When we think about classical music, most remember composers like Beethoven and Mozart — white European men who are historically associated with the genre.
Memphis native Garrett McQueen and Omaha-based classical station 90.7 KVNO are working to change that perspective.
“They wanted to feature something that would bring a little history, a little diversity, a little education to their airwaves. So I immediately thought about creating something at the intersection of the 13th amendment and classical music,” said McQueen.
McQueen is the producer and host of radio show The Sound of 13, which highlights the influence and contributions of Black Americans in classical music through the lens of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery.
“I think in the first episode I talk about how a European composer managed an orange plantation post-civil war, just as an example of how that culture continued beyond the ratification of the 13th amendment and even had direct connections to classical music,” said McQueen.
“We’ve been able to really look at the enormous contributions of Black composers and performers. But also what it does is it helps us to see some of the inequities happening in our world today through some of the inequities that have happened in classical music,” said Sherry Kennedy Brownrigg, the assistant general manager of KVNO.
Brownrigg said The Sound of 13 is now being aired on various public radio stations nationwide.
“We’ve gotten a lot of great comments about it. People thanking us for doing it, how they found it incredibly interesting, and one person said they had just never thought about these things before and they were so grateful that the program allowed them to think about them,” said Brownrigg.
As for McQueen, he says the show is needed now more than ever.
“We’re living in a world where the conversation of race is heightened. It’s a more principled part of the general discourse and it’s important to understand that classical music and public radio can take part in that discourse as well,” said McQueen.
The Sound of 13 will air locally on 90.7 KVNO at 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 4 p.m. Saturdays for a few more weeks.
To see more content from McQueen, visit his website.