KPS Grads in Action: Joriah Kwame
Loy Norrix Grad's Music Recorded by Broadway Star
About seven months ago Joriah Kwame saw a post on the theater industry website Playbill.com seeking new songs for a recording project called “Write Out Loud.”
Now, Kwame has a video of his song “Little Miss Perfect,” being sung by the Tony-nominated actress Taylor Louderman, posted on Playbill.com.
Kwame, who may be better known to Kalamazoo audiences as Joriah Fleming, is preparing to move to Washington, D.C., for the role of Slightly Soiled, one of the Lost Boys in the Shakespeare Theater Company’s new production of “Peter Pan,” and then plans to make the move to New York City to further his acting and writing career.
Kwame, 22, graduated from Loy Norrix in 2015. His mother Rocann Fleming teaches at Edison Environmental Science Academy. His older sister Teriah Fleming is a Loy Norrix alum, and his younger sister Zakiya Fleming is a freshman at Norrix.
Kwame has been studying musical theater at Western Michigan University. He’s still a few general education credits short of his degree, but the timing seems right for the move, he says.
He was a regular in theater productions at Loy Norrix and Maple Street Middle School for the Arts. At WMU, he’s played characters as diverse as the Tin Man in “The Wiz,” Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and Fennyman in “Shakespeare in Love.” This summer he appeared in Farmers Alley Theatre’s production of “Avenue Q.”
But in addition to performing, he has been composing music since he was 11. He’s written several musicals, “Underdog the Musical,” “Dream: A New Musical,” “Sophia,” and “Our Beloved.” His most recent work is “TAPES: A Song Cycle,” which he created to raise awareness about suicide prevention after a friend died by suicide last year.
“Little Miss Perfect” comes from “TAPES,” and was one of about a dozen songs that he submitted to “Write Out Loud.” “Write Out Loud” was organized by Louderman, who is starring in the Broadway show “Mean Girls,” as a way to support original music.
“I didn’t even know what the song would be used for,” Kwame said. “As time went on, I learned she was creating an album to support new writers.”
Louderman received more than 600 submissions, and chose three winners who had the opportunity to have their songs recorded and distributed through Ghostlight Records.
“I got to fly over to New York to rehearse with her and make sure everything was done the way I wanted,” he said. “After that she took me backstage to see ‘Mean Girls.’ I’m just so thankful to her and the entire team for creating a competition that supports new artists.”
The album was released on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon and other outlets. Kwame was able to travel to New York for a concert honoring the winners. Their songs were performed at the cabaret Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Kwame said Louderman was drawn to “Little Miss Perfect,” in part for its story, which is about a closeted young lesbian woman.
“The character is afraid people will find out and that she’ll be rejected by her friends and family. There’s one line where she says, ‘I can’t risk falling off my throne.’ She’s really afraid her life is going to fall apart if she comes out,” he said. “Taylor knows a lot of her fans are younger and she wanted to have good messages in the songs she releases.”
Kwame said he’s amazed at the opportunities he’s received in the last few months.
“I’m just anxious to start working in the field and to start producing things,” he said. “I’m thankful for all of the opportunities I got to hone my craft.”
To see the video of Taylor Louderman performing “Little Miss Perfect,” or to read more about “TAPES: A Song Cycle” and to contribute to suicide prevention, visit joriahkwame.com.
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