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Next Best Thing
Next Best Thing is a new, limited-run commentary from KMUW. Every other Wednesday, KMUW's Jordan Kirtley will take a look at ways we can stay connected from a far via virtual events and outdoor activities.

Next Best Thing: Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf

As a public radio listener, I’m sure you’re familiar with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts. Everyone has performed there—even the residents of Sesame Street.

The series features intimate video performances recorded live from the desk of Bob Boilen, host of the All Songs Consideredpodcast, at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. If you need a refresher, here are several ‘best of’ playlists.

The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest recently came to a close, with more than 6,000 videos submitted by unsigned musicians across the United States. And this year, NPR Music is letting the fans in on the judging process with a new livestream series. 

Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf launches Thursday, June 11, at 2 p.m. on NPR Music’s YouTube channel. Described as “part interview, part listening party,” the weekly series will feature the best of this year’s contest entries, chosen by the contest judges.


A new live episode premieres every Thursday through July 30. Each one will feature a different co-host alongside Bob Boilen, including 2019 contest winner Quinn Christopherson, and musician Brittany Howard. You probably know her from the band Alabama Shakes and her astounding debut solo album that was released last year. 


Once the livestream series concludes, the winner of the contest will be announced with an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered. They will also perform their very own Tiny Desk Concert at NPR at a later date.


I'm no music critic, but here are a few of my favorite Tiny Desk Concerts:


Sesame Street: Tiny Desk Concert
June 10, 2019

Tank And The Bangas (2017 winners) Tiny Desk Concert
March 10, 2017

Noname: Tiny Desk Concert
April 3, 2017

Brittany Howard: Tiny Desk Concert
October 15, 2019

Jenny Lewis: Tiny Desk Concert
February 24, 2020

Helado Negro: Tiny Desk Concert
June 30, 2017

Jordan Kirtley is KMUW's Marketing Manager and the host of Next Up, a local events commentary. More casually she is known as KMUW’s “in-house artist,” having designed the many facets of KMUW’s visual identity.