WXPN Launches 'Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency' For Emerging Artists

Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency is the culmination of WXPN’s first-of-its-kind artist development project.

By: Jun. 08, 2023
WXPN Launches 'Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency' For Emerging Artists

Philadelphia public radio station WXPN has launched a new podcast called Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency. Hosted by John Morrison, the podcast presents five stories of up-and-coming Black musicians seeking to reclaim country and Americana as inclusive genres. The first episode of the 5-part series is available to stream across all digital platforms today, with subsequent episodes airing each week on Thursday through Black Music Month.   

Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency is the culmination of WXPN’s first-of-its-kind artist development project, which launched earlier this year with the goal of helping selected artists build sustainable careers through mentorship from industry professionals and a weeklong creative residency in Philadelphia. The Black Opry Residency was featured recently at Billboard, and earlier this week the residency artists appeared on World Cafe with an interview and performances. 

Bruce Warren, Associate General Manager for Programming at WXPN, speaks about the initiative: “We’ve been focused on showcasing emerging talent through our Artist To Watch program for two decades. Building on that commitment, we really wanted to up our game and build an artist development residency. We chose to partner with Black Opry and focus on Black creators who have not traditionally been afforded access to resources to help their careers.”

The Black Opry founder and co-director, Holly G, adds: "The partnership with XPN for the Black Opry Residency has been such an easy fit, it felt like we were meant to work together. It can be hard to find people in the industry that are passionate about emerging artists and willing to provide the resources to support them, especially artists from marginalized identities in the country and American landscape. It displays a tremendous amount of leadership and faith that Bruce and his team were able and willing to put their efforts behind such a big project and I'm grateful they were so keen to listen to myself and people like Rissi Palmer about the needs of our community. My hope is that others will see the success of this project and realize that we need to do it many times over.”

Black artists in Americana and country music are challenging the outdated notion that their lack of representation is due to a shortage of interest or talent. Their rich melodies, soulful harmonies, and artful lyrics are the newest contributions to a body of work that has for too long been overlooked. Each episode of Artist To Watch from WXPN takes you on a deep and personal dive into the real-life struggles of emerging performers and offers up new talent for you to discover before the rest of the world does. The debut season delves into the lives and music of up-and-coming musicians who found support, community, and inspiration through the Black Opry Residency. 

The first episode features country musician Tylar Bryant, a Texas native now based in Nashville who marries modern and traditional country music with rock and pop grooves. From an unusual encounter on a school bus to an impulsive move during the pandemic to a chance meeting with a visionary, this emerging country talent explores the role of serendipity in his young career.

Each subsequent episode will focus on the other four Black Opry Residency participants:
Samantha Rise, a Philadelphia-based teacher, activist, performer and songcatcher whose inclusive music is rooted in indie folk.
Grace Givertz, a Boston-based folk artist and multi-instrumentalist whose witty and honest lyrics bring a refreshing energy and sound to folk music.
Nashville-based twin brothers Brandon and Derek Campbell, who harmonize, write and perform as The Kentucky Gentlemen, creating a captivating blend of pop, country and R&B.
Soulful singer-songwriter Denitia, a Nashville-based artist whose poetic lyrics and retrospective music exhibits elements of country and folk. 
Support for the Black Opry Residency is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge-sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. 


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From This Author - Michael Major

Michael Major is a Connecticut native and a graduate of Marist College.After starting out running social media for a theatre company, his love of pop culture led him to intern at TigerBeat Media. Afte... Michael Major">(read more about this author)