Shorter version

A composer with a gift with a gift for incorporating many influences and styles within her work, Guggenheim Fellow Nkeiru Okoye is perhaps best known for her opera “Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom,” and orchestral work “Voices Shouting Out,” composed as an artistic response to 9/11. Profiled in the “Music of Black Composers Coloring Book” and Routledge’s “African American Music: An Introduction,” Dr. Okoye is the inaugural recipient of the International Florence Price Society Award for Composition. A recent New York Times article mentioned, “Okoye’s work would make a fitting grand opening for an opera company’s post-pandemic relaunch.”

Longer version

Nkeiru Okoye is an internationally recognized composer of opera, symphonic, choral, chamber, solo piano and vocal works. She is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in music composition and is perhaps best known for her opera, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom; the orchestral work, Voices Shouting Out, composed as an artistic response to 9/11; and her suite, African Sketches, which is performed by pianists around the globe.

Dr. Okoye’s works defy categorization. They and are known for infusing a wide range of musical styles and influences that evoke all the senses and palpably conjure context for time and place. This results in an extraordinary musical experience that transports the listener to a specific emotion, event, or reckoning. One of her most recent symphonic works, Black Bottom, demonstrates this signature style, and The New York Times named it "one of the most engrossing musical portraits of Black history in the available repertoire." In 2020, the State of Michigan issued a proclamation acknowledging Dr. Okoye’s “extraordinary contributions” to the history of Detroit, Michigan, for Black Bottom which was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the centennial season of Orchestra Hall.

Dr. Okoye is a gifted writer of poetry, prose, essays, and lyrics. She writes many of her own libretti and lyrics but also collaborates with noted librettists and writers around the world. She is in demand as a speaker and educator, particularly about community engagement and music as an agent of change.


Profiled in the Music of Black Composers Coloring Book and Routledge’s African American Music: An Introduction textbook, she is also the inaugural recipient of the International Florence Price Society Award for Composition. Dr. Okoye is a board member of Composers Now!. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a PhD in Music Theory and Composition from Rutgers University.


Other recent works include Tales from the Briar Patch, a sung story, commissioned by The American Opera Project; Charlotte Mecklenburg, commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony; Euba’s Dance, for cellist Matt Haimowitz; When young spring comes for pianist and NPR Host, Laura Downes; and a micro-opera, 600 Square Feet, for Cleveland Opera Theatre. For a comprehensive list of Dr. Okoye’s works, please visit


updated 6/4/21