With February being Black History Month, classical music station WQXR and Terrance McKnight have lined up special programming.
Throughout the month, as host of the Saturday night program All Ears, McKnight gives listeners insight into famous black musicians.
It starts on February 5 with A Musical Biography of Bill T. Jones.
“Bill’s not a musician… He’s a chorographer. When I watch Bill’s work, I saw or I heard similarities to what I do on air, and all about mixing genres,” McKnight tells FishbowlNY.
He says using a biography of Jones through music, listeners will find out “those important kind of points of collision where music became important, and by extension how it became important in his work years later.”
McKnight, since joining WQXR in 2009, has become a popular destination for legions of New York classical music aficionados. He was first heard in the area on WNYC in 2008. (WNYC parent company New York Public Radio purchased ‘QXR from The New York Times in 2009.)
On February 12, his focus is how music turned into the backdrop for a movement: A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood: A Musical Journey in the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
McKnight says musical selections will offer a peek into Dr. King’s upbringing.
“We’re looking at how music touched his life from the time he was four years old,” McKnight says.
A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, who joined the faculty in 1998, points out that Dr. King was influenced by his mother’s love of music, and later his wife Coretta Scott King.
“He leveraged musicians from the Pop to Jazz to Classical…What I was trying to kind of debunk in this piece is the notion that only Freedom songs were important to the [Civil Rights] movement.”
The following Saturday, February 19, with Musicial Afterlife, McKnight remembers four accomplished African-American performers who passed away in 2010. That week’s feature will immortalize Dr. Billy Taylor, Shirley Verrett, Abbey Lincoln, and the legendary Lena Horne.
McKnight wraps up the special programs on February 26 with Still Swinging, Still Classic: A Musical Biography of Pioneering Pianist Hazel Scott.
“She’s been all but forgotten, but she was a really big deal in the 40s and 50s,” McKnight says. “…We’ll look at her involvement with civil rights…We’ll talk about how she was such a trailblazer in the entertainment business.”
All Ears airs Saturday from 10 to midnight on WQXR 105.9 FM, with encores Sundays at 4 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WQXR’s contemporary classical music online stream Q2. (McKnight also hosts a show each weeknight at 7 p.m. on ‘QXR.)
“I just don’t wait until February to bring out black composers or performers,” McKnight says. “I do this throughout the year. February gives me the time to really do it in a concentrated fashion.”
Photo Credit: Marco Antonio