Immanuel Wilkins never loses sight of the long game
Immanuel Wilkins is a prolific jazz musician and a Kimmel Center 2020 Artist-in-residence. Tune into this episode of Artblog Radio to hear about his musical journey and collaboration-in-progress with David Dempewolf of Marginal Utility and New York photographer Rog Walker.

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Immanuel Wilkins. Photo courtesy the artist.
Immanuel Wilkins. Photo courtesy the artist.

On this episode of Artblog Radio, Morgan Nitz sits down with their old friend, saxophonist, composer, arranger, band leader, and Kimmel Center Jazz artist-in-residence, Immanuel Wilkins. During the residency, Wilkins will collaborate with Marginal Utility‘s David Dempewolf and New York Photographer Rog Walker to deliver a jazz and photo experience that you won’t want to miss. Tune in to hear more about the project, and what it’s like to perform with stars like Solange Knowles. Make sure to attend the FREE Residency Kick-off on Thursday, January 23rd!

Residency Kick-Off, Thursday, Jan. 23, 8:00 PM, (FREE)
Public Workshop, Friday, March 6 6:00 PM, (FREE)
Work-in-Progress, Saturday, April 11, 8:00 PM, (FREE)
World Premiere, Saturday, June 6, 8:00 PM, (Tickets starting at $15)

You can listen to Artblog Radio on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thank you to Kyle McKay for composing Artblog Radio’s original podcast intro and outro!


Morgan Nitz: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to another episode of Artblog Radio. I’m your host for today, Morgan Nitz. Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Immanuel Wilkins, 2020 Kimmel Center artist in residence.

Immanuel Wilkins: How’s it going? Thanks, thanks for having me.

Morgan Nitz: Of course! Immanuel is a saxophonist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and a very old friend of mine.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, that’s right, very old. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Um, no, for real, though, I met Immanuel in elementary school jazz band at Highland Park

Immanuel Wilkins: Oooh! (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: led by the late, great Brad Schoener,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: of course. I think that for as long as I’ve known you, you’ve had a saxophone in your hand at least half of that time, (laughter) and you’ve been smiling, laughing at least 75% of that time. (laughter) No, it’s great, you have great energy. I remember, like, walking into the band room in high school or, like, lunch, after school, you’d just be playing with, uh, Henry, Yesseh, Jared, whoever.

Immanuel Wilkins: All the cats! (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: You had all the fun.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: Being that you were already, like, a very talented saxophonist when I met you, how did you get started?

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, I, I got started, uh, when I was, my, my parents started me with music when I was three. I, they kind of, I mean, they put, they put me in a bunch of things. Um, I got, anything I mentioned, they would just, like, kinda throw me in it. So, like, I mentioned wanting to be a scientist, they put me in these, like, science classes or, you know what I mean? Uh, so I got a violin at three. That didn’t really work out, I was really bad, and then, um, I moved on to piano, uh, maybe a year after that, and that kinda didn’t work out either, and then, um, you know, but I, I was, I was playing those for a, for a little while, I was doing that and I was singing, I was trying singing. So those three were kinda between, like, age three and third grade, that’s what I was doing, and then third grade, um, I had, I had this friend at Highland Park, Ben, I can’t remember his last name, but, uh, he had, he had said, like, “yeah, you can get in the band early if you have your own instrument, so I, I bugged my parents, I’m like, “yo, can you buy me a saxophone?” They had already bought me all these other instruments cause I’m just going through, (laughter) um, and they were like, “look, yeah, we’ll buy you the saxophone but we’re not going to pay for the lessons yet because you got to show us you’re for real about this, cause you’re just going through all these instruments.” (laughter) So, um, so I, I got the saxophone, I started playing, I was practicing really hard, um, and then I think I came home from church one day and I, I could, like, play one, I figured out one of the songs they were singing, and so my mom was like, ‘alright, well, we’ll get you lessons.’ So they set me up at the Clef Club, uh, on Broad and Fitzwater and, and then I enrolled at Highland Park

Morgan Nitz: Wow.

Wilkins: with, with Schoener, so, it’s like, between, between those two, that’s, that’s kinda how it just start and, I mean, I really think, yeah, the Clef Club was, I still, yes, still use, I, I still use it, I still go there. Uh, and, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: Wow!

Immanuel Wilkins: That’s it. So yeah.

Morgan Nitz: I didn’t even know they had, um, classes for, like, youth at the Clef Club.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yep, yeah. Um, yeah, especially, when I, when I was there, it was real, it was, it was, like, it was a really strong program. Yesseh had actually told me about that program. Um, he wasn’t going there at the time, but I think he started, he started right after I went, but they, we had both, like, talked about it a lot, um, so it was like, it was a strong, like, I mean that, that, those, those years at Highland Park were like really, really nice for me, ’cause it was like me, Yesseh, Henry,

Morgan Nitz: Mhm!

Immanuel Wilkins: and then, like, throughout all the, you know what I mean? The different, well, Henry, well, in jazz band, you know how we, we

Morgan Nitz: Yeah yeah yeah yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: But yeah, for like, for like, three, like, for two years in Highland Park, two years in, or one year in middle school, and then two years in high school, we were all together, so, you know what I mean? It was, it was nice to have that, like, kind of push, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Oh, yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: So.

Morgan Nitz: I remember, like, you two, I forget who it was, it was you and Henry or you and Yesseh being up on stage during like a, a concert, and you were, like, basically just having, like, a solo-off,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: I mean, you got in a little bit of trouble. (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: Probably! (laughter) Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, I mean, it was, you know what I mean? Like, I’m definitely, like, in retrospect, I’m really thankful to have, you know what I mean? To have that type of friendly competition growing up.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah!

Immanuel Wilkins: ‘Cause it’s like,

Morgan Nitz: Absolutely.

Immanuel Wilkins: definitely good for all of our growth. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Oh man, I loved it. I loved it. Just getting to watch you, you all and not be really part of it, (laughter) you know?

Immanuel Wilkins: It was fun.

Morgan Nitz: I’m not competing, I’m just watching people. (laughter) I love it. Um, so I want to hear about the residency itself.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: I see that, online, that you’re partnered with a photographer?

Immanuel Wilkins: Yup!

Morgan Nitz: Rog Walker,

Immanuel Wilkins: Mhm,

Morgan Nitz: and David Dempewolf, who is Marginal Utility.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah! Here in Philly.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yup.

Morgan Nitz: So how did you meet these artists?

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, David, David, uh, I met through, um, through this piano player, Jason Moran, actually, uh, and he’s, he’s from Houston, it was, we were just, we were on, on, on tour and Jason has a project with a lot of multimedia, um, and David was doing, doing the projection for that, uh, and so, we met, and then I found out he was from Philly, and so we, you know, we, we kind of bonded over that, um, and then, once, once I kinda, once I got the, the commission for this, for this project I was, I was looking for, I was looking for some people to work with and, uh, I figured this would be a good, good opportunity to work with them. I, I’ve been wanting to do it for awhile. And Rog, I met, um, Rog I met maybe a year ago.

Morgan Nitz: Mm.

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, I’ve been a fan of his for, for a while. He’s a, he’s a great photographer. Um, and I, I’ve been a fan for a long time. He did, he did my album cover, uh, that’s coming out some point this year.

Morgan Nitz: Wooo!

Immanuel Wilkins: I don’t know when. (laughter)

Wilkins: Um, but yeah, he, yeah, he’s, he’s, um, he’s a great photographer and I really liked his work and I wanted to kind of see what they could do together, ’cause, uh, David’s stuff is, it’s like he deals with animation a lot, a lot, uh, and, um, kinda, I don’t know, just like, kinda crazy stuff, and Roger’s stuff is more like, like classic photog-, you know what I mean? Like, like pretty, pretty classic photography. So I wanted to kinda see what they can kinda do together, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: So.

Morgan Nitz: No, absolutely. What will that look like in terms of the performance gonna go out? Is it like, David’s making projection of Rog’s work?

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, so, so, um, basically, I mean, we’re, we’re in the, we’re in the, like, first stages right now, like, we, we just met up for the past two days, we, and, uh, kinda went, went around Philly and did some shooting. Um, but basically it’s going to be, hopefully, what I’m planning on is projections going on behind the band while we’re playing, um, and, uh, it’ll basically be. So basically the, the pieces is, uh, around, it’s about kinda my experience in Philadelphia and, and growing up. Um, yeah, like when I think back, I was, I was born in Philly, but I did most of them, like, I mean, most of my years were, were in the suburbs, like, like in Upper Darby. Highland Park Elementary, Beverly Hills Middle School, Upper Darby High, you know what I mean? It’s like I was, I was, I was in Upper Darby, so it’s kinda, but, but then, like, most of, most of my, uh, most of my, like, real growing up and hanging out, I did a lot of hanging inside of the city, so I was, you know, I was here a lot, between the Clef Club, the Kimmel Center, um, a lot of my circle was, was inside the city, so, um, kinda just, just figuring out, like, the relationship between those two and, uh, just, like, the difference of, of, of, um, like, living situations, and so, like, exploring those things, um, in the work is kinda what, what I’m gonna try to be doing.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: So, hopefully, I mean, yeah, the goal is, like a two-hour piece

Morgan Nitz: Wow.

Immanuel Wilkins: but with projections behind us while we’re playing, so.

Morgan Nitz: So it’s funny, like, I felt definitely drawn to the city a lot when I was living in Delco too. I think,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: you know, that’s where the art was, um, I didn’t know it then, but that’s, that’s where the queer people were

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah, I’m with you, I’m with you.

Morgan Nitz: No, I mean, they’re everywhere, but (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: No, no, yeah!

Morgan Nitz: But for real, in the city and, you know, um

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah. No, it’s, it’s definitely a powerful city, yeah, it’s like,

Morgan Nitz: Yeah!

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, this is great.

Morgan Nitz: I love it here, and, you know, I hope it doesn’t change too much too soon, you know, there’s a lot development happening, but.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: What do you want Philadelphians to gain from seeing your performance?

Immanuel Wilkins: Uh, just, um, honestly, that’s always a hard question for me because, um, like, in a way I don’t really write for people, like, if that, if that makes sense, like, like, I’m writing for myself in a way, you know what I mean? Like a lot of my stuff is, like, or, not, not I mean, I just, I just think, like, my, my inspiration for writing is, is, it’s kind of self-generated. It’s like I write for my own healing, you know what I mean? Um, but I think, I think that, I, I think that they’ll, I think that Philadelphians can gain, um, some perspective or, you know, just an interesting perspective on, on the city, uh, in a, in kind of a reimagined way, you know what I mean? I’m just trying to, trying to reimagine how we look at the city, um, through, through, like, memory,

Morgan Nitz: Mm.

Immanuel Wilkins: you know? Um, as well as, uh, like, pretty, uh, just, just straight on, kinda, viewpoints. Um, yeah. I think, I think that’s, that’s really what I, I’d like people to take away is just, just kinda, kinda, yeah. A different perspective of, of something. It’ll be, it’ll be pretty abstract. (laughter) It’s going to be much more abstract than, than, just some pictures of Philly.

Morgan Nitz: No, absolutely.

Immanuel Wilkins: So, it should be interesting.

Morgan Nitz: And on top of it, you know, Philly is a giant jazz city, so,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: it’ll definitely have that aspect.

Immanuel Wilkins: Totally. Yeah, yeah. It’ll be cool. And musically I’m definitely touching into that a lot, just kinda, like, what, what, what, um, what kind of influenced me musically about Philadelphia? So the music kind of embodies, uh, John Coltrane’s music is, is big here, um. I don’t know. A lot of things, the church, you know, all, all these type of different, different things that kind of influenced my, my writing and my music. I’m trying to see how I can mix it into the piece as well, you know. This is kind of about, like, diversity, I guess. The whole, the whole thing is kinda just, like, about, like, like, these different, like, dualities or something, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it, it’s, it’s funny, it’s, like, it’s all, like, slowly developing. I was, I was talking to Rog and David yesterday and I was like, everyone’s like, “man, like, what, what, what do we do? Like, it’s still, like, we don’t know what’s happening yet. (laughter) Um, but it was, it was interesting ’cause then we all collectively realized at the same time just, like, yeah, no, it’s, like, this is how things work. This is how, like, creating works. It’s like, like, you don’t, like, you walk aimlessly until things start to kinda show its face, and then, then it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing,” you know what I mean? But before then you’re just kinda doing things, (laughter) you know? So I’m definitely still in the blind stages of, like, just aimlessly doing things. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: That’s, like, the most exciting part.

Immanuel Wilkins: Totally, totally.

Morgan Nitz: There’s so many different avenues you can go. You’re not too locked into anything

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: and you’re not limiting yourself. And, you know, all those times that I’m looking back at my work and I’m writing artist’s statements and I’m saying, “I intended to do this.” I didn’t intend to do it, that’s what ended up happening.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Morgan Nitz: I don’t have to sound intentional.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yup! Yeah. (laughter) That’s exactly what it is. Totally.

Morgan Nitz: I love it. Um, so you’ve had some awesome opportunities. I want you to let people who are listening here on Artblog Radio know, who is the most famous person you’ve performed with? (laughter) What was that like?

Immanuel Wilkins: Uh, actually, man, I didn’t, didn’t read through these questions. (laughter) Um, uh, man, the most famous? I, I don’t, uh, Sean Mendes, maybe?

Morgan Nitz: Wh-

Immanuel Wilkins: At the, at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and I just found out that’s the last one. (laughter) That will be the last Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show ever.

Morgan Nitz: Wow.

Immanuel Wilkins: Uh, Solange, maybe? I don’t know, there, I guess the top, Bob Dylan?

Morgan Nitz: Wow.

Immanuel Wilkins: Bob Dylan, uh, but we, I just recorded with, and he wasn’t in the, he wasn’t in the studio when I recorded, so I don’t know if that counts.

Morgan Nitz: I was about to say his, his scratchy voice. (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: It was, yeah. I mean, his, his voice was on, like, when we were recording, like, you could hear him singing and then it was just like, this is funny, like, this is Bob, we’re recording with Bob Dylan, (laughter) uh, but, but yeah, I don’t know, I guess, I guess between those three. I don’t know if Bob Dylan even counts, but,

Morgan Nitz: Yeah. (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: you know what I mean? It’s like, well, he wasn’t there, uh, and it was a recording, it wasn’t performance, but yeah. Sean, Sean Mendes was pretty cool. Solange was really dope. Solange is my favorite. Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: I saw, um, I was at made in America and when, I think, Henry was playing.

Immanuel Wilkins: Oh! Killen, yeah, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: That was, that was wild.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s fun.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah. Oh, man. Um, okay, but who, what was, like, your favorite, favorite performance you’ve ever been a part of?

Immanuel Wilkins: Uh, favorite performance…um, uh, man, Solange had a great one at the Guggenheim that I did. Uh, that was like a, like a, kinda like a performance art piece, um, with, uh, she part-, uh, she partnered with Telfar, the, the, the clothing brand. But yeah, it was, that was, that was really cool, um, what else? I mean, musically, probably, uh, the most rewarding performances have been with Jason Moran, uh, uh, and that’s how I met David, and those, those, those performances musically have, have been pretty, pretty life-changing for me. Um, Wynton Marsalis, it’s been fun to play with, uh, musically. Yeah, yeah. I think that, like, the pop world definitely trumps the, the, uh, the jazz world in terms of like, like actual performance, you know what I mean? Like, like performance performance. But, um, but yeah, in terms of, in terms of, musically, yeah, Jason Moran, Wynton Marsalis, have been, like, life-altering.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: But Solange, in terms of, like,

Morgan Nitz: Like, production

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, production, was, like, insane.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Like, definitely, like, one of the dopest visual experiences I’ve, I’ve been a part of, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Absolutely.

Immanuel Wilkins: So those are fun. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Of course. Uh, alright. Let’s see. Alright, I got one.

Immanuel Wilkins: Alright.

Morgan Nitz: We’re doing the fun ones now.

Immanuel Wilkins: Great.

Morgan Nitz: What’s your dream venue?

Immanuel Wilkins: Dream venue. Ahh, um, hmm. To lead a band in? Or just to play in in general?

Morgan Nitz: How about both?

Immanuel Wilkins: Okay. To lead a band in, uh, the Village Vanguard, as of right now. Um, that’s the, like, that’s the best jazz club in the world, hands down. Um, uh, but, I guess, dream venue in general to do anything, ah, man. I mean, there’s so many, there’s so many factors. Like, like for me, like, sound-wise, it’s the Village Vanguard, hands down, for anything. Uh, (laughter) halls maybe, maybe, uh, um, to lead a band in maybe the Sydney Opera house. Uh, I’ve played there once, but it was, uh, it was, it wasn’t, it wasn’t my, my group. Um, yeah, but uh, I don’t know. I have no idea. That’s a, that’s a good question. I think, I think my dream venue is to make a venue, you know?

Morgan Nitz: That’s sick!

Immanuel Wilkins: My, my dream venue is, like, my own venue.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah, absolutely.

Immanuel Wilkins: Like, that’s, that’s, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: Where would it be?

Immanuel Wilkins: Somewhere in the mountains or, like, in, in the, like, forest or something. It would be, like, it would be something that, like, people have to, like ,make a pilgrimage to, (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: That’d be a cool experience!

Immanuel Wilkins: you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: You’re staying in a B’n’B. (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: It’s like, you’d have to, you’d have to go to this. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: You got to, yeah. And I,

Morgan Nitz: That’d be awesome!

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah. I, I mean that, that’s, yeah. That, that’s my dream. That’s my dream venue to play at, and it’s certainly a dream. It’s like, (laughter) it’s going to take a long time before that happens.

Morgan Nitz: That’d be sick.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: If you…alright. Have you ever had a moment where you felt like, ‘I’m not sure if music is really my career?’

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, uh, no, but, uh, I think the reason behind that is, is, um, uh, I think, I think for, for me, um, it, it comes down to, uh, like, there was no other, there was no other option, you know what I mean? It was like, um, for me, it was always like I had to, I had to have that kind of self-generated motivation where it’s like, ‘no, this is, this is it,’ you know what I mean? It’s, I love this, this is what I want to do.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, even in times of, like, uh, struggle or, or, or, you know what I mean? Um, it’s almost like, like siblings. It’s like you can’t, you can’t, you know what I mean? It’s, you

Morgan Nitz: Love it even when you’re fighting.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah. I mean, you know what I mean? It’s like, you can’t get rid, you know what I mean? They’re your brothers or sisters, like, I mean, what are you gonna do? Like, you know, you can’t, so, it’s kinda the same thing for me. It was never an option, it’s like, no, this is, this is what I do, so even if it doesn’t give me what I want all the time, it’s like, no, this is, like, this is a part of the, the, the grand scheme, you know what I mean? So I think, uh, one of the big reasons why I never really questioned it was that I always, I never lost sight of the big picture, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: It was always, like, it was always big picture. It was always like, man, no, I’m playing the long game. Like, the long game is, no, I need to be, like, really good, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, yeah. So I think, yeah, I think that’s it, really. It’s, I never lost sight of the long game, and I always, like, make goals for myself, short goals that led to the longterm goals.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: And so I, I never, I, I never struggled with any sort of, like, like, um, anxiety about my, my future, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, just, just because it’s like, no, it’s a, it’s a process, and, and you will lose, you know? Like right now I’m taking losses, like, like a lot of, like a lot, like a lot about my development right now is just about taking losses. It’s like, whether it’s financially, uh, musically, anything, you know what I mean? Um, it’s, I mean, I, yeah, musically too, it’s like, work, working with certain people, like, sometimes you have to, you have, you know, you, you have to make sacrifices with playing, you know what I mean? That’s like, that’s one of the first things you learn. Especially when I’m playing, like, an improvisatory music, like jazz, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Mmm.

Immanuel Wilkins: You learned, you learn these things, like, ‘okay, like if he’s, if, if the drummer is playing like this, then I have to, like, I have to get inside of his time, you know what I mean? I have to, like, you know what I mean? I can’t do my own thing, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: I have to, I have to make sure, or like, if I’m playing with another horn player, we have to make sure the melody’s tight. I can’t phrase it like I want to, if it, you know what I mean? It’s like, sometimes maybe what I’m doing is, like, a really dope idea, but I can’t make that decision because I have to, like, if I make that decision, it’s gonna make the band sound worse, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: So, I think, I think it’s the same thing, kinda, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah. No, absolutely.

Immanuel Wilkins: And then financially, I’m definitely losing right now, just in terms of (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Aren’t we all?

Immanuel Wilkins: It’s like, like, having, especially being a band leader, it’s like, um, like. you don’t, like, you always, you, you want the band to, to respect everything you do, so, no matter what, they’re always going to be taken care of, right?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: So, it’s like, if I, you know, if I take a gig and pay is not where it needs to be, it’s like, I have to supplement, you know what I mean? So it’s the same thing, and all of these things hopefully will pay off in the long run, I’m hoping.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah. (laughter) But that’s, that’s, that’s the long game. It’s like, right now we’re in the season of loss, you know? And then I’ll be up at some point (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Yeah! No, absolutely.

Immanuel Wilkins: You know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah, you will be. You will be.

Immanuel Wilkins: Thanks. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Don’t worry about that, I know it. (laughter) Uh, do you have any, alright, just to like get, get here, wrapping up here, two more questions. If you, do you have one big qualm about the music industry and what would you do about it?

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, one? Just one?

Morgan Nitz: You can do a few! (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: Can I do many? Uh, I’ve got a bunch of qualms with the music industry. Uh, one being, uh, um, this idea, this, I don’t know, I’m just, this is in no order. I’m just kinda going off the top of my head. Um, one thing being, like this idea of packaging. Everything has to be, um, packaged in a way, uh, that can be sold well, so,

Morgan Nitz: Mmm.

Immanuel Wilkins: um, I can’t just, like, I can’t just create things anymore, you know what I mean? It has to be like, you know, um, it’s almost like, uh, sometimes like, I’ll go to, I’ll go to, and I’m about to sound like a museum snob right now, but I’ll go, I’ll go to, like, museums with people and they’ll try to, like, like, they’ll look at the painting and be like, like, it’ll be, like, abstract work, and they’ll be like, “Oh yeah, that looks like a dog to me.” It’s like, no, like, that’s not, like, that’s not the purpose of, it’s, like, we, like, as, as people, we, we always just kinda want to marginalize something to something we know.

Morgan Nitz: Mmm.

Immanuel Wilkins: We want to associate it, and that somehow brings it more value, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Right.

Immanuel Wilkins: So it’s like, we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this looks like this,’ or ‘this guy, oh yeah, he sounds like this,’ you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, so my, my, my, one of my biggest qualms is like, this idea of, like, everything has to be a thing.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: It’s like, why can’t I make music about nothing? Like, I wanna come out with records that are just called “Buy My Album”

Morgan Nitz: Mhm.

Immanuel Wilkins: and each track is just “One,” “Two,” “Three,” “Four,”

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: you know what I mean? It’s like, like, why can’t we do that? Why is that not marketable? Because it should be about my art.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: You know what I mean? But we just, we live in a weird time where it’s just, like,

Morgan Nitz: We live in a society.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yo, for real. It’s like, everything is like, ‘ah, man, I gotta, yeah, what’s this about?’ ‘Well, it’s kinda about my life,’ and then you come up with these, like, really dumb, like, little things that you kinda have to force, you know what I mean? It’s like, I’m, I’m not, I’m not with that. So I think unless, and I do have a lot of things, you know, at the same time, like, artists are, are thinkers, in a way, so, um, I think we do have a lot to say and a lot to talk about, and so, I think when we do have projects that are about something, then that’s great, and I think most of our projects should be about, or will be about something.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: But I think there’s just a, there’s no way to sell nothing and there should be in art.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: You know what I mean? Like untitled works should have, like, easy, they should be just as valued as my project about Philadelphia, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: And I’m, I’m totally with you there and one of my big problems with that is that one, I think it’s my boss, Roberta, who said that artists are not always the best person to talk about their work

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah. Oh yeah. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: as much as you have stuff behind it. But, apart from that, I’ve noticed I’ll be, um, you know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll make a few things, I feel like they’re nothing, I don’t know what they are at all. A couple of months later, I realize six months have been going by. I made a lot of things that look very similar. They are cohesive conceptually.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: I didn’t know it at the time, and how am I supposed to sustain myself and get support, financial support, emotional support,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: critique support, in that moment where I’m not able to name what I’m doing? It’s not until afterwards when you have a series that people are able to digest what you’re looking at and that’s great, but when you’re trying to make a living,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: you need that money, you need that support as you’re making stuff and

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yup.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah. I mean, it almost feels like sometimes you need some, somebody else to be the advocate. I mean, artists are expected to be every part of their own, their own marketer, their own producer, editor, everything.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah.

Morgan Nitz: It’s exhausting, and then you’re usually working on top of it.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, totally.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yup.

Morgan Nitz: Well, if, if you, like, looking into the future,

Immanuel Wilkins: Mhm.

Morgan Nitz: and, and you, you were to, to look back at your career and feel like, ‘I feel like I’ve really, uh, like, made it. I’ve, I’ve done it,’ where do you think you’d be? What would you be doing?

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, uh, if, if I feel like I’ve made it, then I’m not doing anything, then I’m,, like, I’m at home on the couch, you know what I mean? (laughter) Um, but, with that, all that to say that I don’t, I hope I don’t ever think I made it, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, I always joke around with people, I’m like, “man, like, once, once I make it, I’m going to cut my dreads,” like, (laughter) um, just like, like, I’m going to, (laughter) like, I I always, I always say, like, like my, like my dreads are like, like the symbol of me being in the shed, like, it’s me and the practice where I’m like, yeah. And then, like, if I cut them, that means I’m like, I’m not going through anything anymore, like, I’m out.

Morgan Nitz: Yeah. (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: Um, but yeah, no, no, for real though, like, if I, yeah, I mean, I, yeah, no, I just, I hope I never feel like I made it, you know?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: I just, I feel like I, and every day I feel like I’m making progress and that’s, that’s all that, that I want. I just, I just want to make progress, um, yeah, and, and I mean, yeah, and execute big milestones, but once I execute a big milestone, I have, by that time, I’ll have four more, you know what I mean?

Morgan Nitz: Yeah.

Immanuel Wilkins: Hopefully. I don’t know what I’ll feel like when I’m 80 though, you know? Hopefully I’ll still be searching, but I might not be, I might be chilling. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: Hopefully you’ll still be getting joy out of it, finding new things to enjoy it,

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah.

Morgan Nitz: but also resting (laughter) well deserved.

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. (laughter) No rest ever. (laughter) Yeah. No, but yeah. Yeah, so I just keep going. Just keep going. (laughter)

Morgan Nitz: No, it’s been so great to talk to you. Thank you so much

Immanuel Wilkins: Thanks for having me.

Morgan Nitz: for being on Artblog Radio, which you can listen to on Spotify or Apple Music. (laughter)

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah!

Morgan Nitz: And um, you said you have an album coming out later this year?

Immanuel Wilkins: Yes. Yes, at some point in 2020, it will be out.

Morgan Nitz: Alright! So be on the lookout for that. I will link to your website. Does that work?

Immanuel Wilkins: Yeah, that’s, that’s great.

Morgan Nitz: Alright, perfect. At the bottom of the post, check it out! Thank you again.
Wilkins: Kill it! Thank you.

Tags

arranger, band leader, composer, david dempewolf, diverse, Immanuel Wilkins, installation, jazz, kimmel center, music, musician, philadelphia, photography, projections, Rog Walker, saxophone

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