Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Lonnie Norwood, Jr. grew up with an unquenchable passion for music and his heritage. He knew early that both would be integral parts of his life's work. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Luther College where he studied under world renowned conductor, Weston Noble. He went on to earn a Master of Music degree with an emphasis in Voice from Florida State University. Lonnie has taught K-12 music in Leon County (Tallahassee) and Chicago area schools, both public and private. He has enjoyed numerous career highlights that include sharing creative space as a singer and arranger with such artists as Lizz Wright, Nona Hendryx, Nadine McKinnor, Ricky Dillard, Sweet Honey in the Rock and a host of Chicago artists.
Lonnie joined the artistic staff at Uniting Voices Chicago as a conductor in 2012 and opened its vivacious Englewood Neighborhood Choir (2013). His ensemble has performed for live television and radio broadcasts, at numerous city venues including the Chicago Symphony Center and The McCormick Convention Center and have completed four national choir tours, including one to Puerto Rico learning and performing Bomba with the Ayala family of Loíza. Their most significant work, perhaps, is serving the community of Englewood in song at local churches, parks, shopping centers, block parties, schools, and assisted living facilities. Additionally, he has been appointed Director of Africana Studies and conductor of the Lincoln Park/DePaul Neighborhood Choir at Uniting Voices Chicago.
Lonnie is an in-demand clinician of African-American folk/sacred music, helping educators and ensembles understand the historical significance, incomparable West African influences, vocal techniques, and the Black liberation aspects behind the vast collection. Norwood conducts workshops with high schools, colleges and universities, notably Harvard University, Indiana University, and Temple University, and community choirs around the United States. He has recently lectured for various branches of the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) and FMEA (Future Music Educators Association). Lonnie collaborates frequently as a clinician and singer with international organization Village Harmony, including two tours to South Africa. Other cultural engagements include exchanges in Nassau, The Bahamas with members of the Bahamas National Youth Choir and Bahamian musicians, SongRoots (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). He has also begun authoring articles along these lines of interests, including co-authoring a piece for the American Choral Directors Association’s Choral Journal (October 2018). Lonnie is a member of the NAACP and the NANM (National Association of Negro Musicians).
Every avenue of arts, outreach, and advocacy Lonnie embarks on is credited to his upbringing in the Black church. He established Audacious Praise (AP) in 2015, a multicultural arts outreach organization creating accessible, intergenerational programming that impacts social & spiritual unification in marginalized communities. Audacious Praise is best known for one of South Shore’s finest inspirational open mic showcases, Fresh Faith Fridays, and has garnered much success in its highly regarded outreach initiative educating in the art and roots of gospel, ChicaGO REACH Gospel Workshop. He serves as Music Director at Bryn Mawr Community Church in the South Shore community (Chicago). Lonnie's 1st EP entitled ROOTED, a collection of songs tracing the spiritual, musical, and emotional journey of Trans-Atlantic African ancestry, was released in August, 2021. Norwood is also in partnership with Old Town School of Folk Music bringing the Freedom Songbook Society to his community in South Shore, free and open to the public. More information can be found at lonnienorwood.com.