Black Opera Research Network



Allison M. Lewis

Allison Lewis is currently a Doctoral student in the American Studies Department at the University of Kansas. She holds a BM in vocal performance with a focus in operatic studies as a mezzo soprano and an MA in African and African American Studies from the same university. Allison’s research focuses on disparities for African Americans in music education and advocates for the use of more Afrocentric teaching techniques in the classroom. As an academic, researcher, vocalist, and artist she aims to continue the tradition of African American Studies: being directly in service of the Black community on the local level and the African diaspora at large. Her intent as a researcher and creator is to produce academic and theatrical work that is in conversation with current activist movements and uses operatic studies and stages as a place for radical transformation, Black liberation, and justice. Additionally, Allison is a two-time FLAS (Foreign Language Area Study) fellow in Wolof. Her previous work includes musical consultant and singer for the KU Theater production of In the Blood (2019), director of an outreach program for Black middle school singers a the KC Melting Pot Theater (2019), and co-founder of the activist group KU AESM (Alumni for the Empowerment of Student Musicians), a grass-root organization committed to fighting for decolonial and equitable education for KU’s most underserved musician populations at the University of Kansas. She has previously presented her work at the MMRC (Midwest Music Research Conference) and at The Commons lecture sessions. In her spare time, she enjoys indoor gardening and spending time with her cats, James and Lily. 

Nicholas Newton

A San Diego native, Nicholas Newton is garnering due attention as an up-and-coming bass-baritone in the opera world. Having grown up in a musical household, Mr. Newton had a background in gospel, jazz, and musical theater before studying classical music. Notable operatic roles include Billy King in the world premiere of Marian’s Song, Monterone in Rigoletto with Houston Grand Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Olin Blitch in Susannah and Achilla in Giulio Cesare at Rice University. He earned his Bachelor’s of Music degree in vocal performance from San Diego State University and his Master’s of Music in vocal performance from Rice University. Mr. Newton has worked with many Black composers, most notably: Terrence Blanchard, Damian Sneed, Joel Thompson, Nkeiru Okoye, and Richard Thompson. This fall, Mr. Newton returns to the Houston Grand Opera for his second year in the Studio Artist program.

Michael Mohammed 

Michael Mohammed received his doctorate from the Music and Music Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. His dissertation used narrative inquiry to explore the use of vocal technique as a means of personal and cultural expression by elite black opera and musical theatre singers. His research continues to look at the representation of persons with marginalized identities in operatic and theatrical performance. He is the Director of the Musical Theatre Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is also on the voice faculty at the College of Marin and the San Francisco Community Music Center. He has been invited to give presentations at the Pacific Voice Conference, Stanford University, Bowling Green State University, Earlham College, and Opera Philadelphia. 

He works throughout the US and Canada as a stage director, choreographer, and performer. Recently, he co-created What’s Known To Me Is Endless with baritone Kenneth Overton and pianist Rich Coburn for the inaugural season of Amplified Opera, a Toronto based company that places equity-seeking artists at the center of public discourse. Performing credits include Luna Pearl Woolf’s Act Without Words (Bard Music West) and the dance film Separate Sentences.