Changing the Narrative with Alum Garrett McQueen

Garrett McQueen’s love for music has taken him to places he never dreamed it would have.

Growing up in the church, McQueen has always had music in his life. However, it wasn’t until he was 12 years old that he began his formal education in classical music. After joining his middle school band he was handed a bassoon, and that was the start of a great story.

As McQueen began to fall in love with music, he noticed his passion for performance. This is what led to him attending the University of Memphis, where he would go on to graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon. After graduating from UofM, he went on to the University of Southern California, where he received a master’s in Music with a concentration in Bassoon.

McQueen described his ability to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California as one of his academic career highlights.

“It was the first time I was competing on a global and international level,” said McQueen, “I was able to make my way to the top and remained there, which led to me being able to perform where I have.”

McQueen’s career in music includes performing as a member of the South Arkansas Symphony, Jackson Symphony, American Youth Symphony, Memphis Repertory Orchestra, the Eroica Ensemble, and most recently, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

However, it was his time with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra that led him down a path he never imagined. While in Knoxville a position opened up at the local radio station WUOT, which features jazz, classical, and news, and he decided to apply. McQueen has always been an advocate for the “diversification of classical music and the advancement of Black musicians,” and he saw this opening as an opportunity to expand his platform beyond the stage.

McQueen with TRILLOQUY co-host Scott Blankenship

Once he got the job at the radio station, his role began to evolve as an advocate of new music and new conversations. This eventually led to him creating his own podcast, TRILLOQUY. The podcast focuses on deconstructing and rebuilding how we think about the phrase “classical music.” McQueen and his co-host Scott Blankenship take pieces of music and use them as the framework of their discussion, covering both the music and the broader topic outside of music. For example, this week’s opus discussed the relationship between corporate money and equitable arts initiatives featuring pieces such as Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” and Christopher Rouse’s concerto Der gerettete Alberich.

Just this week, he spoke to the University of Memphis Symphony Orchestra encouraging students to imagine what classical music could look like if it directly catered to them. He is also quite active on diversity and equity panels presented by the Sphinx Organization, the Kennedy’s Center Shift Festival, the Gateways Music Festival, and several others. He will be working with the Gateways Music Festival for their online event next week, which you can find more information about here.

McQueen credits his study with Professor Lecolion Washington, currently serving as Executive Director for the Community Music Center of Boston, while at UofM, as foundational to his journey.

“Having the perspective of another Black classical musician was integral,” said McQueen.


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