Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019 and Winston-Salem native, returns home to close racial and gender gaps in classical music

Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019

Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019 and Winston-Salem native, returns home to close racial and gender gaps in classical music
January 20
06:46 2023

Nia Franklin joins with the Winston-Salem Symphony this weekend for performances that will feature some of the music she’s curated and composed. The music from the program ranges from classical to pop to gospel, including favorites from her 2021 self-titled E.P.  

Her love for music started in her home church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church. She says it’s where she found her love for music as a young child.  

“’Order My Steps’ was the first song I remember just knowing the words to. It instilled in me the love not only for God but music. Music was something I always thought was a gift that God had given me, and I wanted to make sure I was using it,” Franklin said. “The connection from hymns at church to orchestrated music didn’t come until I was in high school. In church you’re just reading the lyrics, in band you’re just reading the notes, but in choir I was reading the notes to learn my music as well as learning the lyrics. That’s when it all clicked for me, and I realized this is what I could do with my life.”

With her love for music and desire for diversity in the world of music composition, Franklin started an initiative, Compose Her, to inspire other women.  

“It’s a place where women in music, no matter what your background, no matter where you live, can come together online to share and motivate each other. And we’re inclusive with all types of music. It doesn’t matter if you’re a classical musician or jazz musician or a woman who likes to write songs.” 

Compose Her is also Franklin’s remedy to the racial and gender disparities that exist in the classical music industry as it relates to composers.

“I was looking for something that would serve as an inspiration for not only myself as a woman in the classical music space, but also as a Black woman. You don’t see a lot of people who look like me in this field,” said Franklin. 

“The gaps are huge. They span from K-12 all the way to the collegiate level. In my six years of schooling, I had not one teacher of color that was in the music department. I also studied composition privately for six years and I didn’t have any female teachers,” she said. “When it comes to the composition and theory aspect of music, there’s a severe lack of diversity. I feel like it’s my responsibility to further the diversity and exposure that women have in this field. That’s why I’m so passionate about my initiative.”

During the pandemic, Franklin conducted Masterclasses over Zoom. You can also book her to provide workshop classes for summer camps or she can teach music theory to audiences through her initiative. 

Franklin says she is most excited about the premiere of her new piece, Sculpted Pavilions, which will be part of Saturday night’s performance. 

“It’s going to feature the Winston-Salem Symphony and it’s all strings. It’s a nine-minute piece with very lush melodies and is inspired by Psalms 27. It’s really a piece to make you feel safe and at peace. With the anxiety and everything that’s going on in the world, I hope it can give people nine minutes of peace. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

The event will be held Saturday, Jan. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the McChesney Scott Dunn Auditorium at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA). SECCA is located at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston-Salem.  General admission tickets begin at $25. A limited number of special VIP tickets are available, which include a post-performance reception with Franklin. Tickets are available by calling the Symphony Box Office at 336-464-0145 or online at

To learn more about Franklin’s initiative or to book her for classes, visit “I know I’m just one person, but I want to make a difference.” 

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Bridget Elam

Bridget Elam

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