Sweet Honey in the Rock

“Sweet Honey in the Rock live at Ravinia” by singitonline (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/3QECiR

African-American Vocal Ensemble • Formed 1973 • Gospel, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Folk, Rhythm & Blues

Fast Facts

  • Bernice Johnson Reagon started this acapella group in 1973 in Washington, DC. 
  • Current ensemble members include Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil, Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard, and Romeir Mendez. 
  • Carol Maillard and Lousie Robinson are original founding members of Sweet Honey in the Rock, and perform with the group currently. 
  • Primarily an acapella ensemble, in later years acoustic/electric bass player Romeir Mendez joined the ensemble.
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock has an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter for performances:  Barbara Hunt. 
  • The group has performed at venues such as the Lincoln Center, the National Cathedral, the White House, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts, and has traveled to many countries. 
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock has won two Grammys.
  • This ensemble has released 24 albums during its 50 year career. 

Joseph Bologne

French Violinist, Composer and Conductor • Born December 25, 1745, Bailiff, Guadeloupe • Died June 10, 1799, Paris, France • European Classical

Fast Facts

  • Saint-Georges was of mixed race; his father was a Noble French plantation owner in Guadeloupe, and his mother was enslaved, a Senegalese from Africa.  
  • When Saint-Georges was 10 years old, his family moved from Guadeloupe to Paris, France. There Saint-Georges was given the finest schooling in academics, music and sports.  
  • Saint-Georges was an exceptional athlete: a runner, skater, dancer, marksman, horseman and swimmer and he gained fame all over Europe as a fencing master.  
  • Saint-Georges was a violin virtuoso, composer and conductor and was considered one of the most talented musicians of his time. He was the first composer of African heritage to write “classical” music.  
  • Saint-Georges wrote more than 236 pieces including eight operas, ten violin concertos, and 115 other songs; his works had a big impact on the music of his day. 
  • In France, he was given many opportunities as the son of a nobleman but also faced discrimination in his conducting career because he was bi-racial.
  • Saint-Georges’ unique style of writing using the French Symphonie Concertante, which features two or three soloists contrasting with full orchestra, is said to have influenced Mozart after his visit to Paris in 1778.  
  • Saint-George interacted with many important people of his day including royalty, composers and noblemen. Several composers had such a high regard for him that they wrote songs for him or dedicated their pieces to him.
  • Later in life, Saint-Georges became commander of a colored regiment in the French Revolution and led many battles. 
  • Saint-Georges died due to complications of a kidney condition.

The Wailin’ Jennys

“The Wailin’ Jennies” by seniwati is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. 

Members: Heather Masse, Nicky Mehta, and Ruth Moody • Canadian Band • Year formed: 2002 • Folk/Bluegrass

Fast Facts

  • Based in Winnipeg, Canada
  • Although they’re known as a Canadian-based band, only Nicky Mehta was born there. Heather Masse is American and Ruth Moody was born in Australia and moved to Canada at eight months old
  • Group’s name is a pun on the name of country singer Waylon Jennings, although Jennings never influenced the group; someone else actually gave them the name!
  • All three contribute to the writing of their songs
  • In addition to their successful band career, each is also an accomplished solo artist 
  • They perform a cappella and with instruments; collectively, they play acoustic guitar, accordion, banjo, bodhran (Irish drum), ukulele, upright bass, and piano
  • The group became increasingly famous through their appearances on Garrison Keiler’s Prairie Home Companion radio program
  • The Wailin’ Jennys have won awards for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year, and several songs have topped the Billboard Bluegrass Charts

“I feel as strongly about the importance of music and the arts, as well as music and arts education, as just about anything. My mom is an amazing music teacher and so [my family] grew up with her [educational] influence and I think she probably is my greatest influence.”

–Ruth Moody

Susana Baca

“Susana Baca – WOMAD 2006” by flykr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Afro-Peruvian Singer • Born May 24, 1944 • Afro-Peruvian Folk Music

Fast Facts

  • Susana Baca is a well-known Afro-Peruvian singer-songwriter.
  • She is a two-time Latin Grammy Award winner.
  • In July 2011, Baca was named Minister of Culture in Peru, making her the second Afro-Peruvian member of the President’s cabinet and the first musician to hold the position.
  • She began gaining popularity around the world after her recording of “Maria Lando” was included on David Byrne’s album The Soul of Black Peru in 1995.
  • Baca features instruments in her band that are indigenous to Peru, such as the cajón, checo, and quijada.
  • While she is an exponent of Afro-Peruvian folk music, she also incorporates elements of Brazilian and Cuban music into her work.
  • The lyrics to some of Baca’s songs are written by some of Peru’s most celebrated poets.
  • Baca and her husband are the founders of the Instituto Negrocontinuo whose mission is to preserve Black music and dance.
  • She always performs barefoot, saying that is how she feels free.
  • Much of Baca’s work has been traveling to Afro-Peruvian communities to record their centuries-old songs and folklore that would otherwise be lost.

Joe Hisaishi

citykane, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese Composer • Born December 6th, 1950 • Film Score, Classical, Romantic, Minimalism

Fast Facts

  • Born in Nakano, Nagano prefecture Japan.
  • Professionally known as Joe Hisaishi, his birth name is Mamoru Fujisawa.
  • His professional name was inspired by African American Play writer Quincy Jones. 
  • He has composed over 100 film scores for Studio Ghibli
  • He began studying the violin at the age of five. 
  • His first film score was created in 1983, and released with 1984 Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Georgia Sea Island Singers

Bessie Jones of the Georgia Sea Island Singers
Washington Area Spark, Bessie Jones at the first mass antiwar march on D.C.: 1965, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Gullah Vocal Ensemble • Active from early 1900s to present day • American Folk Music

Fast Facts

  • The Georgia Sea Island Singers formed in the early 1900s.  
  • There have been many members over time and there is a current generation of singers still performing today.
  • They keep their Gullah heritage alive by performing all over the world.
  • They were originally formed to share the songs, ring shout dance, stories, and games of their enslaved ancestors.
  • Amateur folklorist Lydia Parrish began a collection of the songs in the book Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands.
  • Members have included the legendary gospel folk singer, Bessie Jones, Joe Armstrong, and Doug Quimby.

Tino Contreras

Miramontess, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Mexican Composer, Pianist, Trumpeter, Vocalist, and Drummer • April 3, 1924 – September 9, 2021 • Jazz

Fast Facts

  • Tino Contreras was born in Chihuahua, Mexico.
  • He lived to be 97 years old – died in 2021.
  • Plays several instruments – drums, piano, voice, and trumpet.
  • Started his first band, Los Cadetes del Swing, with his brother when he was only 15 years old.
  • Founded one of Mexico’s first jazz clubs called El Regus.
  • He released 59 albums throughout his career.
  • He was influenced by music from all around the world with one of his primary influences being India and South Africa.
  • He won a National Festival of Jazz award 8 years in a row (1959-1966).

BTS Bangtan Boys

Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

South Korean K-Pop Boy Band • Formed 2010 • K-Pop

Fast Facts

  • BTS’s name in Korean literally means “bulletproof boy scouts.”
  • BTS is a septet, which means they have seven members.
  • BTS practiced together for three years before performing.
  • A record label held auditions to start BTS.
  • When they formed, the youngest member was 13.
  • BTS has recordings in Korean, Japanese, and English.
  • They write and produce most of their own music.
  • BTS joined forces with UNICEF to raise money for violence prevention against children and teens: Love Myself campaign and #ENDviolence.
  • BTS is the first musical group to have six No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 since The Beatles.
  • BTS has their own emoji on Twitter.

Christine Sun Kim

Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Korean-American Sound Artist/Composer • Born on October 14, 1980 • Sound Art, Contemporary Music

Fast Facts

  • Originally from Orange County, California
  • Parents of Korean descent
  • She has been profoundly deaf since birth
  • Both parents are hearing, and she has a deaf sister.
  • She attended University High School, Irvine, CA
  • Graduated with BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from University of Rochester in 2002 
  • Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art from School of Visual Arts in New York
  • Master of Fine Arts in Sound and Music from Bard College
  • She delivered a TEDTalk at the TED Fellows Retreat 2015 entitled “The Enchanting Music of Sign Language”
  • Exhibited at MOMA, held residencies at The Whitney Museum and MIT Media Lab
  • Lives between NYC, NY and Berlin, Germany
  • Performed the National Anthem alongside Demi Lovado at the 2020 SuperBowl


Ninara from Helsinki, Finland, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuvan Throat Singers and Traditional Acoustic EnsembleGroup formed in 1992Tuvan Folk Music; Throat Singing

Fast Facts

  • Huun-Huur-Tu is a group of 4 musicians that formed in 1992. 
  • The group is from the Republic of Tuva, a remote indigenous region that sits on the border of Russia and Mongolia. 
  • Two of the current members of this ensemble were founding members and have been with the group for its entire lifetime, while others have come and gone over time. 
  • One of the most interesting and striking sounds of Huun-Huur-Tu is the use of Tuvan throat singing, where one singer produces multiple pitches with their voice. 
  • In Tuvan, Huun-Huur-Tu means “sun beams” or “sun”. 
  • Members of the band refer to their name as the natural phenomenon of the sun peeking through trees or clouds. 
  • Huun-Huur-Tu takes pride in making their music have lots of natural sounds to remind the listener of the world around them. 
  • Huun-Huur-Tu is passionate about collaborating with lots of different musicians of different styles to contrast and complement their traditional sound.