NoteWorthy Classical

Stories

NoteWorthy is a series of audio stories created to broaden our view of classical music by shining a light on the lives and music of artists of color, women, and others from historically underrepresented groups. Each episode provides an introduction to an artist, performing ensemble, musicians, or composer from all eras and genres of classical music. In a couple of minutes, you can learn about the contributions these artists have made and are making to the art form while discovering some great music along the way.

Theresa Wong

Theresa Wong

Classical compositions, for the most part, are often well-planned, through-composed, and filled with complexities that can be dissected and explored through various tools of music theory. And then there are some works, like this one, that are a bit sparse, completely improvised, and free from the constraints of traditional aesthetics and practices. It takes a lot of courage and innovation to create these sorts of sounds, and there are countless composers living today that have dedicated themselves to doing just that. Hello - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like for you to enjoy the very free sounds of composer Theresa Wong.

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Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

What do you know about the country of Ethiopia? There are many things that make this African region unique from a global perspective, including being the home of one of the world's oldest Christian denominations, and also being a country that, unlike many others in Africa, was never colonized by Western Europe. Well among the many other things that there is to celebrate about Ethiopia, is the fact that it was once home to a once overlooked, now world-renowned composer! Hi there - I'm Loki Karuna, and on today's edition of Noteworthy I'd like to introduce you to composer Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou.

Connor Chee

Connor Chee

The art of drumming is foundational to many Native American musical practices, but it's certainly not all there is to Indigenous musicking. Among the plethora of other traditions includes the use of vocables, which aren't exactly words, but ways of carrying melodies in a more non-lexical way. Thanks to one composer, in particular, this tradition of utilizing vocables has been enshrined within the contemporary piano repertoire. Hello - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I will honor this Navajo tradition as realized by composer Connor Chee.

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Coleridge Taylor Perkinson

In the mid-20th century, composers of orchestral music were exploring techniques and aesthetics that would shift western classical music forever. This exploration of new frontiers, for many composers, also came with an engagement of race and culture, which would in turn produce music that's both retrospective and forward leaning. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like for you to take a listen to a great example of music from that era by composer Coleridge Taylor Perkinson.

William "Bill" Banfield

William Banfield

It goes without saying that America has produced some of the most important voices in music over the past generation, but which ones would you consider among the most significant? For many it's a question that couldn't possibly be answered, but for one composer, it's a question that he not only answered, but answered through his own music. Hi - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I will celebrate 5 of America's most significant voices in music, as celebrated by Mr. William Banfield.

Clarice Assad

Clarice Assad

If you had to put yourself into a single archetype, which would it be? Do you see yourself as a warrior? Maybe you're more of a lover or an explorer. Well no matter where you would assign yourself, I think it's always important to honor the people who consider themselves caregivers, first and foremost. If it weren't for caregivers, there would be so many who wouldn't receive the support they need. And, if it weren't for caregivers, there might not be this composition to celebrate, either. Hello - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to invite you to celebrate the spirit of being a caregiver, by way of the music of Clarice Assad.

Valerie Coleman

Valerie Coleman

In a world filled with political schisms, social isolation, and an overall feeling of division, isn't it nice to feel like you're on the same page as someone for a change? It's that sense of togetherness and harmony that I think could easily shift our entire society. It's certainly shifted the world of chamber music, to a degree. Hey there - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I will find a little common ground through the work of the one and only Valerie Coleman.

Nkeiru Okoye

Nkeiru Okoye

What do you love most about that time of day that we all call dusk? Is it the beautiful oranges, pinks, and deep blues that fill the sky. Is it the fact that around dusk the work day is done, and it's time to take a rest? Or maybe it's the gentle stillness that those early evening hours bring forward, leaving room for a bit of thought and reflection. That's certainly the case for me. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I will enjoy bits of this beautiful composition titled Dusk - a work by composer Nkeiru Okoye.

George T. Walker at piano.

George Walker

This beautiful string quartet starts with one note. Then another is added, followed by two more. It's a composition that many might consider quite simple, almost understated, but its impact on classical music is enormous. Hello - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I will celebrate the legacy of the late great George Walker.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate

Jerod Tate

Musical shakers like the one featured here are more than just a kid's toy, you know. Shakers have played a huge role in not only musical composition, in general, but also serve as a part of the foundation of an entire Native American culture! Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I will celebrate the Chickasaw tradition of shakers, as brought to the orchestral stage by composer Jerod Tate.

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Julius Eastman

What do you think about the idea of "less is more"? In the world of music, less is usually...less, but for a few composers, utilizing minimal material was the key to expanding the way audiences thought about the complexities of western classical music. Hi, I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy less will be more, thanks to composer Julius Eastman.

Ludovic Lamothe

Adolphus Hailstork

What are some of the most universal songs you can think of? You know - songs that most people know the lyrics to, or have at least heard sung somewhere before? There are a few that I can think of, personally, but there's one in particular that's really become known among most. It's even been arranged for orchestra. Hi there - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of NoteWorthy you and I are gonna revisit a well known tune that's made its way into the orchestral repertoire, thanks to a composer named Adolphus Hailstork.

Ludovic Lamothe

Ludovic Lamothe

I'm sure you've heard that it takes a village to raise a child. You may even have first hand knowledge of this reality. I don't have any kids of my own, but I can still imagine that this must be the case for young musicians as well, wouldn't you say? It's been the efforts of a collective that have made musical careers possible for countless youth - many from here in the US, of course, but one, in particular, from the French speaking country of Haiti. Bonjour - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy we're all gonna celebrate the group effort that resulted in the music of M. Ludovic Lamothe.

Julia Wolfe

Julia Wolfe

When was the last time you saw something wild? Not just a squirrel or any other city creature, but something really unaffected by contemporary society? I have to say that it's been a while for me, but every now and again there's a piece of music that reacquaints me with something that has a more natural existence. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy we're all gonna get away from it all, with the help of a work by Julia Wolfe.

Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin

When you think about the musical tradition of ragtime, Scott Joplin is probably among the first names that comes to mind, right? He wrote countless piano tunes filled with those ragged rhythms, but did you know that he also took his approach to the stage. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are going to take a look at a once long-lost opera by Scott Joplin - one that he called Treemonisha.

Dobrinka Tabakova.

Dobrinka Tabakova

Contemporary music has always been about showcasing something cutting edge. You know, music that excites, music that expands perspectives, music that offers a new sort of thrill for audiences to engage. This is, indeed, something that many of today's composers continue to think about when they're creating new pieces of music, but often times, something new and cutting edge is also something smooth, serene, and even tranquil. Hi there - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are going to enjoy the peaceful pen of composer Dobrinka Tabakova.

Bskaid Soweto String Ensemble

Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble

There's nothing quite like getting up early to see the sunrise, and it's an experience that's been translated into music over and over again. While many of these musical depictions of dawn come from the European orchestral repertoire, there's one in particular that appeared on the musical horizons of South Africa.

William Grant Still

William Grant Still

There are many things that make the millennial generation unique, including our coming of age when technology made huge leaps forward, shifting the way people engage their work/life balance, and of course, continuing classical music's trajectory into new territories. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are gonna spend a little time with one of today's most highly celebrated millennials - composer Courtney Bryan.

Dr. Courtney Bryan

Courtney Bryan

There are many things that make the millennial generation unique, including our coming of age when technology made huge leaps forward, shifting the way people engage their work/life balance, and of course, continuing classical music's trajectory into new territories. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are gonna spend a little time with one of today's most highly celebrated millennials - composer Courtney Bryan.

Marcus Norris

Marcus Norris

For many composers, paying attention to what's going on "outside" was a very important part of their process - think about Beethoven's nature-inspired Pastoral Symphony or Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Well that idea of being "outside", these days, is much more than just enjoying some fresh air - it's a bit of slang that highlights a person's general cultural relevance. Hey there - my name's Loki Karuna, and today I'd like to introduce you to a composer who's been outside for years - his name is Marcus Norris.

Damien Geter

Damien Geter

Maybe you've heard of neo classical music, as written by folks like Bartok or Stravinsky. But what about neo soul? Do you think it has a place in classical music today? Well I'll tell you - one composer thinks it does, for sure. Hello - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like to present the neo soul sounds of composer Damien Geter.

Florence Price

Florence Price

I don't know about you, but for me, classical music is the perfect way to enjoy a really long journey across town, or even across the country. And if you look close enough at the classical repertoire, you'll even find pieces of music that were written with journeys like those in mind. Hey there - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are gonna take a trip down the Mississippi River with the help of a composer named Florence Price.

Reena Esmail

Reena Esmail

In the past few decades, more women have come to the front in the world of orchestral music than ever before! And it's important to note that these women have brought their contemporary experiences and realities with them. Hi - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are going to enjoy the music of a composer who's engaged today's realities for women head on: composer Reena Esmail.

Abel Selaocoe

Abel Selaocoe

How much do you love where you're from, and how far would you go to celebrate the place you call home? I'm sure answers vary across the board, but for one musician, this is absolutely true. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to share a little music with you by a man who really loves home - cellist Abel Selaocoe.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Can you name pieces of music that celebrate royalty? There's a lot of it out there, you know. You have the Emperor's Hymn by Franz Joseph Haydn, the Queen Elizabeth inspired works of Sir Edward Elgar, and countless others, including this jazzy number dedicated to a king. Greetings - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are gonna visit a musical royal court, as composed by the one and only Duke Ellington.

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Anthony Davis

As classical music here in the United States continues to expand, historically overlooked and under-represented subject matter has been coming to the front in concert halls and opera houses more than ever. This expansion has also opened the door for historically overlooked compositions that explore parts of our history not typically included in concert spaces. Hi there - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like to showcase a composer who's been writing those sorts of works for decades now - a man named Anthony Davis.

Michael Abels

Michael Abels

Do you like scary movies? What about scary...music - is that something that you don't mind taking a listen to on a dark and stormy evening? There are more people who have written creepy compositions than I could possibly name, but one of them in particular has done so in way that's grabbed the attention of brand new listeners all around the globe. Hi there - my name's Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like for you and I to spend a couple minutes with the composer of this scary score - the one and only Michael Abels.

Errollyn Wallen

Errollyn Wallen

On March 25 of 1807, the British Parliament made a huge step forward for human rights by abolishing the Slave Trade Act - an event that impacted not only England, but all of its colonies as well. In doing so, countless human beings were immediately made free, and 200 years later, the event would be celebrated with a brand new piece of music. Hello, my name's Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like to highlight not only that piece of music, but the composer who created it - a woman named Errolyn Wallen.

Brian Raphael Nabors

Brian Raphael Nabors

If someone were to invite you to a shindig, what sorts of things would you expect to encounter? Is there a particular type of food or drink you'd hope to taste, or a style of music that you think would be a part of the space? Of course everyone would answer those questions in their own ways, but for one composer, a shindig comes with a very specific sound. Hi - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to invite you to a shindig written by composer Brian Raphael Nabors.

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

From the Hungarian folk Dances of Johannes Brahms, to the Negro Folk symphony by William Levi Dawson, the idea of folk music being classical is age old. There have been countless composers and performers who've utilized folk aesthetics to make a name for themselves, and this tradition lives on, even today. Howdy - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like to feature one of today's most innovative folk musicians - a woman named Rhiannon Giddens.

Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)

Daniel Bernard Roumain

Classical music isn’t something that includes culture - classical music is culture. It's something that the composer of this work both understands and applies to his musical creativity. Hi there - I'm Loki Karuna and on this edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to turn your attention to the one and only Daniel Bernard Roumain.

Shawn Okpebholo

Shawn Okpebholo

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.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

Within the music industry, more and more people are beginning to engage the idea of classical music in a broader, more inclusive way. By celebrating things like soul, blues, and jazz as equally classical to our lived musical experiences, the door is opened not only for those who are expanding the genre today, but for those who worked to do so in the past, as well. Hey y'all - I'm Loki Karuna, and on today's edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to celebrate one of the greatest classical musicians to ever live - the one and only Nina Simone.

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Julia Perry

If you take a really deep dive into the western classical repertoire, you'll find that there are tons of compositions that highlight the intersections of music and other disciplines, like cuisine, geography, and even architecture. Well among the composers who have created music at these junctures is a Black woman who you may have never heard of. Hello - I'm Loki Karuna, and on this edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to introduce you to composer Julia Perry.

Chloe Flower

Chloe Flower

Pianists who create music inspired by their cultural surroundings have been around, well, since there were pianos! This was true for Brahms, for Franz Liszt, for Mozart - just about anyone you can think of, and the tradition has continued into the 21st century. Hey y'all - I'm Loki Karuna and on this edition of NoteWorthy I'd like to introduce to you one of my favorite contemporary pianists - the one and only Chloe Flower.

Robert Nathaniel Dett

Robert Nathaniel Dett

Over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries here in the United States, the story for countless Afro-Americans has been the journey from the south, to the north. Well for one composer, the journey was the exact opposite. On this edition of Noteworthy, Loki Karuna draws your attention to a man who not only traveled to the south for the sake of Black folk, but did so by utilizing the power of music. A man named Robert Nathaniel Dett.

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Vicente Lusitano

Who was the first Black composer to make it to your classical radar? Probably Duke Ellington, Florence Price, or William Grant Still, right? Well while they, and many others, were among the first Black people to do many things, none of them were by any means the first. On today's edition of Noteworthy, I'd like to introduce you to a Black man who was composing music all the way back in the 1500s, if you can believe it! A man named Vicente Lusitano.

Jennifer Higdon speaking in front of microphone.

Jennifer Higdon

Have you ever thought about how important wood is to classical music? You need it to build instruments, to create stages and theater seating...you even need it to write pieces of music like this one. Well, at least, the composer needed it. On this edition of Noteworthy I invite you to check out this wooden work by a composer whose career is as solid as any giant oak or sycamore - a woman named Jennifer Higdon.

Carlos Simon

Carlos Simon

Do you remember May of the year 2020? It was a time that I know you and I will never forget, but it's also a time that generations to come will always remember as well, thanks, in part, to this piece of music. Hi there - my name's Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy, I'd like to shine a light on the composer of this work - a man named Carlos Simon.

Flutronix

Flutronix

You've heard that two heads are better than one, but what about two head-joints? Classical music duos come in all shapes and sizes, and that includes this dynamic duo from the flute world. Hi there - I'm Garrett McQueen and on this edition of Noteworthy I'd like to shine a light on Flutronix.

Blind Tom Wiggins holding a copy of his first musical composition, The Rain Storm.

"Blind Tom" Wiggins

The song known as “Dixie” can be a grim, and even hurtful reminder of America’s dark past, but for one enslaved Afro-American, that tune was the source of inspiration, hope, and a musical career that few other enslaved individuals could ever experience. On this edition of Noteworthy, Garrett McQueen introduces someone remembered as Blind Tom Wiggins.

Nobuo Uematsu

Nobuo Uematsu

Maybe you've heard an orchestral composition that really knows how to swing. Or, maybe you haven't. Either way, that music does exist, and composers from the US, Europe, and even East Asia have taken on the task of fusing symphonic sounds with American swing. On this edition of Noteworthy, Garrett McQueen introduces one composer who really knows how to swing - a man named Nobuo Uematsu.

Margaret Bonds

Margaret Bonds

Sometimes, composers write music that's meant to sound like nature or busy, city streets. Others have written music that relays emotions or historical events. And then there's one woman, who wrote a work with protest at it's core. On this edition of NoteWorthy, Garrett McQueen shares Montgomery Variations by Margaret Bonds.

Raven Chacon

Raven Chacon

Since 1943, music has been among the Pulitzer Prizes awarded to some of America's most notable composers, including Aaron Copland, Jennifer Higdon, and even Duke Ellington. In 2022, the prize was awarded, for the very first time, to an indigenous composer. On this edition of Noteworthy, Garrett McQueen talks a little about that Indigenous composer - a man named Raven Chacon.

Kev Marcus and Wil B of Black Violin

Black Violin

Classical training on instruments like the violin or the viola can easily pave the way for a musician to get to work with some of the finest orchestras in the world, but that's not the only place where classical training has led musicians. On this edition of Noteworthy, Garrett McQueen highlights a classically trained duo known as Black Violin.

Louis Chauvin

Louis Chauvin

When something's a little ragged, you don't typically consider that a good thing, right? For example, ragged clothing may not be so great, but ragged rhythms have not only been celebrated, but revered as one of America's most prized contributions to the world of music. On this edition of NoteWorthy, Garrett McQueen revisits the ragged rhythms of a genre known as ragtime.

Joan Tower

Joan Tower

In 1942, composer Aaron Copland gave the world a work called The Fanfare for the Common Man. This work would go on to inspire not only common men, but a few uncommon women. On this edition of NoteWorthy, Garrett McQueen introduces you to an uncommon woman named Joan Tower.

Samuel Coleridge Taylor portrait

Samuel Coleridge Taylor

Over the course of history there have been countless individuals whose lives intersected with activism and social justice. Most have engaged that work with a very local approach, while others have done it with a more global perspective, with one of them, being a Black composer from England. On this edition of NoteWorthy, Garrett McQueen shines a light on a social justice minded composer named Samuel Coleridge Taylor.

Terence Blanchard playing trumpet

Terence Blanchard

Some composers stick to the world of film music, while others prefer writing things like opera. And then there are some who have managed to do both. Hi there - my name is Garrett McQueen, and on this edition of Noteworthy, I'd like to re-introduce you to a composer named Terence Blanchard.

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery

When you hear the word, composer, you might automatically think of someone who lived hundreds of years ago in a place across the Atlantic. But truth is, composer is a title that many people today carry with them. On this edition of NoteWorthy, host Garrett McQueen features one of the most celebrated composers of today: a woman named Jessie Montgomery.

Loki Karuna, Host

Loki Karuna, Host

Credit: Devon Fails

Loki Karuna (formerly Garrett McQueen) is a bassoonist who has performed with orchestras across the country, including the Detroit Symphony, Knoxville Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He’s been heard as both a performer and guest host on APM’s “Performance Today”, and has continued his work as a producer and broadcaster with his nationally-syndicated programs including The Sound of 13, Gateways Radio, and The Sounds of Kwanzaa.

Away from the airwaves and performance stages, Loki specializes in music and racial equity presentations, with collaborators including the Gateways Music Festival, the Sphinx Organization, the Kennedy Center, the Apollo Theater, the San Francisco Symphony, and countless schools, colleges, and universities. In the press, Loki has been noted as not only a “classical agitator,” but also “a Black talent in public media that you may not know, but should.” In 2021, the New York Times noted his weekly podcast, Trilloquy, as a standout and one that is “required listening for industry leaders and listeners alike.”

Loki Karuna holds music degrees from the University of Memphis and the University of Southern California. In addition to working as a musician and media producer, Loki is the Director of Artist Equity for the American Composers Orchestra and maintains leadership positions with the American Composers Forum, the Beethoven Festival Orchestra, the Black Opera Alliance, the Gateways Music Festival, the Cedar Cultural Center of Minneapolis, the Lakes Area Music Festival, and Soka Gakkai International.

NoteWorthy is sponsored by:

Foundation for the Carolinas