Gwen Thompkins

Host of Music Inside Out

Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.

Ways to Connect

Rickie Lee Jones says she moved to New Orleans, in part, because she wanted to be around people. In Los Angeles, she was mostly around cars.

So far, so good. People from New Orleans — either real or imagined — are all over her latest effort, “The Other Side of Desire.” And one of Jones’ neighbors here even helped inspire a song on the album. 

As a piano player and band leader, David Torkanowsky is equally comfortable pushing the edges of jazz, funk, blues and rhythm and blues. Aside from his solo projects, Torkanowsky has collaborated with so many musical legends — Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Danny Barker, Earl Turbington, Tony DaGradi, George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modeliste, Dianne Reeves and Errol Garner, among them — that he now enjoys his own legendary patina.  

Singer Quiana Lynell is a natural educator, and from the time the tape started rolling at Esplanade Studios, class was in session. Lesson one: Intro to Scat Singing.

Good scat is based on the art of improvising in counter-melody – taking an established melody and vocalising a different melodic line that reflects directly on the original.

Like most girls her age, Susan Cowsill watched The Partridge Family every week on television. But unlike most girls her age, she was related to the Partridges, albeit in a Hollywood kind of way. The show was modeled after Cowsill and other members of her singing family.

 

In the 1960s and early ’70s, The Cowsills were regulars on television, appearing with Ed Sullivan, Johnny Cash and on their own programs. They also had a string of top ten hits, including “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” and “Hair.”

“Everything in life is governed by rhythm,” says Herlin Riley, “Everything. (And) when you play the drums, the rhythms are quicker.”

Sylvan Esso began as two people who couldn’t sit still. In 2013, the singing songwriter Amelia Meath and the performing producer Nick Sanborn were in North Carolina, working with bands that didn’t enjoy touring. Luckily for them, they found each other. But Meath and Sanborn share more than wanderlust. Theirs is a common musical sensibility that leans toward tender folk harmonies passing though an electronic soundscape. The hard-working duo has released two well-received albums, an EP and a variety of singles. See? They still can’t sit still.

For over 35 years Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg has celebrated a “blue chip career” as a classical violinist. In 1981, at just 20 years old, she was the youngest-ever recipient of the Walter W. Naumburg prize for violinists. Her emotional approach to the instrument has both shocked critics and earned her the adoration of fans in every corner of the globe. She has played with some of the world’s most renowned orchestras, and she was the music director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra in San Fransisco for nine seasons.

Helen Gillet at the Sugar Maple
Art Montes

German artist David Helbich first coined the term “Belgian solutions” when he moved to Brussels in the early-2000s. It refers to the ad-lib alterations to the architecture and infrastructure of the EU capital, which Helbich has made a central theme in his photography.

Tomi Lunsford and Gwen Thompkins at Tomi's home in Nashville
Jason Rhein

Like so many other musicians who have made a home in Nashville, singer Tomi Lunsford has spent her life immersed in country music. A native of Asheville, NC, she played in a family band from a young age. 

Her father, Jim Lunsford, was a journeyman fiddler who played with superstars of classic country and bluegrass such as Roy Acuff, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Reno and Smiley, Bob Wills, and Marty Robbins. Her great-uncle, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, was a lawyer and famed collector of folk songs from the mountains of North Carolina.

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong / Louis Armstrong

Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring facts about Ricky Riccardi, who directs research collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum Collection in Queens, is that he never argued with his parents. 

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