ListN Up: Classically Black Podcast (September 11, 2020)

ListN Up is a series of weekly artist-curated playlists. Born from a desire to keep artists sharing and connected during times of isolation, ListN Up offers an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. This series is sponsored by American Composers Forum/innova Recordings with new releases every Friday on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

Kathryn Brown is a violist and educator hailing from Evanston, IL. Aside from playing and teaching, Kathryn is co-host of Classically Black Podcast, a classical music podcast that discusses classical music from the Black perspective. Kathryn is currently a fellow with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Dalanie Harris is a double bassist and podcaster from Los Angeles, CA. In November 2018, along with friend and fellow Eastman student Katie Brown, Harris co-founded Classically Black Podcast, which brings listeners into the world of classical music through the eyes of two Black women studying the art form. Dalanie is currently studying double bass performance at the Eastman School of Music.

Hey y’all, it’s Dalanie and Katie, and we’re the hosts of Classically Black Podcast, where we talk all things classical music and being Black in the profession, with trap beats playing in the background! In 2020, this country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being ratified, granting all women the right to vote. But because of this country’s terrible history of racism, Black women were not universally allow to participate. Unfortunately, Black women’s suffrage, or Black suffrage in general, did not end in 1920. Today, Black people still see voter intimidation and other illegal measures taken to silence the Black voice. But today, we choose to amplify it. Take a listen to these eight tracks that we have chosen, all by Black artists, and don’t forget to tune into Classically Black Podcast, available anywhere you listen to podcasts, where we talk about artists and composers just like these! 

“Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder, arr. Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding is an American Jazz bassist, songwriter, and composer from Portland, Oregon. Her work has won her many awards including four Grammys and a Soul Train Music Award. This song, “Overjoyed,” was written by Stevie Wonder. Esperanza is a dope musician, and this track gives us all the hope we need right now. 

An American Port of Call by Adolphus Hailstork, performed by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (JoAnn Falletta, conductor)

Adolphus Hailstork is an American composer from Rochester, NY. This piece, An American Port of Call, captures the energy of an American port. Hailstork currently lives in Norfolk, VA, which was a direct inspiration. Hailstork is a dynamic composer. His works should be more widely programmed and celebrated. 

Amen! by Carlos Simon, performed by the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra (Michael Morgan, conductor)

Carlos Simon is an American composer from Atlanta, Georgia. His compositional style often incorporates neo-romanticism, jazz, and gospel. This recording depicts his piece Amen! being performed by the Gateways Festival Orchestra, a festival for classical musicians of African descent. Playing this piece by Simon was an amazing experience! It can’t be praised enough. 

“Love Theory” by Kirk Franklin

Kirk Franklin is an award-winning American gospel musician, songwriter, and choir director from Fort Worth, Texas. His songs often incorporate studio-recorded orchestral strings. Kirk Franklin is one of the most iconic gospel musicians of all time. There had to be a way to include him. 

Battle of Manassas by Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins

This piece was written in 1861 by composer and piano prodigy Thomas Wiggins, who was enslaved for much of his life. The piece was written about the first major battle of the Civil War and juxtaposes patriotic melodies with loud, dissonant harmonies, which I interpret as Wiggins highlighting the many blemishes on America’s image of freedom. This parallels the double standard that exists in the 19th Amendment, which, like many laws in the U.S., is much different in theory than in practice. 

Portraits of Josephine by Valerie Coleman, performed by Imani Winds

In conversations about both womens’ suffrage and Black suffrage, Black women have often existed in a gray area due to their intersectional identity. Because of this, Black women have had to become a safe space for each other within these groups. I wanted to include this piece because it is a tribute from one phenomenal Black woman to another. 

“Glory” by John Legend ft. Common

This song is from the soundtrack of the film Selma, which is based on the series of marches for voting rights for Black people that took place in Alabama in 1965, 45 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The music video includes scenes from the movie that depict some of the voter suppression tactics Black people faced when trying to vote, such as literacy tests, intimidation, and extreme violence. 

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Aretha Franklin

Lastly, you cannot talk about civil rights for Black people without talking about gospel music! The Black church played a huge part in civil rights efforts, as pastors and church elders were often at the center of activism due to the influence they had on their congregations. Aretha Franklin was an artist that touched the souls of Black people through both gospel and secular music, and was always unapologetically Black while doing so. 


UNEVEN MEASURES is a series dedicated to amplifying today’s women, trans, and nonbinary artists on the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment leading up to the 2020 presidential election. This series is made possible through a generous grant from The Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization Inc. to the American Composers Forum and their partnership with I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. The Sorel Organization is committed to supporting gender equity in music and addressing systemic inequities by providing greater visibility for women musicians from underrepresented communities.