Short Fuse Podcast #41: Finding Home Through Song: A Conversation with Naledi Masilo

By Elizabeth Howard


Naledi Masilo is a South African musician who explores the beauty and power of music and song to expand our sense of place. A recent graduate (June 2021) of Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, she is examines the concept of home, drawing on her family, her heritage, and its presence as a physical and psychological space. Listening to her music brings James Baldwin’s words in Giovanni’s Room to mind: “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”

Episode Notes

New England Conservatory of Music

Jason Maron

Nedelka F. Prescod

The Un-Silenced Voice Project

Dreaming Girls Foundation

South African Institute of International Affairs

Naledi Masilo — vocalist, composer, educator, and founder of the Dreaming Girls Foundation. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Naledi Masilo is a vocalist, composer, educator, and founder of the Dreaming Girls Foundation, a South African based non-profit. She grew up in Johannesburg where she cultivated a love for music through backyard jam sessions and endless artistic curiosity. She graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor of Social Sciences and received a degree in Jazz Performance from The New England Conservatory (June 2021).

Naledi has been a resident at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC through Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Program, where she was mentored by individuals including Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jason Moran. She was elected as part of the prestigious South African Standard Bank National Youth Band.

Naledi moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory when she was awarded the Dean’s Scholarship. At the Conservatory she played an important role in bringing forward Black voices as the president of the Black Student Union. She cemented the legacy of alumna Coretta Scott-King, wife of the late Dr. Martin L. King through three annual concerts held in her honor; served on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and earned various fellowships and grants from the conservatory.

Naledi cultivated a strong relationship with The Boston City Singers (BCS), where she was their premier tour choir conductor and taught electives on vocal technique and South African music. She was also a program director at the YMCA youth center for a music and social justice program. Naledi currently teaches at BCS and Savannah Music Festival Jazz Academy. She also runs her own workshops on jazz, voice techniques and the history and music of South Africa.

Short Fuse Host Elizabeth Howard. Photo: Brian Shumway

Naledi founded the Dreaming Girls Foundation to help women and young girls become leaders and critically conscious members of society. In 2021, a generous grant by the New England Conservatory Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department allowed SGF to expand its reach. The organization collaborated with Her Own Skin and The Unsilenced Voice Project to host a podcast series titled Wathint’abafazi — itfeatured seven young women speaking on their experiences in the music industry.

Kyle Lee is a media producer for the Short Fuse Podcast as well as for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and has produced podcasts such as The Daily Arrow, a 2-season, 60-day podcast with devotional and meditative exercises to help navigate our current political climate through the lens of faith, spirituality, and mindfulness. He lives in Harlem with his wife and enjoys writing and performing poetry and spoken word in his spare time. You can reach him at @kyleburtonlee on Instagram and Twitter.

Gilda Geist is an intern for the Short Fuse Podcast and a student at Brandeis University, where she is studying journalism, English, and political science. She is a senior editor of her university newspaper, The Justice, as well as a tutor for the Brandeis University English Language Programs. Gilda is based in Boston, MA and enjoys writing, bookbinding, and listening to podcasts.

Elizabeth Howard has never had boundaries between her life, work, art, and writing. Experience, sense of place, and exploration define the choices she makes, seeking collaboration, flexibility, and spontaneity. She is an author, journalist, and creative director. Elizabeth has organized programming around the arts and social issues for organizations in the United States and internationally.

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