World-renowned soprano Angela Brown led master classes and one-on-one instruction with Elon's music, theater and arts administration students
In addition to performing her show, “Opera … from a Sistah’s Point of View” at Elon on March 2, renowned soprano Angela Brown led master classes for music and arts administration students and conducted student rehearsals leading up to the show.
Five undergraduates performed with Brown in Whitley Auditorium, spending several afternoons and evenings rehearsing with and receiving vocal coaching from her. Brown worked with students individually on solo pieces, emphasizing the importance of breathing and vocal techniques. For those students, it was a rare opportunity to work one-on-one and learn from a world-class talent and stage veteran.
“This changed what I thought I could do,” said Travis Foust ’23, a music production and record arts major. “I was dared to constantly go further every time we rehearsed. It was the right balance of being challenged and encouraged to create great performance. My biggest takeaway is that taking a chance, pushing past your fears, can really create something special.”
Bri Braham ’24, an arts administration major, said the one-on-one time with Brown encouraged her to move beyond her perceived limitations as a singer. She hopes to draw from the experience in a career in record labels’ artist and repertoire divisions, scouting for and developing talent.
“It was almost a musical theater performance,” Braham said, reflecting on Brown’s direction. “She took the work that we had already done and showed us how to elevate our performances with the choices we make.”
Brown regularly presents to and teaches students in underserved populations in K-12 and collegiate settings, partnering with organizations across the U.S. She also presents at professional conferences about the importance of Black artists in opera and concert performance.
Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department Hallie Hogan said Brown’s generosity and willingness to devote so much time and energy to young performers is rare. Faculty especially wanted Black undergraduates to have the opportunity to be mentored by Brown. Along with Foust and Braham, Giselle Watts ’22, Candace Rhodes ’22 and Hannah Hubbard ’22 performed on stage with Brown.
“We wanted our African American students to shine with this very successful African American artist and tremendous mentor,” Hogan said. “It was a huge reinforcement of their talent and the training they are receiving in their studies. She called attention to how you can use your voice and the importance of being present in your performance.”
Brown held a master class for vocal students Thursday night and, with her agent Janet Jarriel, provided an additional, originally unscheduled master class for arts administration students Thursday afternoon.
“It was an amazing and life-changing experience for some of our students,” Hogan said.
Braham was grateful to Brown and faculty for providing the experience to Elon’s students of color.
“I hope Elon will continue to do things like this to help broaden young Black artists and artists of color at the university,” Braham said. “This was tailored to young Black artists, and even though Elon does a pretty good job at this, there’s still lots of room to grow those opportunities for students of color in the performing arts where we may not always get the lead roles.
“By bringing in performers with established careers we are working for, especially in performance, it’s really beneficial to us. They know the work and the industry,” Braham continued. “It was an amazing opportunity working one-on-one with someone so established who wants to boost our careers as much as hers.”
Brown’s performance and campus visit was sponsored by the Department of Music and Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Fund For Excellence Grant.