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Black classical musicians have been composing substantial music for centuries. This February, we shined the spotlight on a score… one every weekday… of great composers with roots in Africa.We met Le Mozart Noir… the man who not only was a world-famous swordsman, but an acknowledged master of the violin bow and the composing quill, playing duets with Queen Marie Antoinette. We visited a city of Creole musical dynasties, when New Orleans was home to the finest orchestras in the new world. We rediscovered a woman tirelessly composing in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, many of whose works were likewise rediscovered: in a dilapidated downstate summer house, leading to a worldwide wave of interest in her music. And we heard a sinfonietta by a 2oth century New York composer… who himself was named after an Afro-English composer whose interest in American music made him a 19th century fan favorite in the U.S.Looking for the music? TSPR Music Director Ken Zahnle shares all the compositions he featured on Ovation on a Spotify playlist.

Classically Black Spotify Playlist


Thank You for helping make February Classically… Black!

We’ve been humbly and pleasantly honored by the enthusiastic interest listeners have had in our Classically Black project!

As a thank-you bonus, we have prepared a Spotify playlist of all the works by these composers that we featured on Ovation.

To recap for any newcomers, every weekday during the past month we shared the stories of twenty great composers with African roots, as well as playing a featured work by each of those musicians.

If you missed it, it’s not too late!

All 20 two-minute episodes are still available to hear (or read), posted on our website for another month.


Ken is Music Director for Tri States Public Radio, overseeing all music programming, hosting the morning classical music program “Ovation,” and engineering recorded performances for TSPR. Ken is from Highland Park, IL, and has degrees in music and broadcasting from Western Illinois University. Ken says listening to fine arts radio and old school classical stations from Chicago in his teenage years, coupled with a few months on a glorified tin-can telephone of a radio station in an on-campus residence hall, led to his career in radio. Ken is no stranger to radio, having worked as a student staff announcer at WIUM, news director at WKAI/WLRB/WLMD in Macomb, and Program Director at Tri States Audio Information Services. When Ken is not busy with radio and music programming he enjoys helping Macomb High’s Marching Band, playing jazz, and watching his three sons discover the big, wide world.