Penn Live Arts Blog

Tiny Desk Concerts by Annenberg Center Artists

Posted August 31, 2020

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Esperanza Spalding's 2010 Tiny Desk concert
Since 2008, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts has presented over 800 performances. The online concert series, perhaps the most popular of its kind in the world, features different artists from every musical genre in intimate, in-studio performances lasting about 15-20 minutes. There’s only one main rule for the artists to follow: All equipment, instruments and people must fit behind the desk. The famed desk space, reminiscent of a quirky, jam-packed office cubicle, has hosted many Annenberg Center artists over the years. Here are a few of our recent favorites!

Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain
July 2010 

NPR uploaded this 2010 concert from its Tiny Desk archives just last month, which reminded us of our own unforgettable performance by the trio in 2018. We were also fortunate to have Hussain grace our stage back in 2014 and in 2012 with his acclaimed Masters of Percussion.

Esperanza Spalding
October 2010 

Jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding performed here in 2009, when many still considered her to be an emerging artist. Since this 2010 Tiny Desk concert, Spalding has won four Grammy® Awards including this year’s Best Jazz Vocal Album for her seventh studio album, 12 Little Spells.

Sō Percussion
April 2012 

We had been looking forward to Sō Percussion’s Annenberg Center debut in April but had to close our doors just one month prior to that event. Having transitioned to Annenberg Center @ Home, we had a blast presenting the ensemble in our first-ever Facebook livestream this summer. That performance and Q&A session can be found on our YouTube channel.

Canadian Brass
May 2012 

Canadian Brass is one of the most famous brass ensembles in the world. The extraordinary quintet celebrated the holiday season with us in December of 2017.

Gary Burton
November 2013 

Seven-time Grammy®-winning jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton graced the Tiny Desk stage the same year that he joined us to celebrate his 70th birthday.

Terence Blanchard
August 2015

Terence Blanchard most recently performed here in 2016 with his quintet, The E-Collective. The acclaimed trumpeter/composer is well-known for using his music to speak out about social justice and civil rights. Look for his mention in our recent blog post on the history of jazz music in times of protest.

René Marie
July 2016 

René Marie made her Annenberg Center debut in 2019. Between her sensuous vocals and downright lovable personality, it was no surprise when she sold out our Harold Prince Theatre.

Lila Downs
January 2017 

Global superstar Lila Downs was appointed our Artist-in-Residence for the 19/20 season. Her May residence, which was cancelled due to the pandemic, would have consisted of three specially curated performances, campus workshops at Penn and local outreach activities highlighting Philadelphia’s rich Mexican American community. Don’t miss Downs’ rescheduled performance in April 2021.

Alfredo Rodríguez Trio
October 2018 

Our 2018 performance by the Alfredo Rodríguez Trio was not only the Grammy® nominee’s Annenberg Center debut, but also his first time performing in Philadelphia. The Trio was part of our 2018 Cuba Festival, a three-week focus on the vibrant artistry of Cuban music and dance.