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Artists relate the music they play to societal issues and their own lived experiences.

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Artists relate the music they play to societal issues and their own lived experiences. Through personal stories and performance, artists relate the music they play to societal issues and their own lived experiences.

International recording artist Damien Sneed is the host. Sneed is a pianist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer, and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres.

Music for Social Justice was recorded on the campus of Michigan State University at Fairchild Theatre in the MSU Auditorium, Murray Hall of the Billman Music Pavilion, and WKAR television studios.

Supported in part by
MSU Federal Credit Union
Michigan State University Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

Produced by Michigan State University College of Music
Presented by WKAR Public Media

Related

EPISODES

Episode details and schedule are subject to change.

Ep. 101
Self. Reflection.  
Sunday, May 8, 2022 4pm; Thursday, May 12, 2022 1:30pm

Violin and jazz bass performances anchor stories of finding one’s own place in society.

Violinist Yvonne Lam and composer/bassist Jordyn Davis share their personal journeys toward finding their voice in the world. Through Lam’s moving solo violin performance of a piece by composer Chen Yi, and Davis’ expression through her own composition inspired by a song by Nina Simone, they paint a clear picture of the self-reflection required by people who are often “othered” by society.

Ep. 102
Powerful Voices 
Sunday, May 15, 2022 4pm; Thursday, May 19, 2022 1:30pm

Two distinct voices share stories and performances using music to fight for justice.

Mezzo-sopranos Jane Bunnell and GeDeane Graham share historic and personal stories. Bunnell examines famed singer Marian Anderson’s groundbreaking performance at the Lincoln Memorial. Graham shares the tragic story of the murder of her friend. Both vocalists show how the power of the voice can overcome oppression and fight for justice.

Ep. 103
Hard History 
Sunday, May 22, 2022 4pm; Thursday, May 26, 2022 1:30pm

A piano evokes Hawaii’s traumatic past and jazz reminds of a difficult era in Detroit.

Pianist Derek Polischuk performs music from his album Terra Incognita, featuring composer Tom Osborne celebrating the beauty of Hawaii while sharing its traumatic path to statehood. Jazz bassist and composer Rodney Whitaker recalls the fear and violence a special police unit unleashed on Detroit’s Black communities in the 1970s and performs his original piece, “The Big Four,” with a quartet.

Ep. 104
MLK’s Lasting Legacy 
Sunday, May 29, 2022 4pm; Thursday, June 2, 2022 1:30pm

Three varied and impactful songs inspired by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Artists share the lasting impact of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Baritone Mark Rucker and accompanist Sadie Rucker deliver a powerful song written by Dr. Lena McLin. Jazz drummer Randy Gelispie and vocalist Brandon Rose reimagine Max Roach’s “I Have A Dream” performance. Multi-genre recording artist Damien Sneed improvises a moving solo piano piece based on “We Shall Overcome.”

Ep. 105
Love and Humanity 
Sunday, June 5, 2022 4pm; Thursday, June 9, 2022 1:30pm

Composers play their moving electronic and jazz pieces inspired by love and humanity.

Composer and intermedia artist Lyn Goeringer humanizes an often forgotten segment of our society by shedding light on the murders of transgender women of color in Detroit through the lens of the streetlights meant to keep them safe. Jazz bassist and composer Rodney Whitaker plays his tune “First Love, Only Love” which began as a love song to his wife and evolved into a message of love for humanity.

Ep. 106 
I Am America 
Sunday, June 12, 2022 4pm; Thursday, June 16, 2022 1:30pm

Music by trailblazing Black composers and a moving saxophone piece celebrate inclusion.

Baritone Jadrian Tarver, with pianist Sadie Rucker, uses his voice to command an equal place in America for all people of color, with music by Margaret Bonds and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Saxophonist Joe Lulloff and pianist Yu-Lien The perform movements from Dorothy Chang’s “New Stories,” celebrating the diverse influences of the composer who provides insight into her unique American experience.

Ep. 107
Freedom
Sunday, June 19, 2022 4pm; Thursday, June 23, 2022 1:30pm

Three performances of jazz and art song address oppression yet end the season with hope. 

In the season finale, jazz bassist and composer Rodney Whitaker and bass-baritone Marc Embree share stories of pain of oppression, but also the hope that music brings. Whitaker performs his original “A Mother’s Cry,” and Embree sings “Goin’ Home” by Antonin Dvorák. The episode concludes with an uplifting performance of Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” by Damien Sneed.