ListN Up: Jessica T. Carter (June 11, 2021)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Jessica T. Carter (b. 1992) is a Black American composer, violinist, mezzo soprano, and educator from South Bend, IN. Described as evocative and lyrical by Aspire Magazine, as a composer, she specializes in concert music, film scoring, and musical theatre. Jessica’s aim and goal in music composition is to exude the message of hope to all but specifically to marginalized children.

Hi, I’m Jessica, Jessica T. Carter, professionally known to the world, and I would like to present to you a playlist of music entitled “Pieces of My Musical Identity.” This playlist is a combination of songs that have inspired me since I was a little girl as well as my own works and songs that have continued to impact me in my adult life today. Through this playlist, you’ll get a glimpse of my life, my world, my story, and my identity as a person and as a musician. I hope you enjoy it and thank you so much for listening.

Piano Sonata No. 3, “Memories” by Jessica T. Carter, performed by Jennifer Muñiz

I chose to start this playlist with my work “Memories” because this is the work that began to define my sound as a composer. It was the first major work of my graduate career.

“One Song Glory” from RENT

Musical theatre has always been a love of mine, and ironically it was not until the movie came out that I discovered the phenomenon that is RENT. “One Song Glory” was the song that struck a chord with me (no pun intended) almost immediately when I first heard it in the movie, and to this day, it’s a reference I always use when writing songs for my own musical, to inspire that same feeling that I got when hearing this song.

Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by Matjaž Bogataj, Maruša Bogataj, and Katharina Khodos

I played this piece for my undergraduate recital. Since then, it has become my staple for the piano trio genre, so when I was writing my own piano trio, “Contender,” I referred back to this piece.

“I Don’t Care Much” from Cabaret

Cabaret is another example of an iconic musical that I was late in discovering. When I played in the pit orchestra for this show in college, the musical as a whole really touched me, but this song is one I continued to come back to because of the underlying theme of simply needing to care about others. I sampled this song in an electronic piece I wrote.

Storming at the Mechanic by Jessica T. Carter, performed by Zachary Newsom and Mathew Miller

This piece started off as a graduate music composition assignment and grew to this electro-acoustic piece featuring media and percussion. It was my first electronic music piece and signified a shift in my sound.

Cello Concerto in E minor by Edward Elgar, performed by Jacqueline du Pré

My final composition of my graduate career was a cello concerto entitled Rancour and Triumph (which will be getting a performance this fall). When I was in the drafting stage of that piece, I found myself researching some of the great cello concertos of the 19th and 20th century and rediscovered this piece. Needless to say, Jacqueline du Pré’s performance of this concerto is one for the books and was a major inspiration for me in finishing that piece.

“Epilogue” from The Prince of Egypt by Hans Zimmer

I honestly could have selected any individual piece from this score because it’s my absolute favorite. I first discovered it when I was 10 years old, and to this day, this ending montage still brings me to tears because the music is so powerfully written. Hans Zimmer’s work is one of the reasons why I wanted to get into film scoring.

“Get Ready” by The Temptations

This song is one of my favorites by The Temptations and one of several from the Civil Rights Movement. It has been a favorite since I was little and has become a cornerstone in honoring Black composers and musicians from that time.

“Pas de Deux” from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, performed by The National Philharmonic Of Russia (Vladimir Spivakov, conductor)

Not including Tchaikovsky on this list wasn’t an option as he is not only my favorite composer, but I exude much of his style in my own work. The Nutcracker is my favorite ballet. I watch and listen to it every Christmas, and it was the first CD I ever received as a gift at age 12. Listening to it never grows old.

Expecting (with Dance) by Jessica T. Carter, performed by Breanna Webb and Mykale Williams

Just as I opened the playlist with my own work, I’m closing it the same way. I wrote this piece as an exercise at a music festival and went on to win a call for scores at another music festival. It has become a piece that I am very proud of.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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