Nkeiru Okoye, composer in residence at South Shore Conservatory, honors Wellesley president Paula Johnson in new score

Posted on: July 22, 2021

“Composer Nkeiru Okoye knows people see her as an activist, or a champion of social justice in the music world,” writes A.Z. Madonna in Tuesday’s (7/20) Boston Globe. “That’s not the full picture, Okoye said. ‘I am privileged to be a composer who works mainly by commission … [and] if the commissioner says, “Write a piece about Martin Luther King Jr.,” I’m writing a piece about Martin Luther King Jr.’ So when South Shore Conservatory tapped her as the first composer-in-residence for its new ‘SSC Transform’ initiative, and leadership commissioned what Okoye described as ‘a piece about social justice,’ she decided to focus on cardiologist and Wellesley College president Paula Johnson, whom she saw as a potential role model for the conservatory’s teen students…. ‘What if we give them someone to root for? I think that can also be social justice,’ Okoye said. The result was ‘Grayce and Sickle,’ a five-minute piece for wind ensemble that will receive its world premiere on July 23 at the conservatory.” Says Okoye, “I have two friends who have sickle cell. I spoke with them recently about this piece, and they began crying—‘Nobody understands, thank you for telling people about this.’ ”