scott miller

Kia Moore | Hip Hop Orchestrated

scott miller
Kia Moore | Hip Hop Orchestrated

Story: Tiffany Cooper  Photos: Luba Katarkova

Kia Moore, founder of Hip Hop Orchestrated, is more than a music enthusiast. Music not only grounds her, but also grows her and exposes her; shining light into her past and expanding way into her future. Moore grew up in a household surrounded by the sounds of soul, reggae, gospel and hip-hop. Everyone in her family shared a passion for music. “It was very impactful for me to always be surrounded by music,” she says. “It’s very sentimental, like music was my third sibling.”

In fifth grade, she took a school trip to see the orchestra, and she fell in love.

Moore says, “I loved that feeling of this wall of music coming at me - very peaceful, serene - sometimes it was chaos.”

Recounting her young days when she would stay up with her family on Saturday nights to watch “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” she remembers seeing Miri Ben Ari for the first time. Ari’s blend of hip hop music with an instrument generally reserved for the symphony intrigued her and she knew she wanted more.


Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Moore actively working with a team of people to fulfill a mission known as Hip-Hop Orchestrated (H2O). She explains how H2O couldn’t exist without her involvement with Hip-Hop University, an education-focused nonprofit.


She had just left her stable job with a magazine to give more attention to her role as Creative Director with Hip Hop University, and she found herself inspired with with how hip-hop was being used for positive things and influencing kids to do positive things as well. Unable to stay away and with the desire to unleash her creative spirit, she jumped all the way in with her Knight Cities Emerging City Champions application.

Hip Hop University Founder Albert Carter encouraged everyone at Hip-Hop University to apply to the Knight challenge. With two days left before the deadline, Moore decided to propose the idea of Hip-Hop Orchestrated to bring hip-hop and orchestral music together with the purpose of breaking down social barriers. When she learned that she was chosen as one of Charlotte’s champions, she couldn’t believe it.

H2O exists to dismantle the societal divisions created by classism, racism, and ageism, Moore explains. “We want to help educate people that make assumptions about hip-hop, as well as, people that make assumptions about orchestral music - and if we can take down those walls of assumptions then we’ll stop assuming things about each other.”

The project has plans of moving through at least four different phases. The first two phases involve “Edutainment:” educating hip-hop enthusiasts and symphony orchestra patrons about both types of sound while entertaining them.

The third phase is Entertainment and has the goal of bringing hip-hop listeners and symphony fans together to attend H2O events to meet and connect with one another. Why is this such an important phase? Backed by local and national research, Hip-Hop Orchestrated believes that it can transform people’s love for music into social capital.


Moore explains, “It’s not what you know, it is who you know. So get to know others through the music you love.” The hope is that once people meet at H2O events, they will form relationships that will provide enrichment and economic mobility.

The fourth phase is Sustainment. “We’re slowly growing; so it’s five instruments in the ensemble right now but our hope is to grow into a full symphonic orchestra.” Moore dreams of creating a H2O Youth Orchestra as well.

With the project still in phase one, the goal is to concentrate on getting those not prone to listening to orchestral music into this expression of sound. Looking at statistics from the East and West sides of Charlotte, Moore felt like folks from these areas might not attend orchestral events. “We need to bring it to them!”--by way of community events and using familiar hip-hop songs.

Moore says, “Right now we’re focusing on getting people back into the instrumentation of music.”

With two community events behind them, expect much more to come as their tribe of hip-hop lovers and symphony buffs expand.


For those who want to get involved, the best way to plug in is by going to their website and signing up for their newsletter.