Carlos Simon

“My dad, he always gets on me. He wants me to be a preacher, but I always tell him, ‘Music is my pulpit. That’s where I preach,’” Carlos Simon reflected for The Washington Post’s “Composers and Performers to Watch in 2022 list.”

A composer based in Atlanta, with a long lineage of preachers and connections to gospel music to inspire him, Simon proves that a well-composed song can indeed be a sermon. His compositions span genres—jazz, gospel, and contemporary classical music are noticeable influences—and can be found everywhere from film scores to concert music.

Known as a “young composer on the rise, with an ear for social justice,” Simon’s melodic lines effortlessly weave together history, migration, belonging, and community. After making waves upon the release of Requiem for the Enslaved, a new album by Georgetown University about the involvement of the institution in the slave trade, Simon signed with Decca Records.

Recognizing the complex history of enslavement, Simon visited the Louisiana cotton plantation that purchased the enslaved people from Georgetown University and immersed himself in university archives. Reflecting on the album and its impact Simon says, “It is my hope that I not only honor the men, women, and children sold into slavery, but also recognize that systemic racism is still ever present in our society.”

Simon was named as one of the recipients for the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and is currently the Composer-in-Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

He’s been commissioned to produce works on behalf of the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, and more recently the Minnesota Orchestra. This newly-commissioned work includes a large-scale tribute to George Floyd and the ongoing movement for racial justice, set to premiere in 2023. Those following Simon’s career can expect him to expand on this trailblazing body of work.

His most recent work, Requiem for the Enslaved, was nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for the 2023 Grammy Awards.