Interview with Composer Nkeiru Okoye

WWU Director of Orchestral Studies, Ryan Dudenbostel is delighted to interview Composer Nkeiru Okoye, and you're invited!

Hailed as “sublime” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nkeiru Okoye’s genre-bending compositions reflect a dizzying range of influences — Gilbert & Sullivan, the Gershwins, Sondheim, Copland, gospel, jazz, and Schoenberg. Okoye writes in both the opera/theatre and symphonic mediums; and her works have been performed on five continents. 

A musical storyteller, researcher, and historian, Okoye’s best-known works incorporate social science themes, while combining a wealth of influences and styles. Her music freely navigates between African American improvisatory and folk idioms and contemporary concert practices.  Okoye is best known for her opera, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom and her 9/11 inspired orchestral work, Voices Shouting Out.  Her suite African Sketches has been performed by pianists around the globe. The inaugural recipient of the International Florence Price Society’s Florence Price Award for Composition, Okoye has received commissions, awards and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America, New York State Commission for the Arts, ASCAP, Meet the Composer, and Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation commissioning grants for female composers for her operas and orchestral works. 

Dr. Okoye is profiled in the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation Music of Black Composers Coloring Book, Routledge’s African American Music: An Introduction textbook, and the Oxford University Press Anthology of Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora. 

In March 2020, the State of Michigan issued a proclamation acknowledging her extraordinary contributions to the history of Detroit, Michigan, for Black Bottom, a symphonic experience commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, in celebration of the centennial season of Orchestra Hall.  Among Dr. Okoye’s upcoming projects are a tryptic of “sung stories,” Tales from the Briar Patch; commissions from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory and Onsite Opera; and an untitled “Gathering” for voices, choir, and orchestra commissioned by University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance. 

Dr. Okoye is a board member of Composers Now!. She holds a BM in Composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a PhD in Music Theory and Composition from Rutgers University. 

Disability Accommodations

For disability accommodations, please contact the department presenting the event. Disability access information is available online at Parking Services, and further resources can be found by contacting Western's Disability Access Center.

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