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Music | Why?

Music | Why?

By Anna Summers
Why is music important to people? For many musicians, this is the 21st century question. We are interviewing guest artists from all over the world: to realize the value of music and its role in our lives.

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Music and Feminism: We can do anything! (feat. Sunny Xia)

Music | Why?

DMV Music Academy | Co-Lab Music Festival: Leadership (feat. Don Johns)
Don Johns is an in-demand percussion performer and educator in the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan area. Mr. Johns is principal timpanist of the Apollo Orchestra, and performs with the Soulful Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Annapolis Symphony, Maryland Symphony, Mid-Atlantic Symphony, Bay-Atlantic Symphony, and the American Festival Pops Orchestra.  Additionally, Mr. Johns is a member of the Gateways Festival Orchestra and the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra. Mr. Johns is the Director of DMV Percussion Academy,Adjunct Professor of Percussion at Bowie State University, and Percussion Director at Northwestern High School. He holds a Master of Music Degree in Percussion Performance and Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education from the University of Maryland. Don Johns is endorsed by Yamaha, Innovative Percussion, and Black Swamp Percussion, and serves on the Education Committee for the Percussive Arts Society.
September 17, 2022
DMV Music Academy | Co-Lab Music Festival: The Love of a Teacher (feat. Sean Daniels)
Our guest today is percussionist Sean Daniels from the DMV Music Academy's Co-Lab Music Festival.  Sean Daniels was born in Chicago, Illinois. He spent most of his youth growing up in Dayton, Ohio where he played in the public school’s concert, marching and stage bands. While attending Alabama State University he developed a love for Jazz music.  He continued studying music at The Ohio State University as well as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has performed on stage as a drummer with jazz greats Kenny Garrett, Rufus Reid, Tommy Newsome, Lou Rawls and as a vibe player with Carl Allen and others. He received jazz music instruction from Dr. Billy Taylor, Hank Marr, and Ed Saindon just to name a few.  Dr. Daniels currently serves as Timpanist for the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra, an all African American Symphony Orchestra based in Charleston, South Carolina. His recordings are available through I-tunes, amazon and cd baby.
September 03, 2022
DMV Music Academy | Co-Lab Music Festival: 70% is LIFE! (feat. Tony Townes)
Anthony Townes is the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Director of Bands at Northwestern High School.  He has held this position since 2000.  Prior to this appointment, he taught in Baltimore City and County Public Schools for ten years.  His bands have received several accolades and superior ratings in symphonic, jazz, marching, and percussion ensembles.  As a performer, he was a touring drum set artist, playing for a variety of R&B groups throughout the 1990s.  He serves as an active leader with the National Band Association.  In February 2019, Mr. Townes and the Northwestern High School VPA Symphonic Band served as the featured ensemble for the Maryland Music Educators Convention in Baltimore, Maryland.
August 30, 2022
DMV Music Academy | Co-Lab Music Festival: The Gift of Teaching (feat. Terrell Smith)
Our next guest is the director of the percussion academy. Terrell Smith, director of athletic pep bands and faculty member at Mount St. Mary’s University, has enjoyed national and international success as a wind and percussion educator, music adjudicator and performance clinician. Throughout his exciting career, Terrell has been on the instructional staff of several world class drum and bugle corps, which include: The Cadets, Santa Clara Vanguard, Reading Buccaneers, and many other programs representing the elite of DCI and DCA. Before his appointment at the Mount, he served as the assistant director of bands, pep band director and percussion coordinator at Stevenson University and marching percussion coordinator at The University of Maryland. “Mr. Tee” is the current director and program coordinator of the award-winning Thunder Drumline and Thunder Brigade, a DCI/SoundSport and SDCA performance ensemble.
August 22, 2022
DMV Academy | Co-Lab Music Festival: The Vision (feat. Larry Williams)
I’m so excited to be starting a new special mini series of interviews with the faculty and founders of the DMV Music Academy, more specifically the Co-Lab music festival held this year at The REACH at The Kennedy Center. It was thrilling for me to be in the same room with my interview guests for the very first time since creating this podcast. Today we’ll be kick starting with Larry Williams, the founder of the brass academy and a previous podcast interviewee in the episode Music and Community: The 21st Century question. Horn player Larry Williams has distinguished himself as a multifaceted performing and recording artist, teacher and administrator. Williams currently serves as a horn player for numerous orchestras and as Adjunct Professor of Horn Washington Adventist University as well as Director of the DMV Horn Academy.
August 12, 2022
Music and Feminisim: Creativity and Environmental Activism (feat. Laurana Wheeler Roderer)
Today I’m very happy to be publishing a conversation with one of my dearest friends that I met whilst we were both pursuing our Master’s Degrees at Arizona State University. Laurana Wheeler Roderer is a violinist and librettist and is now pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts. Laurana has particularly fascinating projects centered on the subject of environmental consciousness and social activism. I love Laurana dearly and find myself in awe of her ideas, her unique story, and marvelously creative talents. Laurana is one of the great artists I’ve met in my life who embodies her “why” so beautifully in everything she executes. Listen in as we both unmask our vulnerabilities and find strength in the empowering endeavor of musical creations.
August 06, 2022
Music and Feminism: We can do anything! (feat. Sunny Xia) Today you will be hearing from my dear friend and exceptional musician and conductor, Sunny Xia. Recognized for her innate musicality, compelling presence, and technical precision, Chinese-born conductor Sunny Xuecong Xia’s ability to forge an immediate and captivating connection with orchestras and audiences alike has led to engagements around the country. Recently appointed Douglas F. King Assistant Conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Xia begins her new position in September 2022. I have had the privilege of working with Sunny for the last two years as she studied conducting with Dr. Jeffrey Meyer at ASU. It’s a rare opportunity to work with such capable, vulnerable people. Sunny is someone that I find has the perfect combination of incredible strength and courage while at the same time cares so deeply about people, about humanity, and about being compassionate, empathetic, and honest. In our conversation, we unveil the wisdom behind Sunny’s outstanding success as a young, female conductor in what has traditionally been a study and career for only men.
July 26, 2022
Music and Feminism: Creating Africlassical "Soul Food" (feat. Tami Lee Hughes)
I’m here today with Tami Lee Hughes, a female performing artist, violinist, educator, and consultant who understands classical music and diverse communities. She helps general audiences, educators, and students dive into Africlassical music in ways that are accessible and fun. Tami Lee Hughes also helps organizations address challenges associated with diversity in classical music so they can be inclusive and welcoming to everyone. I met Dr. Hughes at a webinar presentation last fall in which we discussed the term Africlassical music in a way that was very meaningful for me at the time. When I reached out to her for the podcast, she was more than happy to accept my invitation. I enjoyed listening to Tami’s perspective, her story, and her well-defined mission: “to present programming that serves all demographics and encourages everyone to engage in a diverse music world.” She helped me realize that for the women of today, one of the best things we can do is create value and opportunity for ourselves within our communities by turning towards our identity and the things that are the most important to us. Learn more!
July 11, 2022
Music and Feminism: Self-Awareness (feat. Bridget Gan)
Artist Page: Vocalis Consort: Join me for an intimate conversation with illustrious Soprano, Bridget Gan, on the subjects of motherhood and the arts, women’s rights, creative COVID adaptations, community and virtual collaboration, and of course the healing and empowering gift of music.
June 20, 2022
Music and Healing: Aging Made Easier (feat. Dr. David Coon)
Learn more about Dr. David Coon and his work through the links below!
December 28, 2021
Music and Celebration! :)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Everyone!
December 21, 2021
Music and Healing: The Enduring Power of Music Therapy (feat. Dr. Melita Belgrave)
Today we have Dr. Melita Belgrave, Associate Dean and Associate Professor at The School of Music, Dance and Theatre as well as the Associate Dean and Associate Professor for Culture and Access at Arizona State University. Dr. Belgrave is one of the nation's leading experts and researchers on Music Therapy and is the appointed administrator of the Arizona State University Music Therapy Clinic. Dr. Belgrave has worked as a music therapist in special education, mental health, rehabilitation, hospice, geriatric, and intergenerational settings throughout Texas, Florida, Kansas, and Missouri. Her research interests are music therapy with older adults and intergenerational programming. As a violinist and a teacher myself, I found the subject to be absolutely fascinating. I was totally captivated by Dr. Belgrave's magnanimous and energetic personality as well as her passion for her groundbreaking research in the field of music therapy.
August 09, 2021
Music and Antiracism: "We've barely scratched the surface..." (feat. Afa Dworkin)
Below is a link to Afa Dworkin's full bio with the Sphinx organization as well as links to previous interviews. I’m pleased to welcome on the podcast today our final guest to wrap up our mini series on Music and Antiracism. Our guest, Afa S. Dworkin is the President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx organization, an organization whose mission is to “transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” Ms. Dworkin has an extensive roster of speaking engagements and has shaped the national classical music landscape as a multi-year orchestra grant review panelist for dozens of state and national organizations and councils. Her passion and love for people, art, and cultures extends to populations across the world. My brief encounter with Afa today was life changing to say the least. Everything about her message and authenticity is fresh and supported by decades of life and leadership experience. In listening to this conversation, you will not want it to end!
August 02, 2021
Music and Healing: Music is LIFE! (feat. Robin Fay Massie)
Robin Fay Massie is a mother, an Emergency Clinical Nurse in the greater Baltimore area of Maryland, as well as an accomplished pianist, violinist, and violist. She is a celebrated concert artist and orchestral musician throughout the country. In particular, she is the founder and Executive Director of the organization, “Musicians of Mercy”: a group of volunteer musicians who have been putting on benefit concert series to aid in humanitarian efforts around the world since 2010. In her words from one of her many interviews she has said, “In the words of one of my mentors, "There is room at the table for everyone in music." Music invites us to connect through the depth of our common human experience. As a woman, as a musician, and as a nurse, I can look into someone's eyes and immediately relate— understanding how my own suffering has shaped and strengthened me. Music amplifies my unique voice. The longer I live, the more I unapologetically embrace my own vulnerability, with and without my viola.”
July 19, 2021
Music and Healing: Coming soon!
I'm so excited to launch this new series on Music and Healing! Stay tuned as we interview experts on the healing power of music and music therapy!  Here's a link to the Harvard Health Blog:
July 07, 2021
Music and Antiracism: Book List
List of 5 recommended books on Antiracism and Civil Rights: (First two books were recommended to me by Titus Underwood) “Where do we go from here” by Martin Luther King “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century” by A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr. (Recommended to ASU students by Alex Laing) “How to be Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi (Recommended by Ibram X. Kendi) “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (Final recommendation was from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)  “The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing” by Anneliese A. Singh
June 29, 2021
Music and Antiracism: Growing Through Dissonance - "What is an American Symphony?" (feat. Titus Underwood)
Our guest today is Titus Underwood, America’s first Black principal oboist of a major orchestra, playing for Nashville Symphony. He was recently awarded the 2021 Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence which is the highest honor bestowed by the Detroit-based social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Titus has created several viral projects that have made an enormous impact in creating a more anti-racist music community. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Titus as we explored ways for American musical organizations to become more culturally conscious. Titus shares brilliant ways to enrich our understanding of Black Culture and the roots of uniquely American music. Learn more about our guest through the links below! (2021 Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence) (News 4 Nashville) (First Black Principal Oboist of a Major Symphony Orchestra)
June 22, 2021
Music and Antiracism: We need to do more! (feat. Chi-chi Nwanoku)
It was a pleasure for me to interview Chi-chi Nwanoku whose passion and enthusiasm for the arts has resulted in a documentary and a TedTalk as well as numerous awards and recognitions. Her earnestness in fighting anti-racism will likely inspire you as she inspired me. To learn more, visit the links below! (Tales from the Bassline)
June 15, 2021
Music and Antiracism: My Story
In this episode, I share the stories of my ancestors Felix Galura and John Parry. To learn more about them, I've attached links below! Felix Galura: John Parry:
June 08, 2021
Reflections on Music and Community
April 26, 2021
Music and Community: If the dream is right... (feat. Michael Ballam)
I am so excited to be sharing a wonderful conversation with you today with acclaimed operatic artist and entrepreneur, Michael Ballam. Michael Ballam has received critical acclaim with the major opera companies of the USA and a recital career in Concert Halls across four continents. His operatic repertoire includes more than 600 performances of over 70 major roles, sharing the stage with the world's greatest singers. An accomplished pianist and oboist, he is the Founder and General Director of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre company, which is fast becoming one of the nation's major Opera Festivals. Along with his artistic and creative endeavors, Michael Ballam is a passionate advocate for the arts across the country. I had the great privilege of working and performing in the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre back in 2019, their last season since before the pandemic. Along with many others, I felt the grave loss when they were forced to shut their doors in the summer of 2020. However, this week they publicly announced their 2021 season! Tickets are available through their website which I have linked in the show notes for this episode! In this episode, Michael Ballam shares the Festival’s challenges in the last year. We talk about their miraculous beginnings and how, through perseverance, they have enriched the lives of countless individuals in their small community and beyond in ways that have served multiple generations and hopefully, many generations to come.
April 23, 2021
Music and Community: Stay tuned for our final guest!
This coming Friday will be the release of my final guest artist episode of the series “Music and Community”. The reason I am not publishing this episode right away is due to some exciting news that our guest will be sharing this coming Wednesday in launching their "post-COVID-19" summer plans. I am ecstatic over this episode and the time I got to spend with this particular guest who, for over fifty years, has done miraculous things in promoting music in their communities. Stay tuned! You won’t want to miss it!
April 19, 2021
Music and Community: People and Passion (feat. Tacy Edwards)
Today you will hear from Tacy Edwards who is co-founder of the North Charleston POPS! orchestra and currently serves as its Executive Director. Tacy plays Principal Flute with the POPS!, Second Flute in the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and has been the Piccolo player with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra from 1992 to the present. I asked her beforehand if she would be willing to talk about why music is important to her but also, about how she has worked to build a uniquely positive community of musicians and arts supporters who have all worked together to create meaningful connections and lasting relationships.
April 13, 2021
Music and Community: SYNERGY (feat. Justin Morgan)
Today you will be energized by Justin Morgan’s contagious attitude of positivity and passion for music and its role in our communities. Justin is a wonderful bass player and conductor and has been a dear friend and colleague of mine since high school when we met playing in a string orchestra together over 10 years ago. Justin has always been an inspiration to me as someone who ceaselessly strives to achieve impossible goals. He recently left his graduate studies at Bard College Conservatory of Music in upstate New York and a Fellowship position with the TŌN orchestra to become the new Dean at The Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City, Utah. A product of The Gifted Music School himself, Justin shares the incredible history of this organization and how it now serves dozens of communities, here and abroad.
April 08, 2021
Music and Community: The 21st Century Question (feat. Larry Williams)
Today is a very exciting day, the first of a series of episodes on Music and Community. Yamaha French Horn artist Larry Williams has held principal horn positions in a number of great orchestras and chamber ensembles and has a great passion for teaching. Professor Williams has dedicated his incredibly successful career to promoting great music as a tool for connection: connection with ourselves, with our communities and with society. The “why” of music, Larry agrees, is the 21st century question. Without giving too much away, I came away from this invigorating conversation teeming with ideas for supporting the evolution in the music industry as I’m sure you will as well!
March 30, 2021
Up next! (Preview)
It has been an incredible journey! As I look forward to more conversations, I’m excited to soon be releasing upcoming project series including: music and community music and antiracism music and healing music and feminism music and global communication.  I will introduce all of these individual projects in upcoming episodes. We have a number of fantastic guests lined up so stay tuned! You can connect with me and our guests on the Music | Why? Facebook page ( as well as Please give me your feedback and suggestions, whether it’s through messenger or contacting me through my website. This conversation is central to the future success of music industries!  I look forward to hearing your stories!
March 23, 2021
Humanizing... (feat. Christopher Bradford)
Wise beyond his years, young Christopher Bradford leads a burgeoning career as a brilliant percussionist and composer, his gorgeous choral and orchestra works now recognized internationally. In our discussion today, we talk about the humanizing powers of artistic music that goes beyond being merely entertainment media. Chris was a dear friend of mine when I used to live in Salt Lake City. He was a quiet, studious colleague but we enjoyed geeking out over composers during our orchestra rehearsal breaks whilst attending school together. Eventually, I learned that he was a composer when I attended the premiere of his works “Songs of Innocence and Experience” at the University of Utah (for your reference, I’ve attached links to the performance below). By the end of that transcending performance, I was moved to the point of tears. I know you will enjoy our conversation today but I also encourage you to check out the attached links. His music may also change your life. Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 2 with Leonard Bernstein: Christopher’s compositions: Songs of Innocence and Experience (Movements 1-4): From Christopher Bradford Music channel on YouTube:
March 16, 2021
Everyone has a story. (feat. Yuriy Bekker)
Today, you will be hearing from Yuriy Bekker-- a magnificent violinist, international soloist, concertmaster, and chamber musician. In addition to playing the violin he is a passionate pedagogue, dynamic conductor and a deeply caring friend. He currently serves on faculty at the College of Charleston in South Carolina as a professor of violin and orchestra and also plays significant roles in the Charleston Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster and Principal Pops conductor. In these roles, he has done much to enrich the arts community in the vibrant city of Charleston, one of the many reasons moving there to complete my Bachelor’s program in his studio was so attractive to me. You will hear Yuriy share the moving story of his humble beginnings in what was communist Russia that led him to the United States for a better life which, without question, would include music. Having this warm conversation with my former professor was such a treat for me. While he has enjoyed much hard earned success in his life, Yuriy has one of the most generous and modest personalities I know. For me and many others, he has been a standard of excellence but also goodwill in the way he serves his communities by bringing beautiful music into the world.
March 09, 2021
An Alternate Universe
Today we talk about imagining going into a live performance like you are going into an alternate universe. The key word to audience etiquette: consideration. Read the full transcription here:
March 02, 2021
Informed listening... (feat. Dr. Michael O'Brien)
In this episode you will hear from someone whose unique skills will be offering a critical perspective on the ways in which music interacts with culture. Dr. Michael O’Brien is a prominent professor and Department Chair at the College of Charleston and is an ethnomusicologist, someone who studies the music of the world. Ethnomusicology involves the interactive relationships between music and cultural anthropology, psychology, folklore, and conventional musicology. He recently published an article in Musicultures detailing his research on a soccer chant in Argentina that was turned into what he calls a “sonic meme” meant to be a protesting medium. When I lived in Charleston, South Carolina, I spent a lot of time in conversation with Dr. O’Brien, talking about the musical improvisation methods in different cultures, Haitian politics and classical music, communism in Cuba and the Cuban Rap Agency, the history of Argentinian tango music, and so many other things! These and other conversations expanded my vision on the wide ranging impact of music in the world. Today, you will also hear Dr. O’Brien share a number of inspiring ways in which we can all support artists in these challenging times. Link to journal article: Instagram radio show: unosoenbicicleta Blog:
February 23, 2021
It fuels me! (feat. Zack Clark from Simply Three)
Today you’ll meet Zack Clark, the lead cellist in the group Simply Three--a string trio consisting of a cellist, bassist, and violinist. They describe themselves to “have old school training but a new school sound”. A few years ago I was on the lookout for anything to do with the violin and I found Simply Three through their pop cover albums on Spotify and I was instantly hooked by their electrifying sound, impressive virtuosity, and heartfelt music. Tune in as I talk with Zack about his amazing journey from elementary school cello to now having a distinct brand, a nationally touring group, and an internationally popular YouTube channel with millions of followers all over the globe. Check out their latest premiere!
February 16, 2021
Injury and Perspective
On this episode, I share my personal insights from experiencing an overuse injury and what I've learned through the process. 
February 09, 2021
Trumpet did that. (feat. Buddy Deshler)
This was a very fun episode to record! Today you’ll meet David “Buddy” Deshler. Buddy was the TA for my Enterprising Musician class with Dr. Swoboda who we heard from a few episodes ago. Not only is Buddy one of the warmest and most genuine people I know, he is an accomplished trumpeter, teacher, clinician, and creative entrepreneur-- the epitome of the 21st century artist. In our discussion, you will gain some insight into the behind the scenes world of the music industry as Buddy details some of his adventures and how so much of it was because of trumpet.
February 02, 2021
Beautiful Dissatisfaction (feat. Dr. Austin Thorpe)
Today you will hear my conversation with Dr. Austin Thorpe who recently published a PhD dissertation titled, “An Achingly Glorious Beauty: Ronald Staheli and His Philosophies”.  I met Dr. Thorpe 8 years ago as a vocalist and pianist in his choirs at Herriman High School in Herriman, Utah. The experiences I had in his choirs were transformative and played an important role in my deciding to become a professional musician. His friendship is something I will treasure my whole life. In our discussion, I’ve asked him to talk a little bit about parts of his dissertation as well as to share his story. I have tremendous gratitude and admiration for Dr. Thorpe but in listening to him, I experienced some genuinely moving moments that I am very pleased to share with you. Link to full dissertation:
February 01, 2021
Musical Instrument Museum
I had the opportunity to attend the Musical Instrument Museum here in Phoenix, Arizona and it was LIFE CHANGING!!  Below is a link to an AWESOME video of Thomas Roth shredding it on the Nyckelharpa! I talk about a number of instruments in the podcast but this one is a treat! You're welcome :)
January 11, 2021
It's BIG. (feat. Dr. Deanna Swoboda)
I met Dr. Swoboda while taking her course “The Enterprising Musician” at Arizona State University. The thing that immediately impressed me with her classroom management was her passion for encouraging curiosity. Inviting Dr. Swoboda to open my 2021 podcast launch was the obvious choice. In our discussion, we talk about her adaptations to the challenges of COVID-19, pivotal childhood experiences, role models, her thoughts on entrepreneurship, and of course, her “why”. The next 30 minutes will inspire you.
January 06, 2021
Hello! My name is Anna Summers and I am a musician currently residing in Phoenix, Arizona. In my lifetime, I frequently raise eyebrows when I communicate with people about my choice of career. “Music? Why?” They ask. Well, it’s an honest question. Why is music so important to so many people, musicians and audiences alike? This question never ceases to fascinate me. That is why I decided to start a weekly blog and podcast titled, “Music| Why?" devoted to exploring people’s answers to this question. On this podcast you will hear incredible stories from great artists all around the world. My mission is to connect these inspiring individuals and their experiences to a broader audience of people who are on a similar quest: to realize the value of music and its role in our lives.
October 01, 2020