Rhapsody in Black

Jessie Montgomery does more than just compose

Jessie Montgomery has composed works for ensembles that include the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Albany Symphony.Courtesy of the artist

Rhapsody in Black - Jessie Montgomery


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December 29, 2022

Composer Jessie Montgomery is in a constant state of creation. She started composing music seriously when she was just 11. Besides composing award-winning pieces, she actively performs violin and teaches. Her past commissions include works for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Metropolitan Museum and the National Choral Society.

Musical selections from Jessie Montgomery


Anna-Maria Helsing conducts the Philharmonia strings in Strum. This work is the perfect introduction to Montgomery's music with its utilization of textured motives and layers of rhythmic or harmonic ostinati that string together to form a bed of sound for melodies to weave in and out.


The Minnesota Orchestra’s 2021 performance of this work gives life to the energetic motives and layers of bright, swirling ideas that this piece represents. Montgomery says the simple definition of a starburst, which is the rapid formation of large numbers of new stars in a galaxy at a rate high enough to alter the galaxy's structure significantly, captures the essence of this one-movement orchestral work.


Montgomery’s Banner is a rhapsody on the theme of “The Star Spangled Banner” for its 200th anniversary. Banner is a rhapsody on the theme of “The Star Spangled Banner.” This work as the question: “What does an anthem for the 21st century sound like in today’s multicultural environment?” With its exploration of America’s racial contradictions between the ideals of freedom and the realities of injustice and oppression, this work is powerful and innovative.


Host: Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher