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

Danny Barker (1909-1994) was born into that generation of musicians whose lives reflected the arc of jazz from men blowing horns atop mule-drawn wagons to the world stage. From New Orleans to New York and back again, he managed to be both a witness and participant in the evolution of the music.

Despite the throngs of tourists and ever-growing parade of festivals, New Orleans’ nightlife can be surprisingly intimate. The corner bar is often the anchor of a neighborhood’s social life, where friends, strangers, and familiar faces can share drinks, stories, dreams, and failures.

Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of Bounce, has done more than any other artist to bring the unmistakable New Orleans hip-hop sound to the world. His output is as unrelenting as the bounce beat, with singles, EPs, videos, all-star collaborations, LGBTQ rights advocacy, and a reality television show now entering its sixth season.

This week, we bring you that funky gentleman from the Ninth Ward, Jon Cleary, who talks about his native England, his grandmother, the piano back home, his mum’s songwriting chops, and a variety of other loves.

Cleary grew up listening to New Orleans soul, r&b and funk. And now, we listen to him.

As a multi-instrumentalist and sideman, he’s played with some of the best artists, including Earl King, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, Snooks Eaglin, Ernie K-Doe and Walter “Wolfman” Washington. But Cleary is even better fronting his own band and digging into his own groove.

Within Buddhist traditions, “samsara” refers to the karmic cycle of rebirth that a being must travel through on their journey towards enlightenment. While in some traditions this can take many lifetimes to complete, others maintain that, for certain exceptional people, the transformative process can happen within a single lifetime.

Great artists and producers make our show happen, and in this episode we’re hearing from some of the the folks who typically don’t step in front of the microphone. We’re celebrating the end of another successful year by revisiting our favorite live performances, as remembered by Music Inside Out’s producers and friends of the show.

It’s About People Coming Together Over Barriers

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.

Dr. Michael White
Derek Bridges

What do you hear when he plays his clarinet?

Can you hear the bayou? The river? The French Quarter? People sitting on their stoops waiting for someone to deliver the news? Penny parties?

That’s not a clarinet in the doctor’s hands; it’s a time machine.

“I listened to Johnny Dodds’ recordings. I listened to Sidney Bechet. I listened to George Lewis. I listened to Edmond Hall. I listened to Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, and so many others. And you listen to that and you say, ‘Wow, I would like to capture that feeling.'”

Tomi Lunsford and Gwen Thompkins at Tomi's home in Nashville, TN
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.

Pages