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Singer Danielle Ponder knows that empathy is a powerful tool in songwriting. "I think in music, you're telling a story," she tells NPR's Weekend Edition, "and a good songwriter is telling a story in a way where the audience empathizes or can see themselves in that person's shoes."

It's really not that different, the Rochester, N.Y.-based musician says, from being a defense attorney. She should know; outside of her music career, Ponder also spent five years as a public defender.

Sal Khan, the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, built an education enterprise on virtual learning. But as many communities across the country prepare to start the fall with online-only instruction, even he admits that distance learning is a less than perfect substitute for in-person schooling.

The former hedge fund analyst first hatched the idea for Khan Academy as a way to tutor his younger cousins in math. Since its launch in 2008, the site has been providing free video tutorials and lectures. Today, it serves more than 100 million users worldwide.

A lot of music these days has to be made in isolation, but Jacob Collier an old-pro at that. The cover of the 26 year old's debut album, In My Room, was a 3-D shot of Collier surrounded by instruments in the room where he arranged, played, recorded and produced the album — the same room he played music in growing up, in the house in London and where he lives with his mother and sisters and connected with NPR's Scott Simon.

Kathleen Edwards had devoted fans and a successful career, with hits on the Billboard Top 40 charts and songwriting awards. But after her last album in 2012, she walked away from the music business. In fact, she opened a cafe in the suburbs of Ottawa, Canada, called Quitters Coffee.

With nationwide protests focusing renewed attention and urgency on the issue of police brutality, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago says that police unions continue to be one of the biggest obstacles to reform.

The last week of protests and unrest has put many Americans on edge, especially those in communities of color. Some local leaders, like Sharon Kay, are using the airwaves to help organize and inform their communities.

The band Woods has always incorporated diffuse influences, taking inspiration from lo-fi rock, Ethiopian jazz and psychedelic folk sounds. Guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Earl, who recently became a father, says his group's latest album, Strange To Explain was influenced by something else — a lack of sleep.

"Those first few months or first year of having a newborn kind of put me in a dreamlike state," he says. "And that was my escape: to start writing."

Jonah Mutono's debut album GERG is really more of a re-entry. Until late last year, Mutono released music under the name "Kidepo." But starting with the single "Shoulders," and now with GERG, he's sharing his real name and story of self-acceptance for the first time.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of this country's greatest musical gatherings, would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. But instead the stages at Jazz Fest, as it is more commonly known, will be empty for the first time since 1970 after the organizers were forced to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic. But there is still music coming from New Orleans.

Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, whose new album What Kinda Music was released on Friday, are two "very different musicians," in the words of the latter. Dayes is a jazz drummer with a flair for the experimental, and Misch is a producer and guitarist whose dreamy R&B melodies pushed his 2018 debut Geography to be certified silver in the U.K.

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