No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Justin Austin

One of my favorite things to do is musical education outreach. I love that I can go into schools and help children learn about incredibly important lessons via music. I often bring in a special song the character of Harlequin in the opera Ariadne auf Naxos sings to the title character. The song has an incredible amount of wisdom, truth, musicality, and beauty in only a minute and 30 seconds.




 |  Justin Austin

Growing up, I was fascinated with the Grammy winning a cappella group “Take 6”. A group of six young black men singing about the power of goodness and Love was an incredible thing for me to look up to.




 |  Justin Austin

The song “Familiarity” by the Punch Brothers spoke to me on a special level when I first heard it a few years ago. It sort of redefined what I expected from popular music. The fact that there are so many musical styles and is set up in a form you usually only hear in classical music, I was completely shocked to hear this on the radio.




 |  Justin Austin

Lizst’s “Vallée d’Obermann” is my favorite piece of music ever written. I fell in love with it as a child, but resonated more with it as I got older and experienced the challenges of life. Before I knew anything about the piece, what I loved most about it, was that it didn’t seem like a form of escapism.




 |  Justin Austin

“I Dream a World” is one of the most beautiful and loving poems by Langston Hughes I have come across. It was set to music by composer Damien Sneed in 2017. Langston speaks about a dream world where every person is equally as valuable and should be treated with respect. As farfetched as this idea may seem, I believe that this world Hughes is speaking of can actually come to fruition. He didn’t see it in his lifetime and I probably won’t see it in mine, but he contributed to that becoming a reality one day.




 |  Justin Austin

“Ballad of the landlord” is a poem by Langston Hughes. It basically is a dialogue between an African American tenant and a white landlord. It’s interesting to me that Langston doesn’t offer any opinions. He tell’s the story as it happens and the reader/ listener has no choice but to develop their own opinion.




 |  Justin Austin

During my rehearsals with Ricky Ian Gordon for our concert on September 18, I noticed that in his home there was a framed poem on top of the door to his studio. I asked him about it, and he expressed to me that it meant a lot to him, and was one of the most significant settings of a poem that he’s written. The poem is “Luck” by Langston Hughes.




 |  Justin Austin

Right after I left Opera Theatre of St. Louis last summer, I went to West Palm Beach Florida. I was competing in the national rounds of a year long competition presented by NANM (National Association of Negro Musicians) NANM is the oldest organization for the preservation of African American Music. Each year, there is a different instrument that is the focus of the competition. Knowing that it was the year for “voice” my teacher helped me put together a solid program. The singers were required to present an Aria, Lied, African American Art Song, and a Spiritual. Surprisingly, I had never even heard of an African American Art Song.




 |  Justin Austin

The piece I was given was “When Sue Wears Red” This piece was my introduction to both Ricky Ian Gordon and to Langston Hughes who wrote the text. To the readers that know the work of both of these men, you can understand how mind blown I was when I researched them for this project. I had heard of both artists but had never actually worked on anything of theirs.