Spotlight On: Black Musicians and Composers

This month, we are celebrating several pioneering Black musicians and composers whose music is known and beloved at The People’s Music School. Take a listen to the four performances below, each performed by TPMS students.


Original piece by Devonté Hynes (@bloodorange), arr. Third Coast Percussion (@thirdcoastpercussion)

Devonté Hynes, also known as Blood Orange, is an English musician who has produced and written songs with many famous pop musicians. But he’s a “polymath” artist: his work spans many genres and mediums, be it R&B, jazz improvisation, classical, dance, or film. His collaboration with Third Coast Percussion on their album Fields received rave reviews for its energetic and imaginative sounds, and TPMS had the honor and joy of performing a piece from it! Enjoy TPMS percussion ensemble’s performance of “Press.”

D Major Jam

by Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery is a composer, violinist, and music educator who is pushing the boundaries of classical music. Montgomery was named the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composer-in-Residence and is the second Black woman to have her music performed by the Orchestra. In her work, Montgomery intertwines classical elements with improvisations and sounds from pop or folk music. Her piece “D Major Jam” is written for musicians of multiple levels, incorporating parts for students and teachers to collaborate and jam together!

Get Ready

by Smokey Robinson, performed by The Temptations

Smokey Robinson is known for being instrumental in the early days of Motown, a music style that featured crossovers from rhythm and blues, jazz, and pop. The genre got its name from the record label Motown, which began in Detroit in the late 1950s and grew to be the nation’s largest Black-owned enterprise at the time. Robinson wrote for the Motown group The Temptations, who recorded and released “Get Ready” in 1966. Here’s a clip of The People’s Music School band performing “Get Ready” for Big Night 2020.


Words and Music by Otis Redding, performed by Aretha Franklin

American soul musician Otis Redding wrote “Respect in 1965, but it wasn’t until two years later that people heard the version that’s so well-known today. Aretha Franklin flipped the script on Redding’s original, creating a bold feminist anthem and adding many of the lyrics we know, including “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” The song held a #1 spot on the charts for twelve weeks straight. Enjoy this 2019 performance of “Respect” by The People’s Music School, featuring saxophonist Frank Catalano and singer Terisa Griffin

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