WKAR Public Media and the College of Music at Michigan State University announced May 2 the upcoming broadcast premiere of "Music for Social Justice," a new television series exploring societal issues through music and the personal stories of the artists behind the music. The series debuts May 8 on WKAR-TV 23, the PBS station serving Michigan's capital region.
Episodes will air on WKAR HD 23.1 at 4 p.m. on Sundays with repeats at 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays beginning May 8 and continuing through June 23. Each episode will be available streaming in the free PBS Video app and at video.wkar.org beginning on its broadcast premiere date.
"Music for Social Justice" features artists as they relate the music they play to societal issues and their own lived experiences. Issues explored range from racism, policing, and internment camps, to the murders of trans women. Powerful and emotive, the series takes an expansive view of what social justice means.
The host for the series is international recording artist Damien Sneed. Sneed is a pianist, organist, composer, conductor, arranger, producer and arts educator whose work spans multiple genres.
Artists featured in the series include violinist Yvonne Lam, composer and bassist Jordyn Davis, mezzo-soprano Jane Bunnell, mezzo-soprano GeDeane Graham, pianist Derek Kealii Polischuk, jazz bassist and composer Rodney Whitaker, baritone Mark Rucker and pianist Sadie Rucker, jazz drummer Randy Gelispie with vocalist Brandon Rose, composer and intermedia artist Lyn Goeringer, baritone Jadrian Tarver, saxophonist Joe Lulloff, bass-baritone Marc Embree, and Damien Sneed. Accompanists include pianists Elden Little, Yu-Lien The, and Ya-Ju Chuang as well as jazz musicians Sam Corey and Austin Muthyala.
The television series grew out of a special digital video series created by the College of Music in 2020. Amidst the social movement that followed the murder of George Floyd in May of that year, college faculty felt the need to speak out on issues of inequality. They chose to do so through music.
“There was an honest, emotional reaction to what was going on in the country," said Rodney Whitaker, jazz bassist and composer, and director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at the college. "The artists got together and really wanted to tell these stories.”