Podcasts

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Jnennifer Pickering

Photo courtesy of LEAF

Founder and director of LEAF Community Arts

For Jennifer Pickering, all art is both local and global and LEAF is that philosophy in action.

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Crys Matthews

Photo courtesy of Crys Matthews

Singer/Songwriter

Singer/songwriter Crys Matthews makes music that is absolutely her own. Sometimes the songs are bluesy, at other times they’re country soul. Maybe a song has a little funk or maybe it’s absolutely bluegrass or Americana. Matthews lets the song decide what it wants to be. It’s working for her: she won first prize at the 2017 New Song Music and Performance competition, which led to performances at both Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. The preacher’s kid from a small town in North Carolina is doing quite well with eight releases under her belt including songs about social justice, love, loss, and her dog. She’s really terrific--immensely talented and personable. And miracle of miracles, she can actually support herself through music. No small feat! Find out how she does it and listen to some very cool live music on this week’s podcast. And yes, we talk about her dog!

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Photo by Gregg Mizuta

2019 National Heritage Fellow Basque musician and tradition bearer

2019 National Heritage Fellow Basque musician, teacher and restauranteur Dan Ansotegui brings his passion for the Basque culture into everything he does. But he also sees culture as a breathing entity—not something set in amber. The roots of the tree may come from the Basque Region, but those leaves are growing in Boise, Idaho. Ansotegui is a great talker. In this podcast, ­learn about Basque music, dancing, and food (he does it all!) and the deep social connections these traditions give a community.

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Photo courtesy of J. Dash

Musician, composer, producer, and arts advocate

You might know J. Dash as the man who wrote and performed the double platinum song “WOP,” but that hardly scratches the surface. J. is a musician, composer, and producer who is also a great advocate for arts education. He works with schools in his hometown city of Jacksonville, Florida, and his current town of Austin, Texas. And J is a longtime volunteer with the National Association of Music Merchants’ Foundation, or NAAM, making yearly trips to Congress to lobby for more Title IV funds and working with students trying to break into the music industry. Even though he is best-known in the hip hop world, J. Dash is also a big fan of jazz and blues (he used to play in a blues band). And he also has begun to score films and television shows. Have I mentioned he has a parallel career as a computer scientist? What sparks his creativity and how does he juggle all the aspects of his careers? Listen to the podcast and find out…..

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Photo courtesy of Dr Nina Kraus

Neurobiologist and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University

Dr. Nina Kraus is a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University where she directs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, also known as Brainvolts. She has made the study of how we biologically process sound her life’s work. She and the Brainvolts’ team have conducted long-term, multi-year studies looking at the brainwaves of children and found that making music—whether with instrument or voice—actually makes biological changes to the way the brain processes sound which, in turn, strengthens the ability of the brain to better apprehend the depth and breadth of language and speech. Simply put, creating music builds our capacity to turn sound into meaning. Nina is passionate about sound—she remembers as a child sitting under her mother’s piano as she played. She brings that same sense of wonder and excitement to her rigorous biological research, and you’ll hear it throughout the podcast…which is a perfect way to explore the way we process sound.

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Photo by Marina Umari

Pianist and 2019 NEA Jazz Master

Pianist and 2019 NEA Jazz Master Abdullah Ibrahim combines the musical influences of his childhood in Cape Town, South Africa, which include traditional South African songs, gospels and spirituals, and Indian ragas, with the improvisation of jazz to create a sound that is distinctly his. Born Adolph Johannes Brand in 1934, he was known professionally as Dollar Brand before changing his name when he converted to Islam in 1968. Ibrahim, along with Hugh Masekela and Kippi Moketsi, formed the short-lived but impactful septet The Jazz Epistles who recorded the first South African jazz album, Jazz Epistles, Verse 1. Because of the limits imposed on black South Africans by the repressive apartheid government, Ibrahim left the country. He traveled first to Zurich, where he met Duke Ellington who recorded him, and then to New York City, where he met everyone else and played in Carnegie Hall. He returned to South Africa briefly and in the mid-1970s composed what became the people’s national anthem, “Mannenberg.” Exiled once more, he returned to South Africa at the invitation of Nelson Mandela and performed at Mandela’s presidential inauguration. In this podcast episode, Abdullah talks about his many diverse musical influences, his deep love of jazz (which he calls “the highest form of music”), living and performing under apartheid, exile, and the musician as healer. We pack a lot into this podcast, but Ibrahim has had a long, rich life.

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Photo courtesy of Christian McBride

Jazz Bassist

Jazz bassist Christian McBride takes us through his own musical journey--from his early days in Philadelphia to playing with some of the great jazz legends like NEA Jazz Masters Sonny Rollins and Chick Corea. He also talks about fronting a group and walks us through composing one of his signature songs "Brother Mister." Christian also reflects on his long friendship with 2019 NEA Jazz Master Stanley Crouch and Stanley's importance to jazz criticism and advocacy.

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Credit Jimmy and Dena Katz photo

Composer, conductor and 2019 NEA Jazz Master

2019 NEA Jazz Master composer, conductor, and arranger Maria Schneider creates highly original and evocative compositions for her jazz orchestra, which she formed in 1992. Much of her music is autobiographical, evoking the Minnesota plains where she was born and raised. She returns to the theme of her childhood in a prairie town again and again; in fact, she’s come to realize that the foundation of her music is her hometown. She finds parts of it magical, and we certainly hear it in her music. Although she’s composed classical work and collaborated with David Bowie, Maria’s musical center remains in jazz. In this podcast, we talk about her connection to jazz (especially to the music of NEA Jazz Master Gil Evans), the ways in which she and the musicians in her band inspire one another, her collaboration with Bowie, and how her deep ties to Windom, Minnesota, translates into mesmerizing music.

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Photo by Peter Serling

Composer

Composer Julia Wolfe recently premiered her third oratorio that is centered on American labor history—this latest piece is based on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that occurred in New York City in 1911. 146 workers—most of them immigrant women—died. Julia was determined not show these women as victims, but rather as resourceful people who had the courage to travel to a new country and band together to struggle for better working conditions. Fire in my mouth, a multi-media work, opened with the New York Philharmonic as its orchestra, a chorus of 146 women, a sold-out house and a cheering standing ovation. It was a good night.

Julia Wolfe, who has won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur fellowship, has a large and varied body of work. A composer that is hard to classify, she not only embraces all musical genres, she hears sound itself as a music which is helpful when you want to recreate the particular roar of a factory floor. In this week’s podcast, Julia talks about her deep interest in history, her wide embrace of music and her methods for translating the sounds of work into music.

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Eddie Bond

Photo by Pat Jarrett

In Part 1 of my conversation with 2018 National Heritage Fellow and old-time fiddler Eddie Bond, we learned about his deep musical roots and the family and friends that nurtured them. Eddie said that the music has taken him to so many places, and in part 2, we follow him on these travels as Eddie brings his old-time fiddling across the country and around the world—beginning in an unlikely spot: Iraq during the Gulf War where Eddie served as a young soldier.

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