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

Illinois State University

Givonna Joseph and her New Orleans-based troupe, OperaCréole, tackle some of opera's most challenging works with gusto, including early compositions written by free people of color in the United States and Europe. So, in addition to Bizet and Puccini and Verdi and Gershwin, OperaCréole gives full attention to composers Andre Ernest Gretry, Edmond Dede, Lucien Lambert and Samuel Snaer, among others.

In doing so, OperaCréole is continuing one of the nation's longest running opera traditions. New Orleans was home to North America's first opera house.

Music Inside Out

By his count, Wendell Brunious knows more than 2,000 songs. Some are from the Great American Songbook, some are traditional, swing and bebop jazz gems and many are from the golden era of New Orleans rhythm and blues. A goodly few are homemade. Wendell’s father, John “Picket” Brunious, Sr. was a composer and arranger, as was his brother John, Jr. Wendell says he plays their music to keep them ever-present, but he has his own of stock of originals. Over a more than 50 year-career in the business, he says his number one rule remains, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

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.

In case you’re wondering — yes, this is a Best of Music Inside Out program. But the topic is universal. The songs we hear as children — even the ones we don’t like — help shape our feelings about the music we love as adults.

Music Inside Out: Spencer Bohren

Aug 16, 2019

Singer-songwriter Spencer Bohren (1950-2019) was raised in Casper, Wyoming, in the long, quiet lead up to where the Great Plains end and the Rocky Mountains begin. Hot springs and waterfalls in the region signal strong underground forces at work. Geologists say the area will look vastly different in the eons to come. But right now the land is moving as land usually does, imperceptibly, under the feet of people who’d swear there was nothing going on.

Brian Kern

In funk music everything counts — every note, every beat, every silence, every breath. That’s why musicians who play funk are such masters of understatement. They don’t want to dilute the groove.

Music Inside Out

The Wonderful World of Ricky Riccardi

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. Not once. “Why would I fight with these people?” he reportedly told his wife, Margaret, on their first date.

George Porter Jr.
Music Inside Out

When George Porter, Jr. was a child, he wanted to become a Catholic priest. But an uncomfortably silent church retreat and an encounter with neighborhood blues musicians helped Porter find his musical calling.

He turned to funk and never looked back.

As the bass player for The Meters, Porter helped create a body of music in the 1960s and 70s that still resonates as some of the funkiest grooves ever recorded.

So what’s the secret to funk?

Aurora Nealand, by Greg Miles
Greg Miles

Before the composer and multi-instrumentalist Aurora Nealand takes a job, she’ll ask, “Did you want The Monocle or did you want The Royal Roses?”

Scott Saltzman

The poetics of pickup trucks and cutoffs are not lost on Jim McCormick. Nor are the subtleties of Trans Ams and the beverage choices of the young and hay-baling set. And that’s how it should be for a poet-turned-Nashville songwriter.

A New Orleans native (and still occasional resident), McCormick penned two of 2012′s number one songs on the country charts. But all that success — and it is considerable — hasn’t gone to his head. He’s stayed humble. And funny. And grateful for the collaborations and to the mentors through the years.

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