How Music Responds on WRTI

In these extraordinary times, music and music makers have something to say about Black Music and the Black Experience. Check out these meaningful, inspiring conversations with a wide variety of guests about the power of music to transcend our differences and bring us closer together. Also included are stories that deepen our knowledge of Black Music from recent days and the past.

How can a moment of protest and isolation inspire creative rebirth? That's the question renowned pianist Lara Downes is exploring as the host of a new video series for NPR Music, simply titled Amplify With Lara Downes.

Mandel NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Joan Myers Brown—founder and artistic director of the internationally renowned Black dance company, PHILADANCO!—was on tour in Switzerland with 15 young dancers when the world shut down because of COVID-19.

Today marks what would have been jazz giant John Coltrane's 94th birthday. Two years before his untimely death from liver cancer in 1967, a young San Francisco couple heard him play — and their experience was literally religious.

They founded a spiritual community inspired by his music and 50 years later, they're still preaching that gospel at the Coltrane Church in San Francisco.

The dawn of the '70s were heady times for keyboardist Doug Carn and drummer Michael Carvin. Both men had recently relocated to Los Angeles from points south; Carn came from Florida, Carvin from Houston. Carn was getting gigs with well-known bands like Nat Adderly and Earth, Wind And Fire, while Carvin was getting work in television bands as a sideman. Most central to the pair, though, was the demo the two had recorded along with Carn's wife, vocalist Jean Carn, that they thought marked the future of jazz. Inspired by three legendary African-Americans – Dr.

Jack Bradley Collection, Louis Armstrong House Museum

Describing Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi as merely enthusiastic about Satchmo would be a gross understatement. It’s easier to say he’s dedicated his professional career to setting—and resetting—Armstrong’s historic life to record.

University of Pennsylvania: Marian Anderson Collection of Photographs, 1898-1992

One of America’s most admired civil rights icons, though she disliked the label, wasn’t a political or religious figure—she was a singer with a “rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty," in the words of opera critic Alan Blyth. She was Marian Anderson (1897-1993), and she called Philadelphia home. 

August 24, 2020. Fire up the time machine and let’s go back to November 1934. It was a troubling time. Americans were enduring the depths of the Great Depression and Winston Churchill’s chilling observations about the “rapidly darkening European scene” were foretelling the WWII horrors to come. Yet, even against this worrisome economic and sociopolitical backdrop—artistically—New York City was still alive.

As America and the world reexamine race and equality, creatives are addressing these issues by producing art and music. NPR Music stations invited artists to join the the national discussion—and Philadelphia-based Vocussionist Bethlehem Roberson responded with her piece, "Evolution."

Two controversies broke out this week regarding accusations of anti-Black racism in classical music. One involved two high-profile international soloists, pianist Yuja Wang and violinist Leonidas Kavakos. The other features less prominent individuals — a group of academics — but it also points to the slowness of the classical music community to take up difficult conversations about race and representation.

How does music help us find our identity and also bring people together with different backgrounds? Candace Allen—a contributor to the BBC and The Guardian, and author of Soul Music: The Pulse of Race and Music—shares her thoughts on recent events, and how music can respond, in a conversation with WRTI's Susan Lewis.

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