Sacramento’s The Philharmonik wins 2024 Tiny Desk Contest

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The Philharmonik group sitting on a couch.

The Philharmonik

The winner of the 2024 Tiny Desk Contest is The Philharmonik! Hailing from Sacramento, Calif., The Philharmonik is a producer, singer, rapper and multi-instrumentalist whose entry video, “What’s It All Mean,” floored this year’s panel of judges.

And yet, crowning the Contest’s 10th anniversary winner was no easy decision for our 15 judges; Tiny Desk series host and Contest judge Bobby Carter says this year of the Contest has been the most competitive yet. But the judges took their time reviewing nearly 7,000 entries from independent artists across the country, and are proud to share that The Philharmonik rose to the top.

In the second episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf, Tiny Desk alum and Contest judge Durand Bernarr featured The Philharmonik’s entry, marveling at lead singer Christian Gates’ brilliant commitment to the bit: his elaborate set-up, the way he stayed in character, his attitude and charisma.

“Everything in the video (the space, the attire, the characters we played, and the way we performed) was done with intention,” Gates shared with us.

And in the YouTube comments on his video, Gates provided some insight into the creation of his video.

“The planning for this was insane,” he wrote. “The Sacramento community literally lifted me up to help me see this vision through when I had not a single penny to my name … There was a magic energy filling the space that I can’t explain, but I had a plan … This is a result of amazing teamwork and minds coming together.”

“The desks weren’t only in the video to solely fulfill the requirements of the Tiny Desk Contest, but to also amplify the message of ‘What’s it all mean?’ and the existential question life poses to all people,” Gates said. “I’m pretty sure most of us have pondered this question at a desk.”

While the judges were impressed by The Philharmonik’s setup, a visually elaborate video is certainly not a requirement to win the Tiny Desk Contest.

“If Christian and the band sat in front of a black backdrop and played ‘What’s It All Mean?,’ they would still win the Contest,” shares Carter. “It’s a song and a message we all can connect to — and more importantly, they brought something fresh.”

NPR Music will welcome The Philharmonik — in addition to Gates, that’s Moriah Wenzel (background vocals), Alicia Huff (background vocals), Courtney Miller (drums), Samuel Phelps (bass), Darius Upshaw (guitar), Connor Chavez (guitar), Jimmy Toor (flute) and Jeffery Archie (keys) — to the Tiny Desk very soon. (We’re glad to see he’s already got the “performing in an office space” thing down.) After that, the band will be headlining the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road Tour, playing alongside local Contest entrants in cities across the country.

You can hear more from The Philharmonik this afternoon on All Things Considered.

By Bobby Carter.


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