Meet Ayanna Woods, the Chicago Native Making Waves in Classical Music


April 15, 2024

In the symphony of her life, she has found her rhythm early on. 

Today, at 31 years old, Woods is celebrated as one of the most promising composers of her generation, her works performed by esteemed ensembles such as The Crossing, Chanticleer, and Third Coast Percussion. As detailed in the Chicago Sun Times, her recent endeavor, FORCE!, an opera in three acts, showcases her boundless creativity and collaborative spirit. Set in a prison waiting room and inspired by writer Anna Martine Whitehead’s experiences teaching in prisons, FORCE! is an exploration of the human condition, brought to life through Woods’s expressive compositions.

Born and raised in Chicago, Woods’s musical odyssey began in humble surroundings. Her first forays into composition date back to her days at the now-closed Ridge Academy. Despite the challenges of arranging music without access to notation software, Woods persevered, laying the foundation for what would become a remarkable career.


The road to success has been anything but smooth for Woods, marked by countless hours of dedication and a steadfast commitment to her craft. From her early days arranging music in Microsoft Paint to her current role as composer-in-residence at Chanticleer, Woods’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of passion and perseverance. As she continues to push the boundaries of classical music, Woods remains a shining example of Black excellence in the arts, her music serving as a powerful reminder of the beauty and resilience of the human spirit.

As “FORCE!” made its way from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to the REDCAT Center in Los Angeles, Woods’s star continues to rise, her impact on the world of classical music undeniable. As she looks ahead to future projects, including an EP with her band, Woods remains committed to pushing the boundaries of her artistry and inspiring the next generation of composers to follow their dreams.

Cover Photo: Meet Ayanna Woods, the Chicago Native Making Waves in Classical Music / Credit: Taylor Glascock/For WBEZ


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