The Willson Center will welcome Angela Brown, a renowned operatic soprano who leads Morning Brown, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides cultural enrichment opportunities to underserved communities, to UGA February 20-24 as the annual Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. Brown’s week in residence will include learning sessions with students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and at Clarke Central High School, and public events in the Hodgson School and the Delta Innovation Hub.
Brown’s visit is presented by the Willson Center in partnership with the Hodgson School, the Institute for African American Studies, the Music Business Program, the department of theatre and film studies, and the Innovation Gateway.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, Brown will perform her signature show “Opera… from a Sistah’s Point of View” in the Hodgson School’s Edge Recital Hall. Admission to this event is free and open to the public, but seats are limited and may be reserved here. The program showcases the soprano’s formidable singing while making the material accessible to audiences with little or no exposure to opera or classical music. Through wry, candid explanations of opera plots that provide a context to the performances that is contemporary and colloquial, Brown invites young and untrained audiences to engage with an artistic medium to which they may never have felt connected.
At 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 at the Delta Innovation Hub, 210 Spring St., Brown and Janet Jarriel, founder of JEJ Artists talent agency, will present “It Takes Two,” a workshop on navigating the business side of a career in the arts in cooperation with a professional manager. Both public events are free and open to all.
During her visit, Brown will give a master class for students in the Hodgson School. Students will also have opportunities for informal social interactions with the visiting chair over the course of the week.
“I am excited and proud to be in residence at the University of Georgia,” Brown said. “This residency is making one of my dreams for Morning Brown come true: to pour all of my experience into the next multicultural generation of singers. I would like to thank the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts for the honor of holding the Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding and advancing my mission of being a role model for future generations and letting them see that representation does matter.”
Brown has performed in operatic roles on stages around the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, the National Opera of Paris, Venice’s Teatro de Fenice, and many more. Her 2004 Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida was spectacularly well received, leading to a New York Times review that proclaimed “At last an Aida,” and a front-page Times profile a week later that called her emergence from an understudy role “perhaps the opera season’s most appealing story.” Brown has earned international acclaim not only for her classical turns in operas by Verdi, Strauss, Wagner, and Puccini, but for her performances of gospel and sacred music as well as for roles in modern works such as Bess in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Cilla in Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s Margaret Garner.
“As I was singing on the opera and symphonic stages of the world, I would see very few people who looked like me on the stage and in the audience,” she said. “I wanted to help change that. So, I founded Morning Brown, Inc, my foundation, to bring awareness, representation, and performance opportunities to the next generation of multicultural artists.”
Those are familiar priorities to Lesley Feracho, associate director of the Institute for African American Studies. “We are very happy to co-sponsor Angela Brown’s residency as Delta Visiting Chair,” said Feracho, who also serves as associate professor in the department of Romance languages. “Her work is an important part of the rich, yet still underappreciated history of Black voices in opera – from Marian Anderson and Robert McFerrin, to Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, and Kathleen Battle, to contemporary artists such as Eric Owens, J’Nai Bridges, Russell Thomas, and Julia Bullock, and to composers from Scott Joplin to Anthony Davis (in just the U.S. alone). Through her performances and her service with Morning Brown, her dedication to highlighting these histories and ongoing contributions while opening up larger, diverse spaces in opera is an important link to our work at the Institute of African American Studies.”
Morning Brown, Inc. was established in 2015 to center Brown’s work providing “exposure to classical music where the offering is rare or the experience is cost-prohibitive,” the nonprofit’s website states. Morning Brown works with allied organizations and individuals “to bridge the ever-widening gap between accessible live musical performance and historically excluded communities and present musical role models to encourage the next generation.”
Brown is co-host of the Classical Music Indy podcast Melanated Moments in Classical Music, which was named Best Music Podcast in the 2020 Black Podcasting Awards, and she has been featured in two recent PBS documentaries on the groundbreaking African-American contralto Marian Anderson: “Marian Anderson, The Whole World in Her Hands” and “Marian Anderson, Voice of Freedom.”
“The Hugh Hodgson School of Music is honored to host Angela Brown for the Delta Chair residency,” said Peter Jutras, professor of piano and director of the Hodgson School. “Her groundbreaking career and philanthropic work through Morning Brown, Inc. are inspirational. We are thrilled to have her working directly with our students to share her wisdom and expertise. This will be a tremendously exciting week!”
The Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding, established by the Willson Center through the support of The Delta Air Lines Foundation, hosts outstanding global scholars, leading creative thinkers, artists, and intellectuals who engage with audiences on and off the UGA campus through lectures, seminars, discussions, and other community events. The Delta Chair program aims to foster conversations that engage with global perspectives through the humanities and arts. The chair was last held by Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States Natasha Trethewey, in April 2022.
The Delta Chair is founded upon the legacy of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding, which from 1997-2011 was presented to individuals – including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter – whose initiatives promoted world peace by advancing understanding and cooperation among cultures and nations.