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WKAR debuts 'Music for Social Justice' television series

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MSU College of Music
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Baritone Jadrian Tarver with pianist Sadie Rucker in a scene from episode 6, "I am America."

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

EAST LANSING, MI; May 2, 2022 –WKAR Public Media and the College of Music at Michigan State University announce today the upcoming broadcast premiere of Music for Social Justice, a new television series exploring societal issues through music and the personal stories of the artists behind the music. The series debuts Sunday, May 8, on WKAR-TV 23, the PBS station serving Michigan's capital region.

Episodes will air on WKAR HD 23.1 on Sundays at 4 p.m. with repeats on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. beginning May 8 and continuing through June 23, 2022. Each episode will be available streaming in the free PBS Video app and at video.wkar.org beginning on its broadcast premiere date.

Music for Social Justice features artists as they relate the music they play to societal issues and their own lived experiences. Issues explored range from racism, policing, and internment camps, to the murders of trans women. Powerful and emotive, the series takes an expansive view of what social justice means.

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

Artists featured in the series include violinist Yvonne Lam, composer and bassist Jordyn Davis, mezzo-soprano Jane Bunnell, mezzo-soprano GeDeane Graham, pianist Derek Kealii Polischuk, jazz bassist and composer Rodney Whitaker, baritone Mark Rucker and pianist Sadie Rucker, jazz drummer Randy Gelispie with vocalist Brandon Rose, composer and intermedia artist Lyn Goeringer, baritone Jadrian Tarver, saxophonist Joe Lulloff, bass-baritone Marc Embree, and Damien Sneed. Accompanists include pianists Elden Little, Yu-Lien The, and Ya-Ju Chuang as well as jazz musicians Sam Corey and Austin Muthyala.

The television series grew out of a special digital video series created by the College of Music in 2020. Amidst the social movement that followed the murder of George Floyd in May of that year, college faculty felt the need to speak out on issues of inequality. They chose to do so through music.

“There was an honest, emotional reaction to what was going on in the country," said Rodney Whitaker, jazz bassist and composer, and director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at the college. "The artists got together and really wanted to tell these stories.”

The resulting Music for Social Justice digital series launched online in September of 2020, featuring artists in short performances and interviews.

"When our colleagues in the College of Music shared the series with us, I was deeply moved," said Julie Sochay, WKAR senior director of communication and engagement. "I felt it was important to share these powerful stories with our community through WKAR’s broadcast schedule. We are honored to partner with the College of Music to see this project become a reality."

Building on a long tradition of partnership, WKAR and the College of Music began working together to bring Music for Social Justice to television, where the series could reach a wider audience.

"For many years, WKAR and the College of Music have developed a number of collaborations that provide significant benefit and value to the broader community," said James Forger, dean of the MSU College of Music. "We are delighted that the original College of Music Social Justice video series has developed into yet another productive collaboration with WKAR that will provide a new broadcast series with greater reach and outstanding production values. It is powerful, meaningful content."

With the WKAR television debut in May of 2022, Music for Social Justice has the potential to reach 249,000 households in the mid-Michigan area. Via the PBS Video platform, the series will be available streaming nationwide. WKAR also plans to offer the series to stations nationally through the PBS and NETA networks.

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. The series is generously sponsored by the MSU Federal Credit Union and Michigan State University Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.

Music for Social Justice is produced by Michigan State University College of Music and presented by WKAR Public Media.

About WKAR Public Media
WKAR Public Media is the Michigan capital region source for award-winning original television and radio, and the best from PBS and NPR. WKAR is part of Michigan State University College of Communication Arts & Sciences and includes WKAR TV, WKAR Radio, wkar.org, WKAR Radio Reading Service, WKAR Family, and WKAR Ready to Learn.

About College of Music at Michigan State University
The MSU College of Music offers a comprehensive range of degree programs from baccalaureate through the doctorate, providing the highest quality professional mentorship to students, instilling a dedication to achieve excellence and understanding in all aspects of their musical education.

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