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Local favorites from the NPR Tiny Desk Contest

NPR

Each year, NPR Music hosts its Tiny Desk Contest where the winning artist gets the opportunity to play their own Tiny Desk concert at NPR headquarters and go on tour around the country.

Musicians from all over the United States and beyond submit their performances for a chance to win. The contest, now in its tenth year, gives aspiring artists a larger platform to share their talent and offers support by pairing the winner with a mentor in the industry.

NPR crowned Sacramento-based The Philharmonik as this year's winner of the Tiny Desk Contest. Watch the winning performance on NPR.

But with Tulsa's rich music scene, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite local entrants.

OmaleyB is a former teacher and an R&B, soul and pop singer from Tulsa. His entry “We Died in Love-Church" references the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

“It was actually [based on a] true story about a couple who died coming home from church,” OmaleyB says. “But I didn't want to focus on that. I wanted to focus on their life, how they lived, which is in love.”

He entered the Tiny Desk Contest with hopes to share his music with a larger audience.

“My songs are about healing people in the world, changing a life one song at a time. It [would give] me a bigger platform to actually heal the world and help people through music.”

Lawrence Rosenborough is a Tulsa-born singer-songwriter who discovered his passion for music at an early age. With over 25 years of singing experience and 20 years of songwriting under his belt, Lawrence has become a versatile artist, showcasing his talent across multiple genres.

Rosenborough has entered the Tiny Desk Contest for the past four years with a song in a different genre each year.

“I've done blues, I've done rock, I've done jazz and acoustic, so I thought this year would be a good chance for me to do R&B. And not just regular R&B, but the old R&B that used to have conversations in songs,” he says.

“I wanted my song to aim at a particular issue, so I concentrated on relationships and tried to capture the essence of unwavering love and dedication.”

Agalisiga Mackey, known to family and friends as “Chuj” which means “boy” in Cherokee, grew up in northeastern Oklahoma where he was always surrounded by Cherokee community and culture.

“I have been learning and singing ceremonial songs my whole life and I believe that is where my love for music began,” Mackey says. He learned the technical side of music through marching band.

Mackey teaches Cherokee language and culture to elementary to middle school students, and he knew he wanted his Tiny Desk Contest entry to honor his tribal roots.

“’Tsitsutsa Tsigesv’ talks about what it's like growing up in a Cherokee world with a Cherokee outlook on things,” Mackey says. “I submitted a song in Cherokee to show that a modern song can be made from an old language, that Cherokee is still a breathing language.”

He hopes his entry will raise awareness for language revitalization efforts.

“I wanted to show my community that we matter, and we can do anything our way and in our language.”

To watch more Oklahoma entries, visit the NPR Tiny Desk page.

Richard Higgs moved to Tulsa from Kansas in January, 1980. He first set foot in Public Radio Tulsa's studios in 1996, as a guest on Studio Tulsa, to promote his book about working the American wheat harvest, "Bringing In The Sheaves". He's a passionate devotee of Oklahoma music, past and present.
Julianne joined Public Radio Tulsa in June 2022 as Development Associate. She wear many hats at the station — connecting with listeners, writing PRT's newsletters, planning events and doing digital behind-the-scenes.