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MA Top 30 Professional of the Year: Terrance McKnight
By John Fleming
December 4, 2018
Terrance McKnight has one of the more familiar voices in New York as an evening host at classical radio station WQXR. “I feel like I’m talking to one person,” McKnight says of being on the air. “In the evening, listeners are more engaged than during the day. We can play longer pieces. We can have longer conversations, and I can tell
McKnight majored in piano performance as an undergraduate at Atlanta’s Morehouse College and sang in the bass section of the school’s glee club. He went on to get a graduate degree in piano pedagogy at Georgia State University, then transitioned into radio, doing a show for eight years with Georgia Public Broadcasting. He moved to New York in 2008 to work for WNYC and a year later joined the lineup at its sister public-radio station WQXR.
Some of McKnight’s most notable work is a series of hour-long audio documentaries for which he was writer, producer, and host. They include profiles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the place music held in his life; Florence Price, the first African-American woman composer to have a piece played by a major symphony orchestra; jazz pianist Hazel Scott; Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (named after 19th-century African-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor), who co-founded the country’s first racially integrated symphony orchestra, the Symphony of the New World; poet Langston Hughes and his collaborations with composers and musicians; and Leonard Bernstein as viewed through his commitment to racial justice in classical music.
McKnight has been programming music and other audio for the Museum of Modern Art as part of exhibitions of artwork by Jacob Lawrence, Francis Picabia, Robert Rauschenberg, and Charles White. “When you go into a gallery at MOMA to look at the art, you can listen on earphones to a play list I’ve put together,” he says. For the White exhibition, which is up through January 13, selections range from James Brown’s Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud to a Handel chorus.
And beginning in February, he hosts “Only at Merkin with Terrance McKnight,” a three-concert series at Merkin Hall featuring pianist Ursula Oppens with the Cassatt String Quartet, harpist Bridgett Kibbey, and pianist André Watts.
PHOTO: MarcoAntonio.com / WQXR
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