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Decolonizing Classical Music
Episode 122

Decolonizing Classical Music

CI to Eye with Loki Karuna

This episode is hosted by Dan Titmuss.

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In This Episode

Join us as we journey deep into the world of classical music—how we define it, how we enjoy it, and how we ensure everyone feels welcome and represented in our concert halls. This conversation is just the start of breaking down barriers to attendance and ensuring classical arts organizations connect with audiences for generations to come.
CI to Eye Interview with Loki Karuna

Classical musician, radio host, and digital content creator Loki Karuna (formerly known as Garrett McQueen) invites us to question the very definition of “classical music” and discusses how uplifting compositions by marginalized composers is essential to creating a more inclusive classical music community.

Dan Titmuss: Hello everyone and welcome back to CI to Eye. Today we’re journeying deep into the world of classical music—how we define it, how we enjoy it, and how we ensure everyone feels welcome and represented in our concert halls. Classical music has a rich and complex history, and despite recent efforts by arts organizations to diversify their classical programming, the genre is still often seen as “exclusive” or out of touch with the present day. But certain artists are challenging this narrative. Like Loki Karuna, formerly known as Garrett McQueen, whose insightful radio programs and classical commentary have sparked a revolution in the genre. Loki invites us to challenge the very definition of classical music and discusses how the act of uplifting compositions by marginalized composers is essential to creating a more inclusive classical music community. Our conversation coincides with the celebrations of Black History Month and shines a spotlight on the incredible contributions of Black and Brown composers, whose musical genius continues to enrich the classical repertoire. Everyone deserves a seat at the symphony and to see themselves reflected in the art that they love. This conversation is just the start of breaking down barriers to attendance and ensuring classical arts organizations connect with audiences for generations to come. Enjoy today’s interview—and happy Black History Month, everyone!

I am here with Loki Karuna, formerly Garrett McQueen, a classical musician, radio host, digital content creator, and thought leader whose work is rooted in the decolonization of classical music in the United States. Loki regularly speaks about the intersections of race, contemporary culture, and classical music with major arts organizations, conservatories, and universities, and we’re thrilled to have him on the podcast today. Loki, welcome to CI to Eye!

Loki Karuna: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Dan Titmuss: So you’re a classically trained bassoonist. Walk us through your journey from performing with orchestras to working in radio and digital content. How did that path evolve for you?

Loki Karuna: Sure. So when I picked up the bassoon as a middle schooler, the idea was that I could be a music teacher or maybe if I was very, very lucky perform with an orchestra. So I did a major in music education with plans to become a music teacher, but I decided that middle schoolers were not the people that I wanted to spend my days with, to say it that way. I did switch my focus into performance and was lucky enough to spend 10 years in the field as a professional bassoonist. But along those 10 years, I began to notice that the communities that really built me, the communities that I come from, looked very different than the communities that I was able to engage as a professional. So after a decade of predominantly white audiences, virtually all white concert programs, and usually being the only person of color on an orchestral stage, I decided that I wanted to make a difference and have some larger impact than simply being represented on stage.

So I decided that the best way to do that was to try and engage classical radio as a means of expanding thought around classical music. So in 2016, I unofficially retired from the stage and transitioned into radio where I began at WUOT FM in Knoxville, Tennessee. From there, I hosted radio for American Public Media in Minnesota, and since those days, since 2020, I’ve been producing media independently under the TrillWerks label to help not only decolonize classical music, but just generally expand people’s thoughts around what a classical music experience can be, especially in our context here in the United States.

Dan Titmuss: You’re a natural storyteller, so the jump to radio and podcasting makes a lot of sense for me. Can you talk a little bit about the shifts between performing in an orchestra and then performing in radio?

Loki Karuna: Yeah. One of the big shifts was actually being able to engage audiences firsthand. So as orchestral musicians, we think of ourselves as serving audiences, which orchestral musicians do to a degree. But in radio, I was really talking directly to the listener, and oftentimes the listeners would talk right back, either with praise of the difference in programming that they noticed from me, or a little doubt as far as the sustainability of what I was trying to do. But all in all, the biggest benefit, again, has been that direct contact and being able to understand in the moment what people are thinking about the work that I’m doing toward expanding classical music. So it’s been a really, really great journey so far.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, that direct feedback immediately, it just is very different to the fourth wall that’s up in an orchestra, right?

Loki Karuna: Indeed, indeed.

Dan Titmuss: And what kind of stories do you want to tell

Loki Karuna: That has shifted and evolved over the years. So when I first started in radio, one of my big goals was to help people understand that composers are living, breathing people. You don’t have to be a dead European man to be called a composer. So a lot of my programming was really centered around new music and living composers and putting forward that narrative of the composer being someone who is interacting with our world and our society today. The second part of my journey really focused on helping people understand the connections between our daily lives, politics, the social environment, and how that’s always been a core aspect of classical music, certainly on the stage, but even all the way down to the way composers thought about the way to engage writing music. And over the years, as I continue to discover more and more women composers who were historical, more and more black and brown composers from decades and centuries past, my work really shifted in centering those stories and those narratives. And what I would say today as far as the story that I would like to tell is a mix of all of those things. I do still center much of my work on supporting living composers, but certainly since 2020 and even before, I’ve fully integrated the idea of equity, DEI, diversity, those things into the way that I engage this work and the stories I tell.

Dan Titmuss: Awesome. So you started your radio career as the host of the afternoon concert for Knoxville’s WUOT. I guess also having a weekly—or was it daily?

Loki Karuna: Monday through Friday, yes.

Dan Titmuss: Monday through Friday, yeah. And having to have a concert essentially every day of the week, you must have been forced to discover so many more people, right?

Loki Karuna: Yeah, and I really see that as a great opportunity. I spent hours and hours, countless hours in the music library of that radio station, really just discovering names that I had never heard before, listening to compositions that may have even been a little challenging for me, and using that as the basis of my expanded view. So I really, really appreciate the depth of music that was available at WUOT’s music library. It’s certainly been the groundwork of what my production has looked like even since then.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. And how did the station’s listenership change once you started intentionally playing more works by women and people of color?

Loki Karuna: Yes. So in radio, we’re lucky enough to have systems to measure listenership. Most folks in that world would be familiar with Nielsen data. So when I started at that radio station, the Nielsen data had my daily listenership at a certain number, but a year later, that number had tripled. It had almost quadrupled. So the audience was really, really responding to this new approach. Not everyone loved it at first, but again, by telling stories that really connect to today’s people, just lived experiences, I was able to really convince a lot of people that listening to classical music can be completely different than what we sort of prescribe it to be and the way that it’s been in the past. So I’m very happy and very proud to have directly contributed to broader and larger listenership at that radio station.

Dan Titmuss: So you started your podcast Trilloquy back in May 2019. How did that idea come about and what was the general goal with that podcast?

Loki Karuna: Sure. So I identified that this approach to content, at least from my perspective, was largely missing from the classical music world. And if it did exist, it was built as a beginner’s guide or really helping people understand more about classical music, sort of an education approach. But I felt like what was missing was just a straight dialogue approach that touched on topics that you don’t typically connect with the concert hall and classical music. In partnership with my great friend Scott Blankenship, we decided to create the Trilloquy podcast with the name of the podcast sort of being the roots of what we wanted it to be. So this word trill, of course, it’s a music term, but it’s also a slang word that I used growing up, that many people used growing up, that basically means unapologetically honest. So if I’m going to keep it trill with you, I’m not going to pull any punches.

I’m going to say everything that needs to be said. So pairing that word with the idea of colloquy or soliloquy. Again, this dialogue. We feature interviews that really exist on the fringes of so-called classical music, and pair world topics with this genre of music in a way that we hadn’t yet recognized. Social justice, understanding racial politics and societal politics, contemporary culture… those things have long been separated from the idea of classical music. There’s been this idea of classical music being an oasis, being this opportunity to escape the noise and to be free of all of those things. The Trilloquy podcast is there to really bridge those worlds together, helping people understand the point that music has never been separated from its societal context, and that we have a responsibility to maintain that tradition and to do it through dialogue.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, it’s nice to have a kind of conversational aspect to interviews as well. It’s really nice to listen to. So Trilloquy is just one of your many projects, in addition to TrillWerks Media, which is the engine behind nationally syndicated public radio programs. What sort of programs have you produced under the TrillWerks umbrella?

Loki Karuna: Sure. So the very first nationally syndicated project that I did under the TrillWerks umbrella was called “The Sound of 13.” So the big point was to help people understand that the perpetuation of slavery on the defacto level, Jim Crow, Black Codes, all of these discriminatory things that are a part of the lifeblood of the United States, how those have a direct connection to much of the classical music that was being composed and performed in the United States at that time. Other projects produced under the TrillWerks Media umbrella include Gateways Radio, which is a radio series highlighting the all-Black Gateways Festival Orchestra based in Rochester, New York. And the latest project is one called Noteworthy, which are a series of two-minute modules that highlight a composer or an idea in classical music that help broaden people’s perspective on the genre in little bite-sized capsules.

Dan Titmuss: Awesome. And in addition to TrillWerks, you’re also the Director of Artist Equity for the American Composers Orchestra. What’s the mission of the ACO and what drew you to that position?

Loki Karuna: Yeah, so what drew me to the position was the president and CEO. She was very familiar with my work. Her goal was to cultivate a staff and a community that really wanted to engage this idea of American classical music as something that’s as different as Indian classical music, or classical music as defined by the African continent, or East Asia, all these different parts of the world. So when I joined the team, my goal was to be a part of that mission of reinvigorating the orchestral experience and really contextualizing it within the Americas. So in my work with the American Composers Orchestra, I lead composer advancement where I build programs that get composers performed by our own orchestra in New York City and also by orchestras across the United States and across the Americas. And as I’ve moved forward in the work, we have been able to identify partners who really believe in the power of addressing gender equity in the field, racial equity in the field, and we’re really expanding what it means not only to be an American orchestra, but to be an audience member of an orchestra across the Americas.

Dan Titmuss: And you touched on the idea of decolonizing music, and we spoke earlier about the very way we define classical music making a big impact. Could you say more about that?

Loki Karuna: Yeah. So there are books and books and books written on that question of what is classical music? The way that I engage that question is thinking about classical music as connecting to culture, as connecting to community and connecting to history. So let’s go to Mozart. In his time, he was writing music that was rooted in a culture and a history. That is something that I would consider classical music, and most of the world considers classical music, but we also have to consider the thousands-year-old traditions of China, for example. The music that they have been creating for eons is rooted in culture, rooted in community, and is foundational to who those people are. So that is also something that I consider classical. I think we can make the same argument from many places around the world. I’ve already mentioned Indian classical. I once taught music in the Caribbean where that word classical was more often than not connected to aesthetics like reggae and calypso.

So what does that mean here in United States? For me, I think if we look at the history of this part of the world, with the exception of musical traditions codified by indigenous peoples, we have to recognize that really the only music that was uniquely created on American soil was the music of the enslaved people. Field hollers, spirituals, and those sorts of things. So when we look at the ways in which that musical tradition evolved over the generations, we have things like jazz and blues and gospel, country, bluegrass, even R&B and hip hop. So in my seemingly to some radical perspective, this idea of classical music has to be applied to that tradition as well. So in much of my media, people will hear me using the phrase “so-called classical music,” which of course refers to this idea of classical music as broadly understood by the masses, with the ultimate goal of us using that word classical and that phrase “classical music” in a way to describe all musics that are connected with lived experience, culture, and history, with the United States having a unique contribution to that idea just as other parts of the world do.

Dan Titmuss: It reminds me a little bit of the concept of classical cooking, because classical cooking is often shown as classical French cooking. That’s what classical cooking means. To properly show you being an amazing chef, you make a perfect French omelet, or like an amazingly whipped Hollandaise. I’m a food dork, in case that wasn’t clear. But that’s only one aspect of cooking. And so it’s just because of this European-centric idea of classical cooking that we think of that as classical cooking.

Loki Karuna: That’s absolutely right, and I love that food analogy because what I think about… If I’m ever lucky enough to, let’s say, go to some Polynesian island and someone—I am a vegan, but maybe if I made it all the way to that part of the world, I would show a little gratitude and maybe have some fish. If someone buried a fish and the coals are underground and whatever the techniques are, that is something that I would consider a classic dish or classical cooking. It’s just, as you’ve already mentioned, outside of the frameworks of Euro-centricity that we often exist in. I think the same can be argued with the way we dress, the way we live. Of course, the way we speak. There can’t be a norm because the world is just too diverse and too broad to assign words like classic or classical to any specific culture. So while I primarily apply that frame of thinking to music, I certainly think that it could apply to many, many, many other fields as well.

Dan Titmuss: You’ve been called a classical music agitator in the press. Can you talk a bit about that name and how you feel about that label?

Loki Karuna: Sure. So as I continued my work in radio, and this was in Minnesota, my programming was really shocking to a lot of people. It was composers that they had never heard, of course, but it was also a proximity between the world around us and the programming. I’ll give you a quick example. Back in the days when we were talking about Russian collusion in politics, I identified that that conversation directly relates to our own classical music culture. If you go to any Independence Day celebration in the United States, eight times out of ten, you’re going to hear the 1812 Overture of Tchaikovsky. So if even just in jest, I always loved connecting politics, again, just social awareness to the programming, and that really shocked a lot of people, and it was something that was seen as agitating the status quo. So a journalist in Minneapolis named Jenna Ross did a profile of me and when the article was published, in big bold letters, the title of the article was “Classical Agitator.” So that’s when that sort of status of mine was born based on the programming I was doing on the radio, but certainly not to leave out the other aspects of my work, including the Trilloquy podcast.

Dan Titmuss: I remember talking to you about programming earlier when we were doing our prep call, and we were talking about, we often fall back on the idea of artistic meritocracy. “I don’t care who the artist is, as long as it’s good art.” Do you think separating the art from the artist supports or undermines equitable programming?

Loki Karuna: Well, there are two things there. So first and foremost, art is subjective. There’s no way to really measure excellence or if something is good or bad in that way. And I think that we have to really always keep that in mind because our classical traditions have done a really great job of trying to teach us this idea of there being some music that’s better than others, some that’s more complex, some that’s… fill in the blank. So I think that’s the first thing to acknowledge. Always remembering that systems of objectivity are really false when it comes to the arts and certainly when it comes to music. But regarding this art versus artist, and the equity sphere, there’s always music to be discovered. There’s always a living composer to celebrate. There’s always a historical composer from a marginalized group to celebrate whose name isn’t as famous as some of the others. So when it comes to separating art from artists, I definitely am able to engage that conversation depending on the artist. But for the most part, I always think that there’s far too much music out there for us to be bending over backwards making excuses for composers who obviously wouldn’t be able to fit within the social norms of today’s society.

Dan Titmuss: Many arts organizations are continuing to recover after the financial effects of the pandemic. Have you noticed these revenue concerns impacting the push for equitable programming?

Loki Karuna: Definitely. I think there are many examples to look at. For example, the Metropolitan Opera has been in the news for tapping into its endowment to fund new works and to commission new operas. I think following the level of social awareness that we all experienced in 2020 and following, arts organizations have recognized that they too have to be a part of this conversation. For some organizations, it’s really been a challenge to tap into those audiences and those communities that have been historically marginalized by those institutions. So that’s a conversation that definitely connects to revenue. But largely what I have seen from many institutions is a push to really change programming, to change approach, to engage community in a different way, all toward helping their bottom line. Of course, there’s a conversation there. If the goal is only the bottom line, there’s more work to be done because there has to be that rapport building. There has to be a building of those relationships that have been built with certain communities for generations that haven’t been built with others. So the financial implications are definitely there, and implications that institutions are responding to in different ways. But I like for my focus to really be on the rapport building, the community building, and how that can be facilitated through a different approach to programming.

Dan Titmuss: It felt like the answer was that a lot of organizations are doing more to have equitable programming, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s financially responsible to have a bigger audience. Do you think that is a big part of this?

Loki Karuna: I think what has to be identified is the degree to which these broader audiences have been marginalized. So let’s think about, we will go back to the Metropolitan Opera. They’ve been around for over a hundred years, and in 2021, they staged an opera by a black composer for the very first time. So that means for over a hundred years, a certain audience was being centered, a certain audience was being nurtured and cultivated, while others were not. I’m bringing that up because as we go through these shifts, we have to understand that this is not an overnight issue. It’s not a few years issue. It’s a generational-long issue that has to be engaged. So my expectation is for many arts institutions to dip in funding a little bit, for their financial models to take a little bit of a hit, because again, this is a generations-long issue.

We also have to face the fact that you don’t need an orchestra to create orchestral music in the 21st century, and with the emergence of AI, you may not even need a composer to create an orchestral score. So with all of these variables at play, I think finances are just one of them. And if an arts institution has to really rely on the relationship between programming and their bottom line, I don’t see that as an arts institution that will survive another generation to really see the changes that so many people like me are working to put in place. If an arts institution has room to scrape a couple of knees proverbially, to get a couple of bumps and bruises, and to survive those, I think those are the arts institutions that have a chance of participating in this ecosystem in the future.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, I was wondering if you could talk a bit more about that different approach in community building and engaging the community. The difference between having a conversation and just coming in and saying, “This is the art that we are presenting.”

Loki Karuna: Right. So I guess in a nutshell, the traditional model is the arts institution determines what should be developed, what should be created, and it happens in that way. I think a more updated scheme that I’m seeing more and more is community members and stakeholders being a part of the development process, being actually in dialogue as ideas are being cultivated, and applying those dialogues to the finished outcome. Look, I’ll give a specific example. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team with the Minnesota Orchestra when they commissioned a new work in response to the murder of George Floyd, which happened not far from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. So a more traditional way of engaging a project like that would have been for the Minnesota Orchestra to select a composer, tell them what they want from them, and then to move forward from there. But instead, what happened was there were community conversations.

Many people who the orchestra saw as stakeholders in the community, including myself, were all brought to the table to talk about what this project, what this collaboration should really mean, what should the orchestra’s response really be, and how can that engage broader communities in a way that’s actually equitable: an approach that looks at equal outcomes instead of equal opportunity. So through those dialogues, we were able to identify a composer and a librettist for a new work that was titled Breath, that actually premiered in 2023. It’s since been commercially recorded and serves as a really beautiful artifact, in my opinion, on how arts organizations can respond to the world in a greater way.

Dan Titmuss: For people who might work in other genres like museums and theaters, what are some questions that can help guide this process of decolonization?

Loki Karuna: Yeah, one of the big questions that I would invite people to ask is, who are we serving? So let’s take a museum, for example. If a museum dedicates its entire space to, let’s say, African art, that is one step. But how are you promoting this shift? Who are you reaching out to? Who are your patrons? So I would invite people to really honestly ask themselves, who are we serving? And once that question is answered and identified in an honest way, what follows is doing the work to really fix the problems that are there or to enhance the successes that are there. So I think across the board, that is what I would ask people to really think about. Who are you serving and how can you serve a broader audience or serve the audience that you believe that you want to serve? And think about who you’re engaging in your everyday life. We talk a lot about wanting to diversify our spaces. Well, what spaces do you already engage that are diverse? Is it the grocery store? Is it your local sports team? Is your place of worship a diverse space? Are the spaces in which you take in culture—are those spaces diverse? Think about how this conversation applies to your very own personal life, your everyday lived experience, and see how you can make changes in your life that you can apply to your environment and your institution.

Dan Titmuss: What’s been the biggest challenge for you in doing this work, and what’s been the biggest win?

Loki Karuna: The biggest win for me is seeing a normalization of this idea of classical music as we’ve been taught being the result of white supremacist conditioning or Euro-centric conditioning. So more and more I’m seeing in news articles the phrase “Western classical music.” I’ve even seen people use the phrase that I use, “so-called classical music.” So I definitely see that as a huge win. I definitely see the tide shifting when it comes to the way people program. Orchestras are playing… not enough women and black and brown composers, in my opinion, but certainly far more than they were 15, 10, even five years ago. So I think systemically and societally, I’m seeing the positive impacts, but the continued challenge is helping people who have been used to a certain thing open their eyes to something new. If you go to any given orchestra concert in the United States today, the audiences, for better or for worse, are going to be representative of what it’s always represented. An older crowd, usually a predominantly white crowd. So the biggest challenge has been having the patience to see the tide shift slowly, but I can definitely say that the tides have shifted. So in that challenge, I also do see a benefit.

Dan Titmuss: I love that even when you’re talking about the challenge, the challenge was you’re helping people experience more things, right? It’s always a positive direction.

Loki Karuna: Exactly. It’s not about someone being right or someone being wrong. It’s about all of us expanding our perspectives on the world around us and applying that how we can. I apply it through my work in orchestral and so-called classical music.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. Looking five or 10 years down the line, what’s your hope for the future of classical music—so-called classical music—and the audiences who feel welcome in that space?

Loki Karuna: Yeah. So in the coming decade, I hope to see people completely dismantle what they believe belongs in a so-called classical space. So when we talk about opera, there’s so many different ways to engage opera for broader audiences that include the integration of, I don’t know, we’re already seeing some jazz in opera, but what would it look like if operas fully embraced things like hip-hop or country music? Bluegrass music? Same for the orchestral stage. So I would love to see the classical industry really embrace more of the world so that we aren’t centering any part of the musical histories of global societies, but we’re really celebrating the diversity of what we have created as human beings, musically.

Dan Titmuss: What do you view as the throughline for your career? Do you have an overarching mission?

Loki Karuna: Yeah, my overarching mission and calling—well, I’ll name two. So professionally, it’s really liberation of the arts, decolonization of the arts, making sure that we’re not just opening the door wider, but we’re really tearing down the door so that anyone who wants to participate in this art form can participate in the art form in a way that they are comfortable and in a way that is genuine to their lived experiences and everything that they want to pull forward. So professionally, what I often say is that my center pin is anti-racism and liberation, really helping people see what we need to do to really create a free artistic society in the United States and around the world. But even more broad than that, if I step back from the painting a little bit more, when everyone is doing that type of work in their specific realms, whether it’s the culinary arts, as we’ve been talking about, education, I don’t know, architecture, travel, when everyone is really dismantling white supremacist systems where they are, we’ll create a world where we’re understanding one another better.

We’re able to communicate and collaborate, and it’ll be this idea of world peace, if you will, or what my religious organization refers to as “kosen rufu.” So as a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, I chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” as a means of inspiring more thought around person-to-person interaction and that peace as it could exist in our world today. So the work that I do with music is certainly a piece of that puzzle, but I continue to chant and have faith in my fellow human beings that we are all doing the work where we are, so that this beautiful pastiche that includes the work of equity and classical music can be celebrated as it manifests in all communities, all professional fields, and everything in between.

Dan Titmuss: Loki, if people want to learn more about your work, where can they find you?

Loki Karuna: One-stop shop is my website, Loki Kauna, L-O-K-I-K-A-R-U-N-A, dot com. You can learn more about me, you can find a link to the TrillWerks website, links to the Trilloquy podcast, and everything in between. You can also reach out to me on that website if you so choose.

Dan Titmuss: Awesome. I’ve loved this interview, so thank you so much for joining us on the CI to Eye podcast.

Loki Karuna: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Dan Titmuss: Thank you for listening to CI to Eye. This episode was edited and produced by Karen McConarty and co-written by Karen McConarty and myself, Dan Titmuss. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all work together to create CI’s digital content. Our music is by whoisuzo. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please take a moment to rate us or leave a review. A nice comment goes a long way in helping other people discover CI to Eye and hear from experts in the arts and beyond. If you didn’t enjoy today’s episode, pass it on to all of your enemies. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube for regular content to help you market smarter. You can also sign up for our newsletter at capacity interactive dot com so you never miss an update. And if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay nerdy.

About Our Guests
Loki Karuna
Loki Karuna

A proud native of Memphis, TN, Loki Karuna (formerly Garrett McQueen) is a bassoonist who has performed with ensembles including the South Arkansas Symphony, Jackson Symphony, American Youth Symphony, Memphis Repertory Orchestra, the Eroica Ensemble, and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Southeast Symphony, the Artosphere and Gateways Festival Orchestras, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Loki has been featured as both a performer and host on “Performance Today” and “Music Through the Night” from American Public Media, and has appeared in a wide array of television programs, including Oxygen’s “Snapped: Killer Couples”, TV One’s “Fatal Attraction”, and Fox’s “Glee”.

In addition to remaining active in performance spaces, Loki is the host and producer of local and nationally-syndicated radio programs including “The Sound of 13”, “Noteworthy”, “Gateways Radio”, and “The Sounds of Kwanzaa”. Away from the airwaves, Loki offers guest lectures, presentations, and trainings at the intersections of race, culture, Black liberation, and classical music, with past collaborators including the Gateways Music Festival, the Sphinx Organization, the Kennedy Center, the Apollo Theater, Black Music Experience, the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, New Music Gathering, and the MacPhail Center for Music. In the press, Loki has been noted as not only a “classical agitator”, but also “a Black talent in public media that you may not know, but should”. In 2021, the New York Times noted his weekly podcast, TRILLOQUY, as a standout and one that is “required listening for industry leaders and listeners alike.”

Loki holds a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon Performance from the University of Memphis, where he studied with Lecolion Washington, and a Master of Music in Bassoon Performance from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Judith Farmer. Alongside working as a performer, the Executive Producer and co-host of the TRILLOQUY podcast and President of TrillWerks Media, Loki is the Director of Artist Equity for the American Composers Orchestra. He serves on the board of directors for the American Composers Forum, the Beethoven Festival Orchestra, Lyrica Baroque, and the Cedar Cultural Center, and maintains leadership and artistic advisory positions with the Black Opera Alliance, the Gateways Music Festival, and the Lakes Area Music Festival.

Loki is a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, supporting the Bridgeview district of Soka Gakkai International, and spends his free time studying Eastern philosophy, eating plant-based cuisine, and enjoying life with his partner, Dell.

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In today’s episode, we take a close look at celebrated works from the classical Western canon that include harmful portrayals of non-Western cultures, and hear how one artist is taking action to prune and preserve the art he loves.

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