Black History Month 2023: The First and the Future

Each week throughout the month of February, WDAV’s First and The Future blog series highlights two Black composers or musicians who have shaped the course of classical music: one who shattered a historical barrier, and one whose extraordinary achievements in the same field continue today. Check back here every Tuesday for the next pair of classical artists!

Pictured: Elayne Jones, timpanist. Photo has been digitally modified and elements have been added. Uploaded by user Barbara.steinberg at commons.wikimedia.org. Own work. CC BY-SA 4.0



Harold Jones

Co-founder of the Symphony of the New World, the first racially integrated orchestra in the United States

VIDEO: Harold Jones Plays William Foster McDaniel: Flute Concerto (Movement II)

Like many young musicians, Harold Jones got his start as a violin student at ten years old, but it wouldn’t take long to discover his true passion. Upon hearing a fellow student play the piccolo, Jones was drawn to the flute at age fifteen and honed his craft at Chicago’s famed DuSable High School. Jones began to play professionally at the Chicago Civic Orchestra before moving to New York City in 1955. 

In New York, Jones earned a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music, where he won the “Outstanding Woodwind Player” award at his graduation. He embarked on a multi-decade career as a soloist and recitalist, making his New York recital debut at Town Hall in 1966 and regularly performing with numerous top orchestras across the country. 

In the 1960s, Jones began to meet with a group of fellow Black classical musicians who were frustrated with the lack of representation and opportunity for artists of color in their field. This assembly of artists – including harpist Elayne Jones, composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and many more – formed a plan to address the inequities they experienced: “Everyone jumped to the idea,” Jones remembered. “‘Yes. Let’s do this. We’re going to do it – have an integrated orchestra.’” The Symphony of the New World was born, and with its inaugural concert at Carnegie Hall in 1965, it became the first racially integrated orchestra in the United States. Though the orchestra eventually folded in 1978 due to financial difficulties, its impact on the classical music landscape was enduring.  “It built hope where there was very little,” Jones said in an interview with Allegro magazine. “It showed that, as black people, we had paid our dues and we could do it as well as anyone else… the inspiration that this could be done [remains] in all of us.”

An avid educator, Jones impacted the lives of countless students while teaching at the Westchester Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Manhattanville College, and Brooklyn College. He served as the President of the New York Flute Club from 1976 to 1979. Jones recorded the Vivaldi flute concerti for the Library of Recorded Masterpieces in addition to four studio albums, “From Bach to Bazzini”, “Afternoon Fantasies”, “Let Us Break Bread Together”, and “This Little Light of Mine.”

In 1993, Jones founded the Antara Ensemble, an active string chamber orchestra formed “to bring quality classical music at affordable prices to the culturally diverse neighborhoods of New York.” Jones continued to program, conduct, and perform with the ensemble in the final years of his life. 

After his passing in 2015, the New York Flute Club published a monthly newsletter filled with heartwarming tributes to Jones written by his students, colleagues, and loved ones. His legacy of kindness, humor, and genuine caring lives on through those he taught: “I can often feel his presence, hearing his voice and laughter, when I’m trying to teach my students the same way he taught me,” former student Meryl D. Newler wrote, “‘Keep it simple and it all makes sense.’

To learn more about Harold Jones, read the New York Flute Club’s tribute to his life here


Allison Loggins-Hull

Flutist and composer; half of the critically acclaimed duo Flutronix

VIDEO: Hammers by Allison Loggins-Hull

Hailed as a “powerhouse” by the Washington Post, distinguished flutist, composer, and producer Allison Loggins-Hull’s work cannot be defined by a single genre. Part of a creative family, Loggins-Hull grew up enveloped in music and visual arts. “Music was omnipresent in my house,” she recalled in an interview with Mother Maker magazine. “My dad had a very extensive and eclectic record collection and was an amateur musician in a lot of ways.” She began playing the flute at age ten, later pursuing an undergraduate degree at SUNY Purchase and a Masters in Composition at New York University. 

While finishing her undergraduate studies, Loggins-Hull began to explore composition and uploaded a few of her works to MySpace, where fellow flutist Nathalie Joachim discovered them. As fate would have it, the two musicians had quite a bit in common: not only did they live just a few blocks away from one another, they had both been experimenting with electronics in composition, and both knew they wouldn’t follow the “traditional path” to orchestral and solo work. They hit it off immediately, and in 2007, they formed the now-celebrated duo Flutronix

In demand as a performing artist and composer, Loggins-Hull has performed at many major festivals and venues worldwide, including The Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and more. Loggins-Hull is the Cleveland Orchestra’s current Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow and is in the midst of a packed 2022-2023 season, including eight world premieres of her work and an East Coast tour with Flutronix and Third Coast Percussion. As an educator, she has served on the faculty of the Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program and The John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.

In 2020, Loggins-Hull was commissioned to compose a work for the Library of Congress’s Boccaccio Project, an initiative that premiered musical reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic online. Performed by Flutronix, Loggins-Hull’s piece “Have and Hold” responded to feelings of isolation during the pandemic and news of police killings earlier in the year. “I was really craving just the feeling of having companionship and being near people and just physical contact,” she told NPR. “Whenever these shootings happen, I still have that desire to hold people that I love, even to hold people that I don’t know who share this common experience we all share as black people in this country.” 

Loggins-Hull’s other myriad accomplishments include playing as co-principal flutist on the soundtrack to The Lion King (2019), co-producing Joachim’s GRAMMY-nominated album Fanm d’Ayiti (2020), and scoring the 2019 documentary Bring Them Back. She launched the project Diametrically Composed, “a collection of newly commissioned works featuring flute, voice and piano exploring the duality of being a mother and an artist,” in 2021. 

To learn more about Allison Loggins-Hull, visit her official website here

VIDEO: “Run-On” – performed by Flutronix, live at The Brooklyn Museum


Sources and Further Reading

How the Symphony of the New World made history (Allegro)

Leading New York Flute Player Has Died (Slipped Disc)

The New York Flute Club Newsletter: A Tribute to Harold Jones

The New York Flute Club: Harold Jones (NYFC president 1976-1979)

A Conversation with Harold Jones (The Symphony of the New World)

Allison Loggins-Hull Official Website

A New Library Of Congress Project Commissions Music Of The Coronavirus Pandemic (NPR)

Allison Loggins Hull: the flutist, composer reflects on her new work (WYPR)

5 Questions to Allison Loggins-Hull (composer, flutist) (I Care If You Listen)

Allison Loggins-Hull (Mother Maker)

Flutronix Official Website



Ann Hobson Pilot 

First Black member of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra; the BSO’s first Black principal player

VIDEO: The Last Pluck: BSO Harpist’s Final Performance

There’s a reason harpist Ann Hobson Pilot is so often described as “legendary:” at 79, she remains one of history’s most esteemed harpists after over 55 years as a top soloist, recording artist, and educator. Born into a musical family in 1943, Pilot took up piano as her first instrument, following in the footsteps of her concert pianist mother. When she switched to the harp at age 14, the racist backlash from others at her predominantly white school was swift. In one incident she described to Sarasota Magazine, “[A friend’s mother] pointed to a portrait on the wall of a white woman, with long blond hair, playing the harp, and she said, ‘See, she is what a harpist is supposed to look like.’ I was shocked that she said that to me. What did she want me to do, quit?”

Pilot persisted, and at just 18, her skill began to garner public attention as she performed alongside artists like Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, and Johnny Mathis at a Philadelphia nightclub. Following her subsequent studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, she won a position as a master harpist with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1966 and joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra as assistant principal harp in 1969, becoming both orchestras’ first Black member. Pilot also made history when she earned the principal harp position in 1980, which made her the BSO’s first Black principal player. During her time in Boston, she served on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University for decades, toured the globe as a soloist, and recorded numerous albums

Though Pilot officially retired in 2009 after 40 years with the BSO, she immediately returned to open the BSO and Carnegie Hall seasons with the premiere of “On Willows and Birches,” a concerto written for her by John Williams. Pilot’s solo career continued to flourish after her retirement: “Everybody says to me, ‘Do you miss it?,’ and I can’t really say that I do, because I am still playing,” she told PBS. “I will continue as long as I can.” She released her latest album, “A Dream,” in 2020 and has made many high-profile returns to the stage, including a performance at the opening of the the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

A frequent award recipient, Pilot has been honored twice with the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Distinguished Alumni Award and has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Boston Musicians Association and the Talent Development League of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She has been granted honorary doctorates from Tufts University and Bridgewater State College and became the only harpist recipient of the League of American Orchestras’ Golden Baton award, its highest honor, in 2017. 

To learn more about Ann Hobson Pilot, visit her official website and watch her 2020 TEDx Talk or the 2011 PBS documentary “A Harpist’s Legacy.” 

VIDEOA Black Harpist’s Story | Ann Hobson Pilot | TEDxBeaconStreet


Angelica Hairston

Harpist, educator, and activist; founder of Challenge the Stats and Artistic Director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble

VIDEO: Wave of Sound ft. Angelica Hairston

In 2007, teenage harpist Angelica Hairston found a mentor in a living legend: Ann Hobson Pilot. “It was so gratifying to look into the eyes of a professional orchestral harpist from one of the top symphonies in the country who looked like me,” she said of their first meeting in an interview with Lyon & Healy. “She taught me to understand that it is possible to pursue a classical music career that reaches major stages and secondly, that I was not alone.” 

Growing up surrounded by music of all genres, Hairston gained a new perspective on the art form’s power while listening to gospel music at her grandmother’s church. “I learned that the world wasn’t looking for artists who only played the right notes,” she explained. “What the world needed were more artists who told a deeper and more meaningful story.” She began her musical study as a violinist at 4 years old and transitioned to the harp at 12. Hairston performed on From the Top for the first time at age 18, later winning the From the Top Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a scholarship that aided her studies at Toronto’s Royal Academy of Music. 

While completing her graduate degree at Northeastern University as a 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellow, Hairston founded Challenge the Stats, a growing initiative dedicated to empowering BIPOC classical artists and challenging racial inequality and systemic oppression in classical music. She currently provides free harp instruction to over 90 students as the Artistic Director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble

Hairston is an alum of the Sphinx Organization’s SphinxLEAD, a 2019 winner of a Georgia Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities, and a recipient of the 2020 Atlanta Magazine’s Women Making a Mark Award. Now 30, Hairston remains dedicated to activism in the Atlanta area and beyond as a musician, educator, speaker, and consultant. “Everything we do is right at the intersection of classical music and justice,” she told Atlanta Magazine in 2021. “Facing a pandemic – but especially as a Black woman facing this racial reckoning and all the violence that’s been happening toward Black communities – has been really challenging, but I feel grateful that the work I do has a direct impact on what’s happening in the world around us.”

To learn more about Angelica Hairston, visit the Challenge the Stats website or watch the short documentary Wave of Sound


Sources and Further Reading

Harpist Ann Hobson Pilot on Overcoming Racism in Classical Music (Sarasota Magazine)

Tribute to accomplished harpist, classical trailblazer (Boston.com)

Ann Hobson Pilot Official Website

Honoring Boston Symphony’s pioneering harp legend Ann Hobson Pilot (League of American Orchestras)

Harpist pilots a ground-breaking career (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

In Honor of Black History Month: The Experiences That Shape Us (Lyon & Healy)

Angelica Hairston uses her harp and music as instruments for social change (ARTSATL)

Challenge the Stats Official Website (Challenge the Stats)

Angelica Hairston Biography (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)

Four Gifted Young Musicians Aim To Effect Change Through Community-Focused Projects (NPR)

Women Making a Mark: Angelica Hairston (Atlanta Magazine)



Todd Duncan

First Black singer to perform as part of a major American opera company with an otherwise white cast

Pictured: Portrait of Todd Duncan
Todd Duncan
Photo by Vandamm, New York – cropped, Public Domain.

Among many other “firsts,” baritone, educator, and activist Todd Duncan originated the role of Porgy in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 1935. Unimpressed by the 100 baritones who had previously auditioned for the role, Gershwin received a tip from the current New York Times music critic: he should reach out to Duncan

Just a few bars of an aria later, Gershwin offered the role to him personally – but Duncan, who described his typical fare as “Schubert and Schumann and Brahms,” wasn’t sold yet. “When [Gershwin] started [playing] the opening music… I looked at my wife and said quietly, ‘This stinks,’” he recalled. “By the time twenty minutes or a half hour had passed I just thought I was in heaven. These beautiful melodies in this new idiom – it was something I had never heard.” With that, history was made, and Porgy became Duncan’s signature role. 

Born to a music teacher in Danville, Kentucky, Duncan’s early interest in the art form led him to pursue a career as a singer and professor after receiving a B.A. from Butler University and an M.A. from Columbia University’s Teachers College. In 1931, Duncan accepted a teaching position at Howard University, where he eventually became head of the public school music and professional voice departments. Success as a performer followed soon after: in 1934, Duncan starred in an Aeolian Opera production of Cavalleria Rusticana with an all-Black cast, and audiences instantly took notice of his “elegant phrasing” and “dramatic persuasiveness.”

In 1945, Duncan made his New York City Opera debut as Tonio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. This achievement made him not only the first Black singer to perform with the company, but also the first to perform as part of any major American opera company with an otherwise white cast. He would go on to sing several roles with the NYCO, including Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen and the title role in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Duncan returned to Broadway to star in the musicals Cabin in the Sky (1940) and Lost in the Stars (1949) and appeared in two films: Syncopation (1942) and Unchained (1955). Before it became one of the most recognizable songs of the 20th century,  the song “Unchained Melody” was written for the latter film – and Duncan was the first singer to ever record it. 

During his 25-year career as a recitalist, Duncan sang 2,000 recitals in 56 countries, once confessing that he adored the “thrill of holding an audience even on your faintest note.” He spent his later years as a revered voice professor in Washington and at the Curtis Institute of Music. Among other awards and honors, Duncan was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Howard University, a George Peabody Medal, Tony and New York Drama Critics Awards, and the President of Haiti’s Medal of Honor and Merit. 

To learn more about Todd Duncan, read his American National Biography entry here. An illuminating 1980’s TV interview with Duncan is available to watch here

VIDEO: Todd Duncan – Unchained Melody (Original in Color 1955)

Limmie Pulliam

Powerhouse tenor who recently made debuts at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall, first Black singer to perform the role of Radamès (Verdi’s Aida) at the Met

VIDEO: Nessun Dorma – Limmie Pulliam

If you’re not sure whether a skill fits on your resume, sometimes it pays to include it anyway – and tenor Limmie Pulliam is the proof! After graduating from Oberlin Conservatory, Pulliam faced size discrimination at every turn and struggled to build an opera career. “I’d always made myself a promise that if it ever stopped being fun, I would move on to do something else,” he explained in a recent NPR interview. “I kept that promise to myself, and I moved on.” 

Pulliam’s departure from the opera world lasted over a decade. He worked in security for years, even starting his own firm, before taking a leave of absence to serve as a field organizer during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. At one event, a local beauty pageant winner who was scheduled to sing the national anthem suddenly bailed. “My boss looks at me and says, I remember on your resume that you used to sing opera. Why don’t you sing it?,” he recalled. “And he didn’t leave me much choice.” 

What Pulliam heard surprised him:

“[My voice] had gained a certain warmth. It had matured. And it had taken on a much more burnished, darker quality to it that I felt really kind of set me apart from anyone that I was hearing in the industry currently.”


Once the campaign was over, Pulliam threw himself into vocal study. He nurtured his new sound privately, even revisiting videotaped lessons from Oberlin, then began studying with a pedagogue in Memphis. Three years later, a friend came across a video Pulliam had posted on YouTube. She passed it on to her husband, the music director of a small opera company in Seattle, and Pulliam booked his first role back in the game. 

Pulliam proved himself a force to be reckoned with after winning the National Opera Association’s Vocal Competition in 2012. He performed in young artist programs with Cleveland Opera, Opera Delaware, and Opera Memphis and maintained a busy calendar of engagements, building up to a series of high-profile debuts in recent years. Critics lauded his “healthy, focused, ringing tenor” at his 2021 L.A. Opera debut, where he starred as Manrico in Verdi’s Il Trovatore. In December 2022, Pulliam broke a historical precedent with his Metropolitan Opera debut by becoming the company’s first Black artist to portray Radamès in Verdi’s Aida. Most recently, he made his Carnegie Hall debut singing the title role in R. Nathaniel Dett’s “The Ordering of Moses.”

At 47, Pulliam is a rapidly rising star – and aside from his otherworldly voice, his persistence says it all. “My mantra has become, you know, if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” he explained to NPR. “You never know when that phone call may come, whether it’s a performance or offer you a particular role or any other type of job opportunity. But do the work to be prepared when that call comes.”

To learn more about Limmie Pulliam, visit his official website here


Sources and Further Reading

Todd Duncan, 95; Sang Porgy and Helped Desegregate Opera (New York Times)

Duncan, Todd (American National Biography)

He Quit Singing Because of Body Shaming. Now He’s Making a Comeback. (New York Times)

Opera singer Tenor Limmie Pulliam reflects on his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 47 (NPR)

Limmie Pulliam Official Website



Elayne Jones

First Black principal in a major American orchestra; first Black person to play in an opera orchestra

Elayne Jones, timpanist
CC BY-SA 4.0

With a curious spirit and an ear for music, an adolescent Elayne Jones often attended New York Philharmonic concerts by herself. One day in 1958, she would become the first Black musician to perform with the orchestra – just one of many historical firsts that spanned her career. Raised by a mother who dreamed of becoming a concert pianist, Jones studied piano and sang in a choir growing up, but it wasn’t until high school that she was introduced to percussion (and not by choice). Though she gravitated toward the violin, a teacher pushed her into percussion due to a racist stereotype. Jones excelled, and in 1945, she began her studies at the Juilliard School with a scholarship provided by Duke Ellington. 

In the same year of her graduation, Jones became the first Black person to play in an opera orchestra as her eleven-year career with the New York City Opera began. She later co-founded the Symphony of the New World, the first racially integrated orchestra in the United States, in the 1960s. During this time, she met with a group of fellow musicians determined to solve a glaring problem: orchestras weren’t hiring women and people of color. Jones and her peers developed the concept of the “blind” audition, now a virtually universal practice in symphony orchestras.

Jones was said to have become the first Black principal musician in a major American orchestra upon winning a blind audition at the San Francisco Symphony in 1972. “I wouldn’t have gotten the job if the screen wasn’t in play,” she later said, “I’m the recipient of a thing that I worked on.” She was immediately popular with audiences and critics: one reporter wrote that her playing was “so rounded and suave [he] just about fell out of [his] seat.” However, when Jones was up for tenure nearly two years later, she was denied – a result that came with no explanation and conflicted with the advice of music director Seiji Ozawa. All six of her white colleagues hired in the same year were granted tenure.

As outrage spread with the news of Jones’ rejection, audience members picketed and started petitions. Peers from around the globe began to flood her with calls. But despite the mounting scandal and a high-profile discrimination lawsuit, Jones was denied tenure once again in 1975. 

Though her ties with the San Francisco Symphony were fractured, Jones remained a beloved – and tenured – member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra for 23 years until her retirement in 1998.

Elayne Jones passed away at the age of 94 on December 17, 2022. In an interview with the Percussive Arts Society, Jones expressed how she would like to be remembered:

“As a musical percussionist… because some people don’t think of us as musicians! But I loved every minute of it. I was lucky; music came easy for me, and I would like everybody to feel and love the music the same way that I feel and love it.”

More information about Jones’ life and legacy can be found in her autobiography, Little Lady with a Big Drum (2021), and in obituaries from the New York Times and San Francisco Classical Voice. Watch Jones’ Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame induction video here


Jauvon Gilliam

First African-American principal in National Symphony Orchestra history

Video: Your NSO Principal Timpanist | NSO@Home: Jauvon Gilliam

Given a choice between sports and music as a child, timpanist Jauvon Gilliam immersed himself in both – but luckily for today’s audiences at the Kennedy Center, music eventually won out. Like Elayne Jones, Jauvon Gilliam got an early start on the piano, winning his first national competition at 11 and later entering Butler University on a full scholarship for piano performance. A few years later, Gilliam graduated from Butler with a degree in arts administration and a new passion: the timpani. 

Gilliam was hired fresh out of graduate school as principal timpanist at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. “I knew nothing about Canada,” he revealed in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press. “After I won the audition, I went to Earls on Main and pulled out a map to see where Winnipeg was.” After seven highly successful years with the WSO, Gilliam bested roughly 60 candidates to win the National Symphony Orchestra’s principal timpanist position in 2009, a unanimous selection that made him the first African-American principal in the orchestra’s history. 

Now the Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Maryland and a coach for the National Youth Orchestra in addition to his duties at the NSO, Gilliam makes a point to invest in his students as his teachers invested in him. “I try to give [my students] as much information, as much help as I can,” he told the American Federation of Musicians in 2020. “If you have a kid who’s willing to put the work in, the sky’s the limit.” 

A founding board member of the Alliance of Black Orchestral Percussionists, Gilliam has been a dedicated advocate for diversity in classical music throughout his career. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, he co-founded We Over Me Productions, described in his Kennedy Center bio as “a production company created to use the arts to tell a story that will keep the conversation of systemic racism, social inequities and injustices at the forefront of people’s consciousness in an effort to create lasting change through tangible actions.” In 2021, Gilliam opened The Shed DMV, a multifunctional rehearsal space for artists of all levels and backgrounds, which now serves thousands of local students through community outreach efforts.

To read more about Jauvon Gilliam, check out his Kennedy Center bio here


Sources and Further Reading

In Memoriam: Timpanist Elayne Jones, 94 (San Francisco Classical Voice)

Elayne Jones, Pioneering Percussionist, Is Dead at 94 (New York Times)

Symphony of the New World (WIkipedia)

Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame: Elayne Jones (Percussive Arts Society)

Butler Stories: Jauvon Gilliam ’01 (Butler University)

Jauvon Gilliam (The Kennedy Center)

City timpanist drums up gig in Washington (Winnipeg Free Press)

Timpanist Jauvon Gilliam Drives the Rhythm (American Federation of Musicians)

The Shed DMV Website


Parameswaran + Sibelius + CSO = Excitement

By Lawrence Toppman

Like many classical concertgoers, I often raise my eyebrows when folks erupt into applause during the silence between movements of a symphony. I know that behavior can be disruptive, distracting or rude. On Friday night at Knight Theater, I did it anyway.

Guest conductor Vinay Parameswaran had just dropped his baton arm and slumped an inch or two after leading the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) through the opening of Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5. The movement had apt grandeur, a thrilling undercurrent of menace, a tremendous kind of humming energy and beauty. In those 15 minutes, he showed why the CSO might want him as music director. And as he took a respite before the second half of the piece, I was not alone in clapping for him.

The second movement started with an oddly finicky daintiness that eventually vanished when full-blooded melody flowed forth. From there to the end, allegedly inspired by a circle of swans above Sibelius’ head, Parameswaran showed skill and insight. For instance, he brought the strings up to be as prominent as the brass in the glorious finale. (Pop culture factoid: The band First Class copied this brass melody exactly in 1974 in the top-5 hit “Beach Baby.”)

The symphony capped a program of lesser-known but admirable works: Gabriella Smith’s chameleonic “Field Guide,” Benjamin Britten’s playful song cycle “Les Illuminations,” and William Grant Still’s somber, sometimes majestic “Poem for Orchestra.”

Parameswaran described Smith’s piece as an interpretation of sounds collected on rambles along the California coast and into South America; he said she wrote it for the 70th birthday of her mentor, John Adams, and suggested we listen for Adams’ influence in the motoric rhythms.

Sure enough, I heard that, along with what may have been the buzzing of insects, sounds of the deep woods, mild cacophony of traffic and unidentifiable noises, occasionally in conflict with a warm melody that emerged and submerged. The finale brought gratifying cohesion, possibly suggesting the unity of nature.

I’m used to tenors singing Arthur Rimbaud’s oblique lyrics in “Les Illuminations,” but Britten wrote it in his 20s for a soprano. The absence of a printed program, my inability to speak French and my lack of desire to squint at texts on my cellphone meant I enjoyed Alexandra Smither’s voice without worrying about Rimbaud’s meaning. (A sample: “These are cities! Processions of Mabs in russet, opaline gowns climb the ravines. Farther up, with their feet in the waterfall and the brambles, stags suckle Diana. The Bacchantes of the suburbs sob, and the moon burns and howls. Venus enters into the caverns of blacksmiths and hermits.”)

Smither had an operatic but never histrionic sense of drama and comedy, and her voice remained attractively intimate, despite a widening vibrato near the end of the 21-minute cycle.

Still remains one of my favorite little-known composers. I wish the CSO would play any of his five symphonies, the first being my choice, but I was glad to hear his 10-minute “Poem” live. He premiered it in 1944, when the outcome of World War II was in doubt. He’d served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, the “War to End All Wars,” and seems in this intense piece to be expressing anger and frustration at humankind’s continued stupidity.Though it moves toward a major-key ending that could be interpreted as guarded optimism, its most potent moments come earlier. (Here, too, the brass shone.) The CSO has seldom sounded so big, so muscular. If Parameswaran can get that sound at will, he’s a serious contender for the job.

Pictured: Conductor Vinay Parameswaran; credit Gus Chan.

2023 GRAMMY Awards: 5 Nominees to Look Out for in the New Video Game Division

By Christen Crumpler

The 2023 GRAMMYs is this February and there’s a new sub-category  that’s being introduced–video game music. Video game music is finally being recognized under the Music for Visual Media category. Here are some highlights about this new sub-category’s nominees:

Aliens: Fireteam Elite by Austin Wintory, composer

Aliens: Fireteam Elite’s playstyle is similar to the game World War Z and the Gears of War titles–but you’re in outer space fighting the alien creatures from the franchise Aliens. Its music can be described as having a modern, militaristic sound with a gritty character that shows off its grungy aspects. The game’s composer, Austin Wintory, explains this best by sharing his approach to combine the action and sci-fi/horror scores from the previous composers of the franchise’s films. You can find more in-depth details about the composition process within the videos on Wintory’s YouTube channel.

Video: How I Wrote 2 Minutes of Aliens Fireteam Elite Music

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok by Stephanie Economou, composer

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok is the final downloadable content (DLC) expansion for the title Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. You’re met with an atmospheric soundtrack that uses Norse music styles with elements of heavily distorted guitars and fast tempos from the black metal genre. In a Games hub article, composer Stephanie Economou says,

“One of the reasons it’s so rewarding to compose music for Assassin’s Creed is that you have these historically-driven narratives, and the music can echo the sounds of that time while still being hyper-modern and edgy and rule-breaking.”

Economou speaks more about how she made the soundtrack in the full article. If you want to listen to the full soundtrack of the DLC, click the video below.

Video/Audio: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök (Original Game Soundtrack) [FULL ALBUM]

Call Of Duty®: Vanguard by Bear McCreary, composer

Set during World War II, players join a special team of Allied soldiers to take down the last efforts of the Third Reich in Call Of Duty®: Vanguard. The game’s soundtrack takes a cinematic approach with orchestral and rock elements that put you right in the action. In order to match the personal perspective of the storyline, the musical foundation is laid with improvised melodies and then built outwards with the orchestral aspects. You can find more information on the creation of the soundtrack in a video with the composer, Bear McCreary. To listen to the full soundtrack, click here.

Video: Music Behind The Scenes | Call of Duty: Vanguard

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy by Richard Jacques, composer

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy has you protecting the cosmos as Star-Lord with the other Guardians. Its music brings the heroism from the Marvel films straight into the game. There are various musical themes used throughout the soundtrack–embracing the decision-making gameplay to enhance the player’s experience. The game’s composer, Richard Jacques, goes into detail about the different themes used in this video here and the creation of the score here.

Video: Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy: Scoring The Soundtrack

Old World by Christopher Tin, composer

Players are nation leaders preserving their legacy in the historical strategy game Old World–where each turn is a year of your dynasty. The soundtrack pays homage to the styles used within Arabic music. One way is through the music’s improvised nature–where the performers play a key part in the musical composition process. In a podcast episode, composer Christopher Tin mentions,

“The fundamental way that a lot of these musical forms are presented in Arabic music is actually more improvised–and its actually one that feeds off of a live performance where you get energy back from the audience, right? You sorta whip them into the state of like ecstatic-frenzy through your performance and they applaud and, you know, there’s a very interactive element to it. But if you take that idea–that authentic Arabic idea of a performance being the composition–where does that leave room for an outside composer like myself, if the performer is in fact the composer, right?”

Tin talks more about the process with the Lead Designer of Old World and the CEO of Mohawk Games in the full podcast episode here. You can find more about the game’s soundtrack on Tin’s Youtube Channel.

You can tune-in to the GRAMMYs on Sunday, February 5th, to see who wins. To see the full list of nominees, click here.

Pictured: Video game controller; Photo by Javier Martínez on Unsplash.

Q&A with Trio Gaia: Their Upcoming Concert in Davidson, Chamber Competition Victory, and Favorite Baked Goods

by Mary Lathem

To put it plainly, watching Trio Gaia make music together is magic. Beyond their obvious technical skill, all three musicians are brilliantly expressive, and the passion they share for chamber music is palpable (see for yourself). Luckily for us, another chance to see them live is just around the corner: they’re headed back to town for a performance as part of the Davidson College Concert Series Saturday, February 4! 

Composed of violinist Grant Houston, cellist Yi-Mei Templeman, and pianist Andrew Barnwell, the award-winning ensemble is currently New England Conservatory’s graduate piano trio in residence. We first met the trio last April when they traveled to Davidson to compete in WDAV’s 2022 Young Chamber Musicians Competition (spoiler: they won!), and we’ve been looking forward to having them back ever since. Get tickets to see Trio Gaia in concert here, then check out the trio’s answers to a few burning questions ahead of their return.


We’re huge fans of Trio Gaia, but for anyone who’s unfamiliar (for now!), give us the elevator pitch version of who you are and what you do.

Andrew Barnwell: We are all about bringing personally relevant performances to audiences inside and outside of the concert hall, varying our programs to include older classics and newer gems, and sharing our love of chamber music with students of all ages!

What brought you together as a trio?

Yi-Mei Templeman: Grant and Andrew knew each other from their first semester of undergrad at NEC (the New England Conservatory). They decided that they wanted to put together a piano trio, but they didn’t have a cellist. The summer before 2018, I was about to start as a freshman at NEC and I met Grant at Yellow Barn’s Young Artist Program. I introduced myself to him and asked him all about NEC, and at the end of the festival, he asked me to be in a trio with him! Once we started rehearsing, we all became best friends super quickly and we had the same goals in chamber music, so the rest is history! 

We can’t wait to have you back in Davidson! What can audience members expect from your Davidson College Concert Series performance? Any moments on the program you’re looking forward to in particular?

Grant Houston: Our program is really exciting and covers a really broad range of music, so there will definitely be something for everyone! The composer audiences might be most familiar with is Beethoven, and we’re playing his very first published work: the Piano Trio in E flat Major, Op. 1. No. 1. You’ll never guess Beethoven was only at the beginning of his compositional career, as it’s so full of maturity, but it has an unmistakable youthful spark that makes it a lot of fun to listen to. A relatively new work by Jennifer Higdon (a living, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer) will hopefully introduce anyone unfamiliar with her work to the incredibly beautiful colors in her music – in fact, the piece is named Pale Yellow to give you a mental image while listening! Last on the program is Weinberg’s expansive and dramatic Piano Trio. Op. 24, written during the second World War. This one is a real journey – it has a kind of power you really have to experience in person. 

What else will you be up to while you’re in town?

Grant: Before we actually go on stage for our recital on the Davidson College Concert Series, we’ll spend two days in the WDAV John Clark Performance Studio recording the Weinberg and Beethoven trios as part of the [Young Chamber Musicians Competition]’s Connor Recording Prize. We won’t say too much for now, but you can keep your eyes out for our debut release on streaming services sometime soon! We’ll also give a concert at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Charlotte on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 4 p.m. And when we’re not rehearsing or performing, we’re definitely planning to revisit some of the great restaurants and shops in Davidson that we fell in love with during our last visit. I’ve been thinking about some of the food we had for the whole last year! 

Last April, you won first prize at WDAV’s 2022 Young Chamber Musicians Competition (and absolutely blew the audience away, might I add). Aside from your win, what are some of your favorite memories from that weekend?

Andrew: I loved hanging out in the hammocks in the campus quad! We also loved listening to and meeting the other performers. I also got a delicious brownie somewhere, but I don’t remember the name of the place, so I’m going to have to search for it when I come back. Also, please [let us know if you have] any great pastry recommendations. 

It’s been almost a year since then, and you’ve been busy! What are some standout moments from the past year, and what are you looking forward to in 2023?

Yi-Mei: In the time since we were last at Davidson, we’ve kept very busy, yes! We just returned from the Panama Jazz Festival, where we spent a week teaching and performing. We spent last summer at the Perlman Music Program in Shelter Island, NY, and then at Yale University’s Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in Connecticut. Both were especially wonderful opportunities to work with many incredible mentors while learning lots of new repertoire for the year ahead. In September, we went to Italy together for a competition in Trieste, where we ate tons of great food. We also recently found out that we were accepted to the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition as well as the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition. Both are in the late spring/early summer, so we’ve been preparing quite a lot for those competitions, and we can’t wait to travel to both places later this year!

One thing that was wonderful to see when we first met you is how much you enjoy each other’s company. Does your camaraderie affect your artistic process? Are there any particular composers or works you enjoy playing together the most?

Yi-Mei: That’s so nice of you to say! We’ve been the closest of friends since the earliest days of playing together. This makes for the absolute best and most vulnerable music-making experience, but also means that we definitely bicker like a three-membered married couple at times too! I’m so grateful that we’re best friends because it means that we can be completely open with one another and very in-tune (pun intended) with one another’s ideas and feelings when we’re rehearsing and performing. Being in a trio means that we essentially spend all of our time together, and these days we also travel together a lot. Although we’re quite a young chamber ensemble, this is already our fifth year together, so it feels like we’re kind of like a little family at this point. 

One more question: what does a dream day off look like for Trio Gaia?

Yi-Mei: I think each of ours would be slightly different, so here are all of our answers! Maybe one day we’ll combine them all into one.

Mine would be going on a road trip to go on a hike and swim in any natural body of water. Andrew says his dream day off would be exploring somewhere in nature while also eating good pastries. Grant says his would be going on a picnic with a nice bottle of wine.


Trio Gaia’s Davidson College Concert Series performance will be held at Tyler-Tallman Hall on the Davidson College campus Saturday, February 4 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a post-concert reception generously sponsored by Ruth and Richard Ault. Purchase tickets and learn more here.

Ryan Joins List of Top Contenders for Charlotte Symphony Job

by Lawrence Toppman

The Charlotte Symphony played three pieces, all American and all premiered after World War II, this weekend at Belk Theater. That wouldn’t be news in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Here, it is: I don’t recall the CSO grouping three American works from the last 80 years, let alone to such memorable effect, in its Classical Season. (I count Austrian-born Erich Wolfgang Korngold as American; he fled the Nazis in 1934 and became a U.S. citizen.)

Kwamé Ryan, whose appearance as guest conductor last season had to be delayed until this month, spent 90 minutes showing why he’ll be added to the list of top candidates for music director. He had the measure of John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” Korngold’s Violin Concerto and especially Aaron Copland’s Symphony No.3.

Adams’ percolating overture whizzed by in appropriately flashy and forgettable style. Then came Korngold’s concerto in an unexpectedly serious performance from Bulgarian-American violinist Bella Hristova.

“Unexpectedly” because many soloists, knowing Korngold borrowed themes from four of his film scores for the three-movement work, stress the schmaltz that can undermine the piece. That’s why critic Irving Kolodin cruelly said the concerto held “more corn than gold.”

But Jascha Heifetz played the premiere performance and recording with serious dignity. Hristova followed that model in this last Romantic-style concerto: She was serene in the pyrotechnic first movement, tender but not dreamily vague in the middle section, then jaunty yet never – well, corny — in the rollicking jig of the finale. Ryan matched each mood sensitively.

He spoke briefly before the Copland symphony, tying its genesis in 1944 to the four freedoms espoused by President Franklin Roosevelt: Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. (He also gave away the surprise: The last movement is a set of variations on Copland’s 1942 “Fanfare for the Common Man.”)

Ryan’s first movement showed us a muscular Copland, one who wasn’t afraid to be wistful or contemplative but mostly strode boldly along. The second movement combined the jazzier feeling of Copland’s 1930s works with his Americana strain: Skittering hints of Prokofiev in the winds and faint echoes of “Simple Gifts” from “Appalachian Spring” co-existed comfortably.

The lighter-hearted slow movement has sometimes seemed long to me, especially in Leonard Bernstein’s famous late-career recording, but not here. The “Fanfare” finale began with majesty, made the transition to visceral excitement, then returned to grandeur for a conclusion as stirring as anything Copland ever wrote.

Ryan referred to himself as European in his speech, noting that Ukrainians don’t enjoy those four freedoms nowadays and any nation might lose them at any time. He’s really a citizen of the world: Born in Canada, raised in Trinidad, a student in the United Kingdom and Hungary, conducting regularly in France and Korea (among other places).

His discography ranges from Beethoven and Schubert to Morton Feldman and Olga Neuwirth. If he does end up here, I’ll be curious to see how he expands Charlotte Symphony programming during his tenure. His bosses will have to give him some scope.

5 Musical Gifts that Keep On Giving

When it comes to holiday gift giving, a never-before-heard piece of music written especially for you would be hard to top. Though these classical delights were originally dedicated to individuals (during the holiday season and otherwise), we’re glad they’ve since been gifted to the world! 


Rosephanye Powell’s “With What Shall I Come”

Having a choral piece dedicated to you would be an honor for anyone. Now imagine that work was written by one of America’s premier choral music composers! Rosephanye Powell’s breathtaking “With What Shall I Come” was composed as a gift to Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, in honor of his 25th season. In a post on her website, Powell explains that she selected one of Armstrong’s favorite texts, the biblical passage Micah 6:6-8, and “sought to set this text emphasizing two words that come to mind when I watch Dr. Armstrong conduct: beauty and passion.” 

VIDEO: St. Olaf Choir – “With What Shall I Come”



Pauline Viardot’s Six Morceaux

Portrait of Pauline Viardot, painting by Carl Timoleon von Neff. Woman with black hair pulled back into a bun, looking towards the viewer. Wearing a chandelier earring and off the shoulder white lace bodice and blue tulle dress.
Pauline Viardot by Carl Timoleon von Neff – скан, Public Domain.

Though supporting your child’s musical aspirations is a gift in itself, French composer, pianist, and mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot went a step further: her Six Morceaux for violin and piano were given as a gift to her young son Paul, a promising violinist, in 1868. Pauline was no stranger to talented relatives – born to a family of professional singers, her sister Maria was one of the top opera stars of the 19th century – and both Paul and his sister Louise went on to become highly accomplished musicians. 

VIDEO: 6 Morceaux: No. 6, Tarentelle


Clara Schumann’s Gift of Lieder 

Lithograph portrait of a young Clara Wieck, later Schumann, sitting at piano looking toward the viewer in a lace off the shoulder dress with left hand on piano and right hand in lap. With hair pulled up in a bun with ornate decorative braids. Sheet music sits on piano stand.
Clara Wieck (Schumann), from an 1835 lithograph. By Julius Giere – Schumann-Portal, Public Domain.

On March 13, 1840, Robert Schumann wrote to his future wife, Clara Wieck, that she should consider writing songs again. After the two were married later that year, Clara got to work on a new collection of lieder and presented three of them to Robert as Christmas gifts: Am Strande, Ihr Bildnis, and Volkslied. The inscription on the set, which can still be viewed at the Robert Schumann House in Zwickau, reads “In deepest modesty dedicated to her most fervently beloved Robert at Christmas 1840 from his Clara.” Robert was touched and overjoyed by Clara’s gift, later writing in the couple’s shared diary, “how the clarity of my heart brings me such delight with this present… we have had the pleasant idea to weave them together with some of mine and to have them printed. That would be quite a truly love-inspired book.”

VIDEO: C. Schumann: Am Strande


Jean Sibelius’ Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9

Black & white picture portrait of Jean Sibelius in 1890. Looks toward viewer sitting in a chair with a dark tweed suit with hand reaching into inner coat pocket. Has a distinct handlebar mustache.
Jean Sibelius in 1890.
By Paul Heckscher – YLE/Finnish National Broadcaster, Public Domain.

Though he never personally found success as a musician, Finnish nobleman Axel Carpelan’s musical impact lives on through several of Jean Sibelius’s most important works. A close friend and devotee to Sibelius’s music, Carpelan helped Sibelius name Finlandia and was the first to suggest that he should write a violin concerto. In a letter to Carpelan, Sibelius’s wife Aino described his struggle to complete the concerto due to an overflowing of material, remarking that “there are so many ideas that one can’t believe it is true, all of them so rich in possibilities for development, so full of life.” Sibelius’s emotionally moving Romance in D flat major, now one of Sibelius’s most popular piano pieces, was composed as a Christmas gift to Carpelan in 1901. When Carpelan died of pneumonia in 1919, a shattered Sibelius wrote in his journal, “Who shall I compose for now?

VIDEO: Jean Sibelius: Romance D-Flat Major, Op. 24, No. 9 – Vladislav Peysakhov, piano


Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel

Photograph portrait of composer Engelbert Humperdinck. Looking toward viewer sitting in chair wearing a tuxedo. Has distinct full mustache and goatee.
Composer Engelbert Humperdinck by Unknown photographer, Public Domain.

Often performed at Christmastime, Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel had appropriately festive beginnings! Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid Wette had written the text to a set of folk songs for her daughters and asked for his help setting them to music. Inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, Humperdinck eventually completed a brief singspiel for his nieces to perform at a family Christmas party with a libretto written by Wette. The girls’ performance was a hit, and Humperdinck was so pleased that he later fleshed out the singspiel into the full-scale opera we know and love today. 

VIDEO: The Evening Prayer – Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade


Sources and Further Reading

Hansel and Gretel – The Metropolitan Opera Guild (The Metropolitan Opera Guild)

“With What Shall I Come” – SATB with Violin (Rosephanye Powell Official Website)

Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9 (Sibelius One)

From Finland with Love: The Sibelius Violin Concerto (Houston Symphony)

Sibelius, Jean (1865 – 1957) (National Biography of Finland) – translated from Finnish to English

About This Recording: Paul Viardot & Pauline Viardot, Works for Violin and Piano (Naxos)

About This Recording: Clara Schumann’s Complete Songs (Naxos)


What Sweeter Music: WDAV Staff Members Share Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes

Whether you’re pulling a faded card out of grandma’s recipe box or Googling “how to make gingerbread,” holiday desserts often mean more to us than your average sweet treat! Familiar flavors have the power to bring us together, remind us of loved ones, and transport us to memories of holidays past. From our table to yours, we’ve compiled a collection of holiday cookie recipes that fill our hearts with joy year after year. 


Myelita Melton’s Favorite: Hello Dolly Bars

Hello Dolly bars
Hello Dolly Bars by Myelita Melton

Here’s one of my family’s favorite holiday treats – Hello Dolly Bars. My mom didn’t make a lot of things from “scratch.” She worked at a hospital ER, and time off during the holidays was precious, so she was always looking for something quick, easy, and delicious to fix! These Hello Dolly bars are the easiest thing in the world to throw together. I have varied the chips I add depending on what I have in the pantry. If you don’t like butterscotch chips, leave them out. If you prefer semi-sweet chocolate chips, use those. If you go for milk chocolate, use those. Just go with what you feel, and what you have on hand!  Enjoy!

Recipe: Hello Dolly Bars


Rodger Clark’s Favorite: Bird’s Nest Cookies

One of my best holiday memories is my mother busily baking cookies for the various family gatherings. My absolute favorite was what we called her “Bird’s Nest” cookies. These were wonderful confections that featured a crushed-up Life cereal coating and a dab of strawberry preserves in the middle – purposively indented to look like a nest. She only made these during the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, she passed on the recipe to my wife (in her handwriting) and now we have to have at least one batch every Christmas!

Mix Thoroughly

1 cup soft shortening (1/2 butter)

½ cup light brown sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

Sift Together

2 cups flour

½ tsp salt

Blend all ingredients. Roll into 1” balls and dip in slightly beaten egg whites. Roll in crushed Life cereal (or crushed nuts). Place about 1 “ apart on ungreased cookie sheet and press thumb into the center of each cookie. Bake 375º for about 10 – 12 minutes. Let cool.

Place red or green jelly in the center of each.


Mary Lathem’s Favorite: Snowballs 

Snowball cookies on a plate
Snowballs by Mary Lathem

I’ve heard these called Danish Wedding Cookies, Russian Teacakes, and plenty of other names, but whatever you call them, they always disappear quickly in a Christmas cookie spread. My family loves them so much that I got the party started early this year and made some the day after Thanksgiving! I’m sure there will be many more batches of these coming out of my oven this season. 

Here’s the recipe I use: Land O’ Lakes Snowball Cookies

A few tips!

  • Use raw, unsalted pecans. I like the texture best when they are crushed until they resemble coarse crumbs. You can use a food processor or a Slap Chop to make this faster.
  • For a (truly) delicious gluten free version, I use an even mixture of Bob’s Red Mill oat flour and 1-to-1 baking flour. 
  • A BIG ONE: After the first roll in powdered sugar, sift fresh powdered sugar onto a new plate and let the cookies cool completely before the second roll. This makes the finished cookie look much neater than the ones in the picture, but I only do this if they need to be presentable – usually we just eat them immediately! 

Will Keible’s Favorite: Laurie Squares

My favorite Christmas treat comes from my mother-in-law and stalwart WDAV supporter, Marilyn Bradley, who lives in Voorheesville, NY. They are a bar cookie affectionately called Laurie Squares, named after her niece. Marilyn makes these every year and they alone are worth the trip to the cold, dark North. (Side note: I’m hopeful that this public recognition earns me my own named treat 😊)

32 caramels (unwrapped)               

2/3 cup (5.5 oz can) evaporated milk

1 cup flour

1 cup quick oats (uncooked)

1 cup chopped nuts

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup melted butter

1 cup M&Ms

  1. Cook the caramels over low heat with evaporated milk until blended.
  2. In a bowl, mix dry ingredients with melted butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. RESERVE 1 CUP. 
  3. Press remaining mix into bottom of 13 x 9 pan. Bake 10 min.
  4. Sprinkle M&M’s over partially baked crust.
  5. Drizzle melted caramel mix over candies. 
  6. Sprinkle reserved crumb mix.
  7. Bake another 20-25 minutes at 375º.

Rachel Stewart’s Favorite: World Peace Cookies

I love this recipe from Pierre Hermé via Dorie Greenspan. These cookies have the perfect taste and texture as well as the perfect name for sharing during the holiday season. The World Peace Cookie is a chocolate sablé (French shortbread cookie) with a touch of salt and a just-right chewy texture. Once you’ve tried one, you’ll want more, and you’ll want to add them to your holiday baking repertoire.

Recipe: World Peace Cookies

Q & A with Christen Crumpler: WDAV Announcer, Podcast Producer, and Video Game Enthusiast

Earlier this year, Christen Crumpler, host and producer of WDAV’s Power Play podcast, made the leap onto the airwaves as the host of Sunday Night Music. Last month, Christen traded in her night owl wings for a move to Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. 

A native of Charlotte, Christen studied violin and piano at Northwest School of the Arts and continued her studies in college, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music. In addition to her hosting and producing duties at WDAV, Christen is an aspiring songwriter. Now that she has settled into her new time slot, it’s time for a little Q&A to help listeners get to know her better. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of learning to host a radio show?

Figuring out what I want to say and how to shape it for a particular medium. College writing is very different from writing for a format like radio. So, keeping those things in mind, and still making sure that I’m able to translate my authentic self well.

Have there been any surprises along the way? 

I think finding out that I have a knack for radio hosting/voice work! When I began as an intern, my mindset was initially focused on the audio editing portion of production – since I was confident in doing that. I’m continuing to learn that my capabilities are much wider than I’ve allowed myself to previously think.

Give us the name of a composer who we should all give more attention to.   

Please delve into the musical world of Joe Hisaishi! He’s a Japanese composer who’s responsible for a large portion of the film scores to Hayao Miyazaki’s animations. Musically, Hisaishi’s able to enhance and bring to life the worlds Miyazki creates. And Joe Hisaishi’s music (within those films) was a key inspiration of mine when it came to orchestral music growing up.

What should listeners expect to hear when they tune in?

You can expect every now and then, in my shift, a look into how I experience music. Also offering space for you to think about how you interact with music too! A person’s musical experience can be enhanced by connecting with others – and so I try to do that as much as I can when I’m on the air.

When you’re not busy announcing for WDAV or working on producing the next episode of Power Play, what interests do you pursue? 

Well, these days, you can catch me playing video games on my Nintendo Switch! I’m no pro, but I do have my fair share of achievements and hours across different games and consoles. Also, I’m always working on writing songs and creating instrumentals for my own music that I want to release at some point. 

What advice would you give to others who – like you – are new to hosting in the Classical Music/Radio space?

Be kind to yourself. There’s not a lot of us noobs out here at the moment – and so, at times, it can feel like you’re not hitting the marks you think you should be meeting. It’s a growing journey. You’ll be able to reach the goals you’re wanting if you keep at it – like the hosts that have 20/30+ years in this space eventually did. Make sure you’re eager to learn and curious about how you can approach things differently.

You can catch Christen hosting on WDAV every Sunday between 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Listen closely – she might even mention her gamer tag. The latest episode of the Power Play, Spirituals: The Power of Community and Music, is out now and available at all major podcast platforms including Apple, Google, and Spotify.