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Announcing: “Alternating Currents” Commissioning Project

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the financial difficulties many freelance composers and performers are facing, we are happy to announce the Tesla Quartet “Alternating Currents” commissioning project. We have selected 12 freelance composers whose work has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic to write short works for string quartet, and we will record these new compositions and premiere them on our social media channels under our “Quarantunes” video series. The Tesla Quartet is delighted to be partnering with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music to grant $500 to each composer. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of New Music USA and the New Music USA Solidarity Fund in helping to identify composers-in-need.

  • Eliza Bagg – Los Angeles, CA
  • Kevin Day – Arlington, TX
  • Adeliia Faizullina – Los Angeles, CA
  • Beatrice Ferreira – Montreal, QC
  • Gilbert Galindo – Queens, NY
  • Grey Grant – Ann Arbor, MI
  • Clifton Ingram – Boston, MA
  • Bonnie Lander – Baltimore, MD
  • Adam Maalouf – Brooklyn, NY
  • Leyna Marika Papach – St. Paul, MN
  • Kalia Vandever – Brooklyn, NY
  • Kerwin Young – Fairburn, GA

In the spirit of togetherness and collaboration, each composer has been asked to create an original work of one to three minutes based on the Andante cantabile movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet in A major, Op. 18 No. 5. Composers are encouraged to use the theme or any of the movement’s variations as inspiration for their own works. This new set of variations will ultimately become a new complete work that we will be able to perform alongside Beethoven’s original music. It’s the Tesla Quartet’s own little 250th birthday present.

Because of social distancing precautions, the quartet will record their parts in isolation and edit the video together to create the complete work. The composers are also encouraged to embrace the technological constraints of live video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Skype to design works that specifically take advantage of issues of latency. The Tesla Quartet will premiere the first new quartet in mid-June. A complete schedule of release dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Tesla Quartet’s “Alternating Currents” commissions are supported by the Tesla Quartet in partnership with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, and support from private donors. Special thanks to New Music USA, the New Music USA Solidarity Fund, and the GLFCAM for nominating these composers.

Be sure to follow our social media channels to stay current on all the project updates and composer features. We can’t wait to share this brand new music with you!

As always, stay safe and wash your hands.

Ross, Michelle, Edwin and Serafim


18 MAY 2020

KY New Web Logo A

Namhiya Ati: Kerwin, once again it is a pleasure to interview you. Given the fact we’ve always conducted our interviews online, the current COVID-19 pandemic with its restrictions has not affected our ability to communicate. I thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with the EOK Times

I’m sure this is a constant question, but how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your lifestyle? And, by what methods have you managed to continue working?

Kerwin Young: No need to thank me Namhiya, I’m always available for the EOK Times. For starters, being a composer and recording producer, much of my existence is in isolation. Since I began in 1988, nothing much has changed. It’s definitely been a lifestyle in perpetuity; so when the regulations were put in place, I didn’t have to make any adjustments. The only difference is when I go out shopping, I wear a mask and gloves. But, other than that, my lifestyle hasn’t changed at all.

As for work, all of my concert performances were cancelled and rescheduled for later dates. All of my commissions were postponed, and I had a couple of major ones in the pipeline that I now have to wait for. Orchestra and chamber ensemble concert seasons have all been pushed back to 2021/2022. This now means that I also have a delayed income; since certain expected 2020 commissions will not materialize for another twelve months. As a result, this pandemic has put a dent in my financial planning; as with many other earthlings during this time. We’re all affected. Though on a positive note, I’ve been able to teach online as a guest lecturer with college universities. In June 2020, I begin my second summer teaching the Hip-Hop beat-making lab with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I’m definitely looking forward to that. Of course, that too will be an on-line course.

Other than these few things, I’m still composing my Symphony No. 8 “End of Reign”, and I’m continuing to collaborate on various projects. For example, I’m producing a rap album with an artist named Khasan. He and I have been working on and off together since 1992. A few years ago, we did a song for the motion picture Dirty Grandpa, called I Want It All. I’ve got a recent commission from ROCO for a fall concert. That’s about it. Whatever future work I acquire, I’d be truly thankful. 

I’ve been spending hours on Zoom and YouTube, getting deeper into my software applications (Digital Performer, Cubase, Dorico). Both MOTU and Steinberg have been offering free online tutorials three times a week; so I’ve been soaking it up. One major issue that I’m having is I desperately need a new laptop to continue working. I’m unable to continue with my current laptop, and I don’t see it surviving through the summer. I can’t afford to purchase a new one, and I specifically need a gaming laptop with a minimum of 32 gigs of ram, and with a one terabyte ssd, like the ASUS Zephrys S17 (2020 edition) or the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581. I need this to happen before the start of my first class lecture on June 22nd. Wish me well. I’m always working with less; most of the time…

NA Congratulations on your ROCO commission and teaching assignments. Yes, we are all thankful for whatever work we acquire. I know that you live in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Have you been able to engage the film/television and gaming industries there? Have you been in touch with universities there for online teaching?

KY: I’ll answer your second question, first. When the pandemic hit, I contacted the staff at Kennesaw State, Georgia State, Emory University, Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse, and Spelman Colleges. I mentioned six schools, correct? (Kerwin chuckles) Not one of these schools responded; not one. Major universities and conservatories in other states; however, responded immediately, but here at home… forget about it.

As for media scoring in Atlanta, it’s been an-going quest. Still, one hundred per cent of my work comes from outside Georgia and abroad. However, opportunities that did arise here in Georgia, they were all inadequately funded, and/or presented some reluctance to pay the black guy on the gig; ie: me. I have to deal with a lot of racism and ignorance. Look, there aren’t many black composers. We don’t have any representation, and most black composers are unsupportive of one another. At the end of the day, we get nowhere. You touched on a nerve Namhiya. Though there are successful black composers as Dara Taylor, Segun Akinola, Wilbert Roget II, Michael Abels, Tamar-Kali, Kurt Farquhar, and Kris Bowers, there isn’t any hub for us to convene and learn from one another. Michael Abels founded the Composers Diversity Collective, but it requires a fee to join; when some months ago it was free. Given the current circumstances, many of us cannot pay to join anything. We have to pay for food, water, and shelter. Twenty-four years ago, the Black Filmmaker Foundation supported me at starting up a sister-wing called the Black Film Composers Foundation if I could get two or three established black composers to sit on the governing board. I won’t mention the composers I contacted, but each of them refused. That was in 1996, and still nothing has changed. You see where we are today, still nowhere. 

I think of Wil Vodery, the first black composer in Hollywood. He worked really hard, did a lot; mentored George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, but where is his lineage? Henry Mancini vouched for Quincy Jones to get Quincy in on the action, and Quincy recommended Donny Hathaway; but who else has come from Quincy’s lineage? Where are they and who are they? What about J.J. Johnson, Oliver Nelson, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and Benny Golson? Each of these men paid enormous dues, but were very successful. Who did they open the door for, and where is that lineage, if any? The question must still be asked, who came from these lineages? I’m not criticizing anyone, nor the actions of those who came before, but the lines remain broken. We have failed to put a system in place that serves to represent and unify us. Getting on as an orchestrator or copyist is just as difficult as getting on as a composer. I’ve joined all the major organizations; including the L.A. local, maintaining membership fees and dues, and I put in the leg work for a lot of years. But, none of this made a difference. Queries go unanswered. The dissemination of information is selective. To add to the pot, promises are never kept. A lot of people who know me, they don’t realize that I’ve composed music for major films, major television network series, and video games. What they also don’t know is that I was never credited. Being denied an agent before beginning the work is tough, but being denied an agent after the work has been acquired is a lot worse; and in my case, 25+ years later is even tougher. You have no idea the sacrifices I made and continue to make so that I can keep busy and afford the means to sustain myself.  It’s not easy, and no one gives a shit. 

I find that success in any field, I don’t care what field it is; success comes from a form of nepotism. It’s about who you know. Having an agent, a lawyer, an inside connection is all nepotism. I’ve been told by certain established composers that this isn’t true, but they’re delusional. You’re lucky if your talent lands you work; which for most people isn’t the case. It’s a daily battle. How to get inside and have work is a constant fight. This is the flavor of the game. So, living in Atlanta; where there are lots of film and game production studios, much of the music they acquire is either from a  library, or they hired a composer who does not live in Georgia. Although the films and games are produced in Georgia, the music is outsourced. And, not being represented by one of the agents who negotiates these type of deals will leave the job-seeking composer out on their ass. 

NA: This is certainly a handful of truth and insight to swallow at once. Throughout your career, you’ve demonstrated an enormous sense of perseverance and fortitude; and I gather these are attributed to your martial arts background?

KY: True indeed! Without my martial arts training, there’s no telling what would have become of me. My martial arts training includes the spiritual aspect as well. In both music and martial arts, I’ve been blessed to work and study with the masters. It’s been rewarding in that sense, and so far, I’ve able to through the toughest of times.

NA: Has this global pandemic forced you in any way to restructure your business or to revise your business strategy?

KY: It most certainly has, Namhiya. Because of fear, there will definitely be a decrease in social gathering. Virtual communication will continue to increase and allow for a greater amount of virtual collaboration. In either situation, we can still work, but it requires this type of foresight to know in what way one’s business can expand in the midst of such dynamics. The downside is that certain laws have already been implemented to pay unsustainable royalties for on-line streaming. However, depending upon which medium one is engaged, the royalty rate can be much higher. There’s online teaching as we’ve mentioned earlier, and that offers an added option toward re-structuring my business. Instead of teaching on a seasonal basis, it would be wonderful to teach full-time. However, rejection letters from university review boards are frequent, and the common lay-person has no idea how frustrating this becomes over time. The amount of rejection letters I receive is overwhelming, and a bit ridiculous. 

I think the idea of online concerts presents a problem for composers. Composers will not earn as much from the streaming of a concert performance as they will from a concert performed in a live venue. Going back to the laws that have been passed, the royalty rate is much higher from venues than from streaming services. Another point to mention is that composer commissions for new works will have to increase in the amount paid. In fact, I urge that composers demand higher commissions. So, these are some of the things I’ve looked into during this time.

NA: Not having any solidarity among black composers poses a problem, but among the whole of composers, I’m sure there is a circle of composers in which you engage. You’ve recently composed a work, Eva’s Ashes, as part of the GLFCAMGigThruCOVID in an effort to raise monies for performing artists. You collaborated with violist, Edwin Kaplan of the Tesla String Quartet. How was that experience? How are these works to be premiered? How did this opportunity arise?

KY: Absolutely, there are a handful of composers in which I communicate. None of these are media composers; but we do share upcoming opportunities and happening insights among ourselves. As you know, I was already a resident composer with the Gabriela Lena Frank Composer Academy of Music for Cycle-12 (January/2020 – June/2020). Through this affiliation with GLFCAM, several composers were paired with professional musicians to compose a short work to be premiered on-line. GLFCAM will stream all of the premieres via their YouTube channel. We each have about two weeks to compose the new work. Edwin and I Skyped to discuss the work, its concepts, our likes and dislikes; our musical tastes, etc… It was pretty straightforward, and then after taking a bunch of notes, I went off and wrote the piece. The title of the work came about from a phone conversation with my brother, Saladin.

NA: You also have another premiere rapidly approaching with the Del Sol String Quartet. Will this conclude your residency with the GLFCAM?

KY: Yes, it will. Prior to COVID-19, all of the GLFCAM resident composers were scheduled to reconvene in San Francisco, for our concert premieres with Del Sol. But, since all that has been compromised, it’ll now all be on-line. These too may also stream live via the GLFCAM YouTube channel; though I am uncertain at this time. Namhiya, there’s also another premiere with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra that had been postponed. That concert has not yet been re-scheduled, and as soon as I learn of the premiere date, I will post it to my website events calendar.

NA: We’ve discussed the madness you face in the Georgia media world, but are there any media composition activities in which you are presently engaged?

KY: Just for fun, I’m participating in the Spitfire Audio Westworld Scoring Competition to keep my media scoring chops up. They’re offering a few prizes, but I already own much of their gear and am participating in it just to maintain the practice.

NA: What words of encouragement would you care to impart to our readers as we close this interview?

KY: Continue to manage your diet as best you can, exercise daily (stretching, deep breathing, and muscular-skeletal isometrics), practice cleanliness, and utilize the time we have to build stronger networks; building international networks through collaboration.

NA: Kerwin, it is always a pleasure interviewing you. I hope that by our next interview, you will have received your new gaming laptop and will have acquired work as a media composer.

KY: Thank You, Namhiya, I sure hope so too.



Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times


Our Modern Marvel

Posted: December 30, 2019 in Press

01 January 2020 interview conducted by Namhiya Ati, EOK Times


NA: Congratulations with the release of your latest Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album, Pan African Dub. What’s the inspiration behind it? I know you’re a one-man band playing everything, but are there any guest musicians on the album? How long have you been working on it? Pan African Dub (Album Cover) 2

KY: Thanks Namhiya. Pan African Dub has been in the making since 2014; since my UMKC days. Yes, I’m playing everything, but there are a few guest musicians featured on the title cut, “All Praise to the Rising Sun”. Additional keyboards are provided by the masterful Eddie Moore, and Xu Xuesi. On violin, there’s brother Omari Imhotep Abdul-Alim featured on “Chopping the Claw (of the Colonizer)”. Accompanying me on vocals is Edna Sophia. This album is a gift and tribute to my ancestors. I was also inspired by the great producers Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Charles Stepney, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Thom Bell, and Johnny Pate.


546bb894b88d4 I originally intended for the album to feature spoken word artists and rappers, but I couldn’t get the cooperation I wanted. It was never intended to be a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album, but…shit happens, and I had to improvise and keep it moving. This is also the ninth KATMM album to be released, and it’s been twenty years since 1999, when I completed the first album, Blackopolis. KATMM began in 1994, in Roosevelt, Long Island, in case you’re wondering. I had the Kasuf part down, and Chuck D suggested I add “and the Mazz Muvement”. Blackopolis was the first album I made with a DAW (digital audio workstation); at that time I used Cubase.

NA: Wow! I learn something new each time we meet. Do you plan on re-releasing older KATMM material?

KY: Absolutely. In fact, I’ve begun re-mastering much of the albums for re-release. There’s almost 150 songs, eight albums before this one. I’m also planning to release a KATMM Greatest Hits album. That’s gonna be a banger!

NA: You bring it on! Over the last two months, you must be completely gassed by your progress as a media composer. I see that you now have your business team in place with a new manager, and finally, an A-list agent.

KY: That’s right. It took forever to get this in place. It’s still a tough journey Namhiya. I haven’t had a manager since 1994, and I’ve been seeking the representation of a film score agent since 1992. Count those years, multiply the rejections, and you’ll get a glimpse of my world.

In 2019, and as recent as October, I got burned on a number of films and documentaries; for reasons of either not being paid adequately, bad contracts, or no contract at all; just some real shady shit. I happen to score films both internationally and domestically; so acquiring the right agent is long over due. Kenny Gamble always says, “The day you quit is the day you get it”; so you gotta keep on, and maintain the flame, keeping that candle burning. I’ll be starting on a short feature film soon; a film written and directed by one of my good friends. I’ll keep you informed so we can do a spot on that once everything is set in writing.

NA: Good, good. Let’s do that! I want to jump along and ask about all your current commissions for new works and their related concert performances. What concert works are you presently, and how much progress have you made with your Symphony No. 8? Have you finished?

KY: Symphony No. 8 is still being edited. I thought I’d be completely done by now, but I did mention previously that by March-May 2020, I would have a final draft. I’m on course with that.

As you know, after my residency with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, I was commissioned by Inscape Chamber Orchestra to write new work they will premiere in April 2020. The piece I’m writing is called Soccer Dance, and it’s inspired by the one and only Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) who will celebrate 80 years in October 2020.

Another new work is The Legacy of “Lefty” LaMarque, a work commissioned by Janet Grace Riehl; in honor of the left-handed ace of the infamous Kansas City Monarchs. This work is a collaboration with Lefty’s brother Joe, who is a master artist. The two of us were commissioned to create original art and music that honors the legacy of Lefty LaMarque. The premiere coincides with the 100th anniversary of Negro Leagues formation. If you don’t already know, I’m a huge baseball fan and the KC Monarchs, to me, is the greatest baseball team ever!

As far back as fall of 2017, Joe LaMarque and I planned our collaboration and sought support from the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Unfortunately, we did not receive any support. I also wanted to compose a suite for jazz big band in honor of Lefty, but securing a venue and the musicians never manifested. Thanks to Janet Grace Riehl and the IMI Chamber Players, Joe and I were finally able to bring our collaboration to life; only this time for woodwind quintet. It premieres in February 2020. Perhaps, the Negro League Baseball Museum may get involved? We’ll see.

Another concert work in the making is a string quartet to be workshopped at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music over the next six months. I’m really looking forward to that. In June, The Del Sol Quartet will premiere six works by the current resident composers at GLFCAM.

Also, in the works are two collaborative orchestral works with two phenomenal women authors. I chose these collaborations after reading their books, and I decided that I will adapt their work to music. It’s for the children.

NA: Categorically labeled an “under-represented” composer, what are your thoughts on diversity?

KY: To me, diversity is just a word on a checklist that organizations must address at least once during their fiscal year to ensure they remain funded; and to appear politically correct before their peers in the business arena; regardless of how shady they may actually be. The word means nothing. Essentially, it’s a charity write-off by a hoard of heartless hosts.

NA: This is a touchy subject for many, and you are absolutely correct. For you, what are some solutions to combating this?

KY: Guilds and constant networking; without changing oneself or conforming to an alien agenda; an agenda far removed from what you seek. Guild membership is essential for any profession, and proper networking will prove successful over time. It’s easy to be a “Yes” man or woman, but to hold fast and do for self, that’s a tough road to travel upon; and oftentimes a lonely one. Just for an opportunity and a piece of the action, I’ve seen a lot of people lose themselves in an impatient pursuit of someone else’s agenda; willingly forfeiting their own identity and culture in exchange for someone else’s. Screw all of that.

NA: Heavy! If I recall correctly, you also mention these very things in your college lectures, true?

KY: Yup, all the time. In life, you’re gonna struggle with something no matter what; no matter who you are, rich or poor. I always say, “It’s far better to struggle at the thing you love, than to abandon it and struggle with something you hate.” I live by this wholeheartedly.

NA: Kerwin, this has a been another enlightening interview. I look forward to our next sitdown once you’ve begun scoring your next film. 

KY: Most definitely Namhiya.



Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

24 August 2019,

NA: As the fourth quarter gradually approaches, you’ve accumulated quite a number of accomplishments this year. Within the months of July and August, you’ve seemed to garner more accolades than the preceding six months. You’ve certainly been the talk amongst the EOK Times staff. Job well done, Kerwin.

In July, you were named a Teresa Carreño Fellow with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music for the 2020 season. Congratulations! Each year, only a select few composers are accepted into the GLFCAM. For what ensemble will you be composing during your residency?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. The EOK Times has been very supportive, and I give thanks to you all. I was surprised when I received the news. Gabriela contacted me personally, and I was quite excited. I’ll be composing a new work for the award-winning Del Sol String Quartet, based in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to an intense residency. I finally have an opportunity to hear one of my string quartets performed. The last string quartet I composed was in 2015, Mark Lewis in Hong Kong. It’s never been performed, and although I plan on composing a totally new string quartet, I’ll carry that work along with the hope to test it out.

NA: Amazing. I was going to ask whether you’ve written for the chosen instrumentation before. Knowing you prefer to compose for larger forces; specifically orchestra, what are some of the challenges that a composer like Kerwin Young faces when selected to write for an ensemble of this size?

KY: Hmnn… Well, to be truthful, before I began composing for orchestra, I spent a lot of time studying Bela Bartok’s six string quartets. The Bartok string quartets were the only chamber music I looked at. I forgot how I was introduced to his work, but that must have been sometime during the late 1990’s. I still have the double CD I purchased at Tower Records, performed by the Novak Quartet. Of all the string quartet scores and recordings I’ve acquired, I appreciate Bartok’s the most.

NA: Bartok’s string quartets are among the greatest ever written. When does your residency begin, and when will the Del Sol String Quartet premiere your work?

KY: The residency is set to begin in January, with the premiere coming in June. So, I’ll need to pace myself and wrap up the work by late April 2020.

NA: Are you composing other works that may pose any deadline challenges?

KY: Yes! Inscape Chamber Orchestra is commissioning me to compose a new work for  an April premiere. That will definitely overlap with the writing of my string quartet; though only during the early stages. But, an overlap is an overlap, and it does require much time management. I also spend a lot of time composing for picture; so, that too must be maintained. Plus, I’m also composing my eighth symphony.

NA: You’ve begun your eighth already? Unbelievable! How far along with that are you, and how did your commission with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra develop?

KY: Ha haaaa (Kerwin laughs) Yeah! I’m onto the fourth movement now. I’ve got complete sketches for the preceding three movements, and the motivic ideas are fully developed.

The Inscape commission came about after a series of correspondences. I approached them about a collaboration, and through our on-going discussions came the commission. I love their ensemble, the flexibility of it, and the fact that I can write without feeling restricted due to the instrumentation. That’s going to be a FUN piece; though on the short side.

NA: For your eighth symphony, is there a working title? When do you think you’ll complete it?

KY: No, there’s no working title yet. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m a bit undecided on that. It’ll all come together once I begin to wrap it all up. At the pace I’m writing, I may complete it by February or March 2020. It’s safe to say that I’ll complete it by May 2020; that’s realistic.

NA: Have you scored any films in the past few months?

KY: Yeah, I’ve been collaborating with director, Deidre Thomas. We’ve been working together since 2003. I scored her first film, which was also the first feature film I scored. Looking back on my past work, I can say that I know what I’m doing now. Composers need lots of opportunities to grow, fail, and learn. I’ve had my share since 1994.

I haven’t scored any releases yet this year, though I’ve scored a lot of projects currently being shopped. I’ve been upgrading my rig all year, and have added on some really cool gear. I’m writing everyday, messing around with new ideas, new software, and crafting new scoring templates across Digital Performer and Pro Tools. I’m keeping busy.

NA: In the pop world, are there any new releases, or expected releases? What new projects are you currently working on?

KY: DJ Cool and I produced a song for Gambit’s new album, Underground Kingpin. We have a cut on there called “Super-Sonic” that was originally intended for a 2017 documentary film about NBA Hall of Famer, and Super Sonic legend, Spencer Haywood. The project never went beyond the initial Seattle premiere; so Gambit decided to repurpose it and include it on his new album.

Relating to other recording projects, sheduled releases include three new albums within the next few months. There’s a soundtrack album, a world/reggae album that I’ve been producing since 2014, and the third is a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement Greatest Hits album.

The soundtrack and world music albums were mastered this week. I used Studio One 4 Pro for the mastering and arranging of the albums. Studio One also has an amazing batch processor that allows one to check the overall loudness and peak of the entire project or individual songs. It comes in quite handy for checking the LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale) for each song. In the Projects window, I can make all the necessary adjustments until it suits my needs. In compliance with the loudness standard for online streaming, I also find Presonus, Nugen, and IK Multimedia to have the most accurate metering plug-ins available. I own the TC Electronic’s Lm2, but in my opinion, it’s not as accurate as the others.

Sorry to get on the subject of production and mastering, but I’ve been doing that for many years, and it’s a vital part of the creative process.  The albums will be out during the fall.

NA: Hearing a sneak peak of your releases, you’ve got a wide range with sounds I never heard before. That’s saying a lot from a woman who grew up in India, and was educated in South Africa and Europe.

KY: I just thought of Jimi Hendrix, and the question, Are You Experienced? (Kerwin laughs)

NA: We’ve discussed your residency, your commission, your eighth symphony, your media composition, and your upcoming album releases. Now, let us focus on your diplomatic duties pertaining to cultural exchange.

In 2017, you traveled to Egypt with Next Level as a Hip-Hop Cultural Ambassador. Your on-going activity with Next Level recently brought you to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for two weeks in June 2019, as part of their Hip-Hop Institute. It’s now August 2019, and Next Level has appointed you Performing Rights Associate.

First, congratulations on your new post. Second, how did this new position develop, and what exactly does your position entail?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. You know, I’m truly honored by this, and humbled. My on-going advocacy for song-writers, producers, and artists to own and control their publishing; and to spend as much time focusing on the business aspects of their career as they do on the creative, has come full circle. It’s no secret that I lost millions early in my career for lack of a publishing company and proper representation. When I became aware, I made sure to share my experience and remedies with those coming up alongside me and behind me. Long story short, I’ve been educating and building others through awareness of performing rights and intellectual property since 1992.

Mark Katz (Founding Director, Next Level) and Junious “House” Brickhouse (Director, Next Level) through their observation, brought to my attention the combination of music and entrepreneurship that I’m so passionate about. It was suggested that through this type of dialogue and awareness, Next Level representatives could better address much of the challenges encountered by artists in the U.S. and abroad. Through the sharing of information and implementation, we can better assist the artists we engage. Many of the international artists we encounter have enormous talent, but either lack the economic resources or the government support. So, born out of this, I was brought on to continue the work I’ve already been doing. Once again, I’m honored. Next Level has taken something I’ve been doing for much of my career to a global plateau.

NA: Your road is quite unique. It’s quite an honor to be in your presence, and having your permission to conduct these interviews. All of your activities are new seeds yet to sprout. Until next time.


Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

Kerwin Young Completes 7th Symphony

Posted: April 23, 2019 in Press

History was made on April 22nd, 2019, when Kerwin Young penned the last note of his Symphony No. 7. Few American composers can make claim to such an accomplishment, and Young now joins an elite group of living composers with seven symphonies or more. Congratulations Maestro!

NA: Kerwin, you continue to shock and amaze us through your relentless output. What has inspired you to compose seven symphonies? What challenges are you currently faced with?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. My teacher, Chen Yi, would always tell me to continue writing. And, since I don’t make distinctions between different styles of music, I just continue to create. Sometime around 1999 and 2000, I made an assessment of the landscape as to what composers were not doing, and I decided to fill that void and to not stop.

As for challenges, it’s the same ol’ thing of composers not having their works performed, and not being commissioned to write new works. I’ve never been commissioned to compose an orchestral work. Never ever; not yet. Aside from recent performances and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra reading, I’m invisible. No one’s paying any attention to my work or career achievement. I’ve been doing this for 30+ years, and there’s a type of sophisticated; yet purposeful rejection at play, making it quite difficult to earn a decent living.


NA: Are there any orchestras interested in performing your work(s)? Any conductors? What orchestras or conductors would you love to collaborate with?

KY: The only orchestra at the moment who has taken any interest in my work is the University City Symphony under the baton of Leon Burke III. If there are other interested orchestras out there, it’s their little secret. No one has expressed any interest in me or my work yet. I would love to have my music performed by the L.A. Phil (Dudamel), the Berlin Phil, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the NY Phil.

Tirelessly, I’ve solicited my music to all the college orchestras and lower tier orchestras, and they’re all unresponsive and exclusive; just as the majors. So, I don’t bother myself with any of them. Instead, I focus on the big guys. I’ve earned the right.


NA: When I think of living composers of color who possess a large body of work, I immediately think of you and Wynton Marsalis. How long is your latest symphony, and is it a multi-movement work or in one movement?

KY: You just compared me with Wynton Marsalis?! Whoa…I dig that Namhiya! This is why I love you! Symphony No. 7 is seventy-five minutes long. It’s in D minor, and its got four movements. There’s no choir in this one, and unlike the previous six symphonies, it’s without a subtitle. As with my favorite saying, “Music speaks louder than words”; I will allow the listeners imagination to determine a subject. Oh…, that might take years to happen, lol!

Before I began my initial sketches, I listened to a lot of seventh symphonies by my favorite composers. And, then I said to myself, keep the music personal and true to ME. A lot of people expect a symphonic composer to write in a European tradition, but I’m not European. I’m Kerwin, and I decided long ago to write Kerwin’s music. When I’m producing an artist and writing music for an artist, I have to cater to the artist. When I’m composing a film score, I have to satisfy the producers, the directors, and the film. But, when it comes to concert music; there’s a lot of music that I want to hear that I haven’t heard yet; so I’m writing it.


NA: You mentioned your UMKC Conservatory days with your professors. What else from those times has found its way into your sound palette? 

KY: Well, without Bobby Watson, I would have NO proper knowledge on the function of harmony. Originally, after the Paris Conservatory rejected me on account that I was too old at 32, I only intended to return to school to brush up on harmony and orchestration. I’d been writing songs, producing, and transcribing music for years; but I lacked the applicative sense of how to handle harmony over a long span of time. What my music theory classes were wasting whole semesters on, Bobby Watson covered with me in one day at the piano! Bobby made everything click, and when I got it, I was off and running! In fact, and for the record, Bobby Watson and Chen Yi were my main teachers while at UMKC, and I also learned quite a lot from Zhou Long. I had other classes like Ear Training and Piano which are necessary essentials. But for the rest of it; regurgitating useless information for the sake of passing an exam, there’s nothing I held onto from any of it.


NA: Now with seven symphonies forever attached to your list of concert works, have you prepared any plans for future symphonies or other large works?

KY: Yes. There are approximately eight orchestral works that I’ve begun sketches for. Those particular works are massive undertakings. These do include future symphonies. I don’t plan to compose another symphony as long as my seventh; so, I’ll be sure to keep them under an hour.

I think if I were scoring major motion pictures; which I’ve been pushing to do since 1994, I wouldn’t be writing so many large orchestral works. But, since I’m not in demand for neither, I’m writing until I can’t write anymore.


NA: Kerwin, It’s always a pleasure interviewing you. Is there anything you would like to add?

KY: Thank You Namhiya; the pleasure is all mine. I would like to add that I want a residency with a major orchestra. I want all of my symphonies programmed; including my Kasuf Tetralogy. And, if any filmmakers catch wind of this, 2019 is my 25th year trying to score my first feature film. I want to score feature films with great stories, and I’m looking to collaborate with any serious filmmaker that would bring me on board.



Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

Kerwin Young is among four composers honored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra readings scheduled in early March 2019. National recognition by any major orchestra is no small feat, and definitely a well earned accomplishment through much persistence. Kerwin’s American Caravan is scheduled for two readings during an intense week of events. During the DSO residency, each composer will participate in educational outreach with a youth ensemble, performing and analyzing re-orchestrated and reharmonized versions of their work.


I had the pleasure of catching up with our beloved maestro after his return from Saint Louis, where Titus Underwood (principal Oboe – Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and Peter Henderson (Piano – St. Louis Symphony) premiered Kerwin’s “A Composers Passion“.

Kerwin mentioned how this chamber work, originally composed as a movement for Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, ended up not being used. Young says, “This piece had been a dedication to Leontyne Price, and it was written with a lot of deep feeling. I know when I’ve got something good; so I put it aside, knowing that it would eventually get performed. Thanks to the Intercultural Musicians Initiative, it’s premiere was very well received, and it was a memorable event.” 

Kerwin, still composing Symphony No. 7, had this to say: “I’m almost done with Symphony No. 7; I’m neck deep in the final movement now. I want it to be longer than my Symphony No. 2, which is sixty-six minutes, and my longest work so far. I also want it to be more epic than my previous six symphonies. I’ve got it around seventy minutes now, and I’m lovin’ it! I’m happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m taking my time finalizing it. It’s basically complete; I’m just fine-tuning some things here and there; filling in the gaps and making corrections. I’m writing music that I want to hear, and with a look that I want my published scores to be known for. I think every composer ought to do that; have an identity”Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age

Kerwin has also expressed the significance of 2019 being a year of assorted anniversaries and celebrations. On the downside of things, 2019 makes 25 years at unsuccessfully acquiring the opportunity to score his first feature film. On the upside, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album; and it’s been 30 years since Kerwin’s first Bomb Squad album projects: Fear of a Black Planet (Public Enemy, 1989) and Amerikkkaz Most Wanted (Ice Cube, 1989). Kerwin had this to say, “If you only knew how much I want to be scoring major motion pictures! That’s what got me writing for orchestra in the first place. What I’ve had to go through thus far….It soon come!” 


Namhiya Ati, 19 February 2019.








Kerwin Young begins 2019 composing the film score to Miss Jackson, a dramatic film short directed by Seneca Robinson. Maestro Kerwin Young is quite pleased by the creative chemistry this composer-filmmaker collaboration offers, and looks forward to a lengthy alliance.

Symphony No. 7 now has the first three movements complete, and Young affirms to have a final draft by mid-March 2019. The running time is already at the 50-minute mark, and Young surmises it will exceed the duration of his Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West), which is sixty-six minutes.

On January third, The American Composers Orchestra awarded Kerwin with a composer residency through its EarShot program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Congratulations Mr. Young!

2019 is also the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album, which was produced by Chuck D and Kerwin Young.

More to come…..


N. Ati