, which she directed for the next five years.
After the closing of Soundscape in 1984, Gillis worked career development with such musicians as Youssou N'dour from Senegal, Yomo Toro from Puerto Rico; Salif Keita form Mali, and Carlinhos Brown from Brazil.
Gillis collaborates with jazz legend Roswell Rudd.
In 1996, she was hired as a consultant by the ICRC to accompany musicians on a trip to Angola, Liberia, Kenya and South African to witness first hand the results of ethnic cleansing. Gillis worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross to produce a CD.
Twenty-five of Gillis' recordings have been released by Smithsonian Folkways and Lyrichord.
As well, there have been 9 releases on DIW of Live from Soundscape tapes made during the years that the performance space which was located at 500 West 52nd Street was open.
In 2000, she was nominated for a Grammy in the Producer category for the Archie Shepp/Roswell Rudd Quartet Live in New York, and again in 2001 for Roswell Rudd's MALIcool.
In 2011 Gillis launched a new endeavor called Kick Butt Ball. Transformation Through Humor. She and Roswell Rudd wrote the catchy jingle. Kick Butt Ball is a novel new stress ball. Like other balls Kick Butt Ball is round, but only on one side. The other side is shaped like bulbous buttocks that makes the ball different.
Gillis holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology. She was an Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College from 1974 to 1980 and at Carnegie Mellon University from 1988 to 1990.
She is performing " sit down comedy" - Tales from Gerriassic Park- On the Verge of Extinction and has written a book of bumper stickers called "I Just Want to be Invited - I Promise Not to Come.