About Stephen Koch
An award-winning journalist in both broadcast and print, Stephen Koch has been researching and reporting on Arkansas popular culture for more than a decade. His radio program and podcast, "Arkansongs," is heard weekly by thousands across the globe and syndicated on National Public Radio affiliates across the state.
Koch's annual Louis Jordan Tribute concerts have been recognized by the U.S. Library of Congress and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His role in memorializing R&B pioneer Louis Jordan is chronicled in the documentary film "Is You Is: A Louis Jordan Story," while Koch's musical on the life of Jordan , "Jump!," premiered at Wildwood Park in 2008.
The Arkansongs host has spoken on the topic of Arkansas music and history before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, St. Louis' City Museum and the Arkansas Historical Association. He has consulted on such projects as the Old State House Museum's two "Our Own Sweet Sounds" exhibits and the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame's exhibit in the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Koch is also known as a musician, reporter and editor with an emphasis on Arkansas culture and its influence around the world.
Koch is lead singer for the band Arkopolis, which released its album Excruciating Circumstances in 2011.
Video: Arkopolis Live @ White Water Tavern
"City of Rock" Video, Koch's hip-hop homage to Arkansas's capital city
Q-and-A with Stephen Koch
Q: What was the impetus for starting Arkansongs?
A: Would you ask Texas, or Louisiana, or Tennessee, or Mississippi that? The impetus is the huge and musically diverse number of great singers and songs from Arkansas whose stories aren’t even told, much less celebrated. Louis Jordan started it for me on Arkansas music – one of my earliest memories is being bounced on my pop’s knee listening to “Beans & Cornbread.” Then, add that the existence of this wonderful musical world isn’t a big part of the cultural conversations we have in the state at present. By the time all these ideas finally came to a head, I had amassed a background as a reporter, as well as in radio, music and Arkansas history. It seemed like important, interesting and truly needed work. Then, I thought, "If not me, who?"
Q: Why is it important to promote Arkansas music?
A: When I started Arkansongs, I actually had people say, "What happens after you’ve covered Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell? Aren’t you done?" In reality, Arkansas may be the single most important state in the development of the American music.
If Arkansas was known as a place of arts, music and letters commensurate with its artists, a show like Arkansongs might be more superfluous. It engenders pride and respect for your surroundings. It inspires you to achieve still greater artistic heights. It is something incredible Arkansas has given the world. Our local institutions need to take this topic more seriously. It is something with enormous economic benefits, tourism benefits and social benefits that we as a state have barely touched upon. Other states have state music offices that promote their native music in much the same way as Arkansongs and the show's other projects do. Arkansas music history is something that should be taught as a university course. This cultural knowledge helps make learning about our shared history real and relevant.