A multi-instrumentalist, Justin plays guitar, violin, mandolin, and flute in the duo, whose other half is electronic music producer Miss Jojo (and Justin’s wife). With Silvermouse Justin has toured the US and UK extensively in an attempt to popularize the fusion of electronic and acoustic music the band plays.
Before Silvermouse, Justin worked as the Composer, Musical Director and Associate Director of Double Edge Theatre from 1998 until 2006. Handley joined Double Edge as a graphic and sound designer, musician, and fundraiser. Since that time, he has become an accomplished popular artist, specializing in theatrical object work such as walking on stilts and globes, and flying on silk ropes and bungee cords. Handley was a core artist in the Double Edge Theatre Ensemble and composed the music for the theatre’s original performances. In addition, from 2004 to 2006 Handley served as one of Double Edge’s theatre training leaders. In this capacity, he led music training during residencies and summer intensives locally, nationally and internationally. Handley was a 2005 recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke/Andrew Mellon/Theater Communications Group New Generations mentorship program. Under this two-year grant, Stacy Klein, Double Edge Theatre’s Artistic Director, mentored Handley as ‘an artistic leader of tomorrow’.
Handley has performed with Double Edge Theatre in its street performances, at concerts, and on tour in five U.S. states, as well as in Argentina, Hungary, Poland and Spain, playing music on instruments including kora, guitar, and violin, among others. In the summers of 2002-3, Handley composed music for and performed in Ex-CHANGE, Double Edge’s international training and performance-creation intensive, and in 2004 assumed the role of Musical Director. In the summer of 2005, Handley composed and directed the music for the spectacle A Visit to the Republic of Dreams, which included students of the theatre’s summer intensive program. He composed the score for the UnPOSSESSED, a performance based on Miguel de Cervantes’ The Adventures of Don Quixote, which premiered in New York at La MaMa ETC in October 2004. Liesl Schillinger of The New York Times called Handley’s music a ‘haunting score.’
In the fall of 2003, Handley composed the score for the don Quixote Project, a Double Edge Theatre residency at Brandeis University. As a core artist, Handley also created the theatre’s graphic art, web site design, fundraising, and farming, and helped to develop Double Edge Theatre’s 100-acre Farm Center into a self-sufficient and thriving artists colony.
Handley’s performing career began in his youth, when he played violin in pit orchestras for such musicals as Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1995, Handley wrote, produced, and designed his first musical, entitled Monochrome. In the spring of 1997, Handley traveled to The Gambia, West Africa, where he taught fourth grade English and Math, and began a serious study of African music. During his six-month stay in The Gambia, he studied kora, a traditional twenty- one string harp, under the Jobarteh family, and djembe, one of the standard drums of West Africa, under Lamin Camara. Handley’s work in West Africa culminated in a tour with The Gambian drum group, Doman Doman. He also learned to hand-carve djembes. Handley released his first CD, Ebaraka, in March of 2000 under his given Jali name, Bakary Jobarteh. The CD features Handley playing traditional music from The Gambia on the kora.
Upon his return to the United States in 1997, Handley founded the Scorpion Ballai, a drum ensemble that performed for several years before large and small audiences in New Hampshire and western Massachusetts, including public schools, festivals, and street parades. Scorpion Ballai also performed at Hampshire College prior to a speech given by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, and at an interfaith graduation ceremony at Mt. Holyoke College. In 1997, Handley began to work as lead drummer with Arthur Hall, performing with him in public schools and as part of the program African Festivals in American Schools. Handley also co-founded Arthur Hall Presents, a non-profit organization that taught African dance and percussion in public schools. Upon Arthur Hall’s death, Handley played with a variety of groups, including guitar with Equale, a ten-piece rock band; kora with a western Massachusetts kora group; and, violin in the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra and with an ensemble at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, led by Yusef Lateef. Sunrise Inside, a piece composed by Handley, was played by the ensemble at the Benzanson Recital Hall at UMASS Amherst. Handley also taught traditional West African drumming for four semesters at Hampshire College.
Handley received his B.A. in Music from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he studied performance for violin, guitar, kora, and djembe, as well as composition for individuals and ensembles. At Hampshire, Handley studied world music under the direction of Jay Pillay and the practice of composition and improvisation with Yusef Lateef. He has also studied music and composition with Allen Bonde. A longtime student of dance and theatre, Handley studied with Peggy Shaw of Split Britches at Hampshire College, and Stacy Klein of Double Edge Theatre at the First International Consortium for Theatre Practices.