When you hear the phrase, “American Folk Music”, what comes to mind immediately? Maybe music that involves a banjo, hand clappin’ and foot stompin’, or something of that variety, right? Well you’d be correct in thinking of it in that way, but it’s definitely not all that lives within the sub-genre of American folk music. Hello – I’m Loki Karuna, and on this edition of NoteWorthy I’d like to highlight a composer who’s making great strides toward showcasing the rich and diverse history of folk music in the United States – a man named Shawn Okpebholo.

As a pedagogue, Shawn has engaged students at music schools around the globe, including two universities in Nigeria! His research interests, coupled with his lived experiences and heritage, have fueled much of his creative output, including a Grammy-nominated album of spirituals, hymns, and American folk tunes. This tune from the album highlights his gentle, even tender approach to reimagining this music – a song called “Shall We Gather At The River.”

While Shawn has lots of experience bringing to life songs like these, his creativity doesn’t stop there. In recent years, he’s completed works for small chamber ensemble, orchestra and wind bands, and even a full-fledged opera! He’s a rising star in the world of contemporary music, and without a doubt, one of today’s most NoteWorthy Composers.

NoteWorthy is a production of WDAV Classical Public Radio.