‘NoteWorthy’ concert series, a new collaboration to promote equity in Charlotte music scene – Qcity metro

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A new concert series is mashing up genres and taking steps toward a more inclusive music scene.

‘NoteWorthy,’ a collaboration between Davidson-based 89.9 WDAV Classical Public Radio and Fair Play Music Initiative, launches with its first virtual performance on April 14. The six-episode series highlights Charlotte’s music scene, pairing classical musicians with Black and Brown artists representing genres such as jazz, soul, hip-hop, R&B, Latin, pop and rock.

Charlotte singer-songwriter Arsena Schroeder launches the first of three virtual sessions recorded at the Stage Door Theater in uptown Charlotte. Schroeder, who fuses R&B, pop, and folk influences into songs that tackle topics of personal healing and empowerment, will be joined by composer and pianist Leonard Mark Lewis, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra violinist Lenora Cox Leggatt and guitarist Chris Suter.

Schroeder noted about the experience during a rehearsal earlier this month.

“Classically trained musicians learning my pop/R&B songs. It’s a fun project and I appreciate their willingness,” she posted to Instagram on March 8.

Future episodes include Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, rapper and producer Greg Cox with a guest appearance by local artist A$H. Violist Matt Darsey and Symphony violinist Jane Hart Brendle accompany Cox’s May 26 session. On June 30, cultural activist and singer-songwriter Quisol blends pop and Latin influences to perform with violinist Kari Giles and cellist Jeremy Lamb of Charlotte Symphony. 

Throughout the episodes, which range from roughly 35 to 45 minutes, artists debrief about the experiences and the impact they hope to see moving forward. 

As Covid restrictions relax and event promoters restart in-person performances, ‘NoteWorthy’ organizers say the final three concerts will be announced in the spring and whether they will take place virtually or in front of a live audience.

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Singer-songwriter Greg Cox during his recording for the ‘NoteWorthy’ concert series. He’s joined by violist Matt Darsey and Charlotte Symphony Orchestra violinist Jane Hart Brendle. Photo courtesy of WDAV

A good idea made better

WDAV began initial conversations last summer as it tried to plug into diversity and equity work in the local music scene. Nationally, the topics had bubbled to the surface as social justice protests took the spotlight after the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others.

Will Keible, director of marketing and corporate support at WDAV, says while the station’s mission was built around accessibility to classical music, their events weren’t as inclusive as they could’ve been. The goal became to break down cultural division among music lovers by centering contributions from musicians of color.

Keible’s initial idea was a grant-style program that would fund artists of color to perform free concerts in the community. WDAV received a $5,100 cultural vision grant from the Arts & Science Council to support the program, but the planning was missing representation at the table.

Keible reached out to David “Dae-Lee” Arrington, a Grammy-nominated producer, recording artist, creative entrepreneur and co-founder of Fair Play Music Equity Initiative. The nonprofit engages venue owners, event producers and organizations to advocate for a fair music ecosystem in Charlotte. 

WDAV and Fair Play participated in a series of brainstorming sessions, and although Arrington valued the heart of Keible’s idea — support without strings attached — he was focused on sustainability. 

“You can give someone money to perform, but with diverse and equitable efforts being tied to them, in a way, forces you to engage and to continue dialogue,” said Arrington, who carries the reputation as a “bridge-builder” across the Charlotte community.

The grant-style program morphed into ‘NoteWorthy,’ with Arrington interviewing performers to weave their reflections from the experience into food-for-thought for viewers.

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David “Dae-Lee” Arrington on the set for ‘NoteWorthy.’ Photo courtesy of WDAV

Selecting performers was also an opportunity for another of his creative businesses, Hue House. The agency, which aims to connect cultural and government groups — and their funds — with traditionally underutilized creative individuals and communities, was involved with producing ‘NoteWorthy.’

Arrington credits WDAV for its intentionality.

“They planned for this; they budgeted for this,” he said. “From an economic standpoint, people are getting paid, and those products create more opportunities for other projects with other community organizations and businesses here in the city. It’s not exposure for exposure’s sake.” 

‘NoteWorthy’ is the first step in a longer journey of breaking down barriers.

Organizers say the unique collaboration is really about bringing communities, and audiences of different genres, together to celebrate both their similarities and differences while enjoying great music.

“The question then becomes, what are we going to do with that proximity?” Arrington asked.

‘NoteWorthy’ premieres on Facebook Live on April 14 at 7: 30 p.m. For more information, visit noteworthyclassical.org.

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