Behind the Beat: Courtney Bryan (Part 1)

Behind the Beat | Episode 04

Courtney Bryan (Part 1)

Courtney Bryan’s music is strongly informed by bridging the sacred and the secular, with influences ranging widely through jazz, gospel, and experimental music.

From solo works to ensemble pieces to large orchestral scores, Bryan’s music is also concerned with social justice. Her work list includes a series of responses to police brutality, beginning with Saved in 2013.

Bryan’s year at the American Academy in Rome on a prestigious Rome Prize was cut short by the global pandemic, and she speaks with Tom Welsh from her home in New Orleans.

In Part 1 of their extended conversation, Bryan and Welsh discuss her forthcoming opera Awakening about Rebecca Cox Jackson, a free Black woman in the 19th century who established a Shaker community in Philadelphia.


Listen on Spotify to the compilation album of Alice Coltrane’s music that Courtney Bryan mentions, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda.


Watch a performance of Bryan’s Yet Unheard by Helga Davis and the Kaufman Music Center’s Face the Music ensemble.

Face the Music performs Courtney Bryan's "Yet Unheard" with Helga Davis


Part theatrical event, part visual art installation, part ritual ceremony, Prophetika: An Oratorio proposes a mythical cosmology of colliding reflections on freedom and a view of the current state of our world. Inspired by Harriet Tubman’s journey from enslavement to liberation; the cosmic philosophies and improvisational style of Sun Ra; Alice Coltrane’s consciousness-raising devotional music and the mysterious invading black monoliths in Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film 2001: Space Odyssey.

Watch excerpts, see archival photos, and read more.


Listen to Courtney Bryan’s Soli Deo Gloria performed by Duo Noire.


Read about some of the artists mentioned in this interview.

Behind the Beat is a series featuring composers and performers in the time of isolation. While the twin pillars of performing arts—global travel and gathering together for a shared experience—are impossible, artists are reflecting on their work, both past and future. Of particular interest are those artists with direct connections to the Cleveland Museum of Art. This series celebrates the legacy of music at the museum and uniquely illuminates aspects of the museum’s collection.