Nia Imani Franklin is a singer, songwriter, and music composer. She is the founder of Compose Her, an initiative that seeks to empower women in music. Along with her strong and influential background in the arts, she believes in the need to embrace gender diversity and racial diversity in the performing arts world. In 2017, she was awarded the William R. Kenan Fellowship at Lincoln Center. While working at Lincoln Center, Nia was encouraged to enter the Miss New York competition to showcase her talent. In 2018, Nia was crowned Miss America 2019 as she promoted the importance of arts education. Through her social impact initiative, Advocating for the Arts, she speaks with students, school administrators, and teachers about the importance of arts integration and why it’s important for a well-rounded education. Nia serves as a cultural partner with Sing for Hope and continues to work with arts organizations nationally to reach as many students and communities as possible. As a composer, Nia believes that the “arts possess the power to uplift, unite, transform lives” and she believes, “everyone deserves access to an arts education.”
We sat down with Nia to discuss her musical background, her time with the Miss America Organization, her social impact initiative Advocating for the Arts, and her project Compose Her.
Interview by @dominiquemoreno_ for #ThePowerThread
Tell me about your background.
I was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and it is one of my favorite places. It’s not a small town, but it’s not a huge town either. One aspect of my town that I love is that it’s known as the city of “Arts and Innovation.”
What inspired you to study music composition for your undergraduate and masters?
I wanted to learn how to notate music. I saw a behind the scenes documentary of a Broadway show, and it was showing women composers and it made me think, “I can do that!”
What valuable lessons did you learn during your time with the Miss America Organization?
I learned how to be a part of an executive team and how to advocate for myself. I was working very closely with the CEO and was able to voice my opinions and ideas. Though my opinions weren’t always used, I knew that speaking up was still important.
Tell us about your social impact initiative of Advocating for the Arts. What work have you done to bring awareness to this initiative?
I have spoken with school administrators and children about the importance of a well-rounded education, which includes the arts. Most recently I have led virtual masterclasses through my initiative, Compose Her. I started this initiative to uplift women in music, but really the goal is to make sure everyone is equally empowered.
What can we do as a society to promote and advocate for the arts? How have you used your platform to advocate for the arts?
As a society we can encourage people of all backgrounds to be supporters of the arts. More importantly, there needs to be diversity in the arts. Supporting artists looks different for everyone. It can be in the form of sharing content of new artists, buying their art, and encouraging children to engage with the arts.
I’ve used my platform to advocate for the arts by partnering with numerous organizations and making sure that all children have access to the arts.
What inspired you to create the Compose Her project? What is the mission behind this program?
I understand the need to embrace gender diversity and racial diversity in the world of music. As a Black female composer, I want to increase the visibility of minority groups primarily in the classical music field.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Currently I am working with several organizations to bring virtual music learning experiences to students all over the United States.
What does being powerful mean to you?
Being powerful to me means having courage. Anyone can seem or be powerful when everything is going perfectly. When life gets complicated or intimidating, that is when the true test comes along.