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Jon Batiste On Sharing Joy In A Painful Year: 'I Want To Reaffirm People's Humanity'

Jon Batiste performs at a voter registration event in Brooklyn, N.Y., in June 2020.
Kevin Mazur
Getty Images
Jon Batiste performs at a voter registration event in Brooklyn, N.Y., in June 2020.

During the pandemic, Jon Batiste took his music to the streets. This summer, the music director and bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert performed at marches protesting the killing of George Floyd. Recently he did a pop-up performance at a mass vaccination site in New York.

"I wanted to articulate through the music and through my presence there that we're all in this together," Batiste says. "Ultimately, this is our time. This is our world. We have to come together and understand that or else everything is going to completely disintegrate."

Batiste has a new album, We Are. He also recently won a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award for composing the music for the animated film Soul. He joined Fresh Air from his home piano, where he played music from We Are, songs from Soul and a remarkable rendition of the national anthem.

Batiste sings and plays music throughout this interview, explaining his process. Click the audio link above to get the full experience

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.