Nkeiru Okoye is a world-renowned Nigerian-American composer. She was born on July 18, 1972 to an African-American mother and a Nigerian father. Growing up in New York, Okoye started her musical journey at a very young age. By the time she was a teenager, Okoye already began her quest in musical composition. She went to different performing arts schools such as Manhattan School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and Rutgers University to hone and perfect her craft.
Nkeiru is widely recognized for her works in a variety of musical categories including chamber, solo piano, vocal work, symphonic, choral, and opera music. In her career, she has been able to successfully incorporate different musical genres together to make phenomenal, unique pieces of work.
Nkeiru Okoye is also known for her amazing musical contributions to the Black community. Throughout her career, Okoye has worked hard to showcase pieces that discuss important topics in black history. One of her most well known pieces was an opera entitled Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom, premiered in 2014, which explores the life of enslaved Black people and the life of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman who helped enslaved people to freedom. Okoye also spoke on more recent events in Black history, one of those events being the death of Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was a 17-year old African American boy from Florida who was tragically murdered after being racially profiled in February of 2012. Okoye decided to use the power of music to speak up both about Trayvon’s death and the many other Black people that we have lost due to racism, ultimately leading to the world-premiere of Invitation to a Die-In in 2017.
What makes Nkeiru Okoye such a phenomenal and amazing composer is that she is able to have a career in classical music and make something that is truly her own, producing music that no one else could create like her. She also is able to use her beautiful talents to curate art that makes a difference in the world and raises discussion about problems that occur in society.
This profile was created in 2021 as part of The Savvy Singer, an EXCEL Lab course at the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and a collaboration with the Hampsong Foundation via the Classical Song Research Initiative.
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“Nkeiru Okoye.” Pasadena Symphony & Pops, pasadenasymphony-pops.org/artist/nkeiru-okoye/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2021.
Madonna, A.Z. “Composer Nkeiru Okoye Puts Heroism of Black Women at Center Stage.” Www.msn.com, 20 July 2021, www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/composer-nkeiru-okoye-puts-heroism-of-black-women-at-center-stage/ar-AAMmH3O. Accessed 20 Sept. 2021.
Wilson, Emily. “Nkeiru Okoye: Now Is the Moment.” Www.sfcv.org, 31 Aug. 2020, www.sfcv.org/articles/artist-spotlight/nkeiru-okoye-now-moment. Accessed 20 Sept. 2021.