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May 11, 2021

Nkeiru Okoye, newly appointed Guggenheim Fellow in composition, begins opera based on true events of race bias and systemic inequities in the health care system that lead to detrimental diagnosing and care of patients.

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A composer with a gift for incorporating many influences and styles within her work, Nkeiru Okoye is perhaps best known for her opera, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom, the orchestral work, Voices Shouting Out, which she composed as an artistic response to 9/11, and her suite, African Sketches, which has been performed by pianists around the globe. Profiled in both the Music of Black Composers Coloring Book and Routledge’s African American Music: An Introduction textbook, Dr. Okoye is also the inaugural recipient of the Florence Price 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.”


In March 2020, the State of Michigan issued a proclamation acknowledging Dr. Okoye’s “extraordinary contributions” to the history of Detroit, Michigan, for Black Bottom, a symphonic experience commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, in celebration of the centennial season of Orchestra Hall. Her other recent works include Tales from the Briar Patch, a sung story, commissioned by The American Opera Project, and Charlotte Mecklenburg,  commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony.  Some of her upcoming compositions for the 2021-2022 season include 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.  


Dr. Okoye is a board member of Composers Now!. She holds a BM in Composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a PhD in Music Theory and Composition from Rutgers University.


Partial listing of performing ensembles, festivals and venues

Atlanta University Center-wide Orchestra • Boston Landmarks Orchestra • Buffalo Philharmonic • Cambridge Symphony Orchestra • Castle of our Skins • Central Michigan State University Orchestra • Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra • Charlotte Symphony Orchestra • Cleveland Opera Theater • Colour of Music Festival Orchestra • Composers Now! • DaCapo Players • Detroit Symphony • Downtown Music Productions • Essex County College Choir • Fort Collins Symphony • Gateways Music Festival Orchestra • Grand Rapids Symphony • Harlem Opera Theater • Hartford Opera Theater • Indianapolis Symphony • Lyric Fest • Mississippi Symphony • Mt. Holyoke College Orchestra • National Women’s Music Festival Orchestra • New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra • New Horizons Orchestra • New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players • Oberlin Opera Theater • Opera On Tap • Philadelphia Orchestra • Richmond Symphony • Rutgers University Symphony Orchestra • Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra members • South Bend Youth Symphony Orchestra • South Shore Opera Company of Chicago • String Orchestra of Brooklyn • San Diego State University Orchestra members • Tacoma Symphony • Toledo Symphony • Three on Three Productions • University City Orchestra (St. Louis, MO) • Virginia Symphony Orchestra • Western Piedmont Symphony Orchestra • Youngstown Symphony Orchestra