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.
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 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.
Carolyn Sebron holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and her Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School. She is a doctoral candidate in voice pedagogy at Shenandoah University. In1996 she debuted as Carmen in Palermo, Italy. She has since appeared in various as Carmen, Amneris, Princess Eboli and Dalila in L’Arena di Verona, and with opera companies of Rome, Venice, Berlin, Glasgow, Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid. She was vocal soloist with the Dance Theater of Harlem for productions at City Center, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center in Washington. She has presented recitals and concerts in Prague, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, Cincinnati, Bermuda, Guadeloupe, Rome, Paris and Nairobi, Kenya and in London at Albert Hall. Sebron has presented at The Voice Foundation, Boston University and HealthCare Chaplaincy about subjects related to voice and voice health, African American music history and the importance of music in the healing process.
Lucy Caplan holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and African American Studies from Yale University. She is writing a book about how early-twentieth-century African Americans redefined the genre of opera as a wellspring of antiracist activism, collective sociality, and aesthetic innovation. Her academic writing appears in the Journal of the Society for American Music and the collection African Americans Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity. The recipient of the 2016 Rubin Prize for Music Criticism, Lucy also writes frequently for public audiences. Her essays have been published in The New Yorker online and Symphony, among others, and her program notes have been commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, and Lincoln Center. Currently, Lucy teaches in the History and Literature program at Harvard University.
Ryan Ebright serves as an Assistant Professor of Musicology at Bowling Green State University. His scholarship and writings appear in the New York Times, New Yorker, NewMusicBox, Cambridge Opera Journal, American Music, and the book Rethinking Reich, and his research focuses on contemporary opera and minimalism. His current book project, Making American Opera after Einstein, centers on the efforts of artists and institutions from the 1980s to the present to redefine what American opera is and how we experience it. He remains active as a public scholar, with lectures and talks for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toledo Symphony, and WGTE Public Media. His most recent academic presentations have examined the creation and development of Anthony Davis’s first opera, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.
In December 2018, Wayne Muller received his PhD degree in Musicology from Stellenbosch University with a thesis titled, A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). This study revisited the historiography of opera in South Africa and traced changes in the performance practices and views on the performed works. Themes such as transformation, contemporary relevance and the Africanisation of opera are explored. His research interest is in the history and performance of opera in post-apartheid South Africa. He completed a Master’s Degree in Journalism at Stellenbosch University in 2001, after studying BA Sociology and an Honours Degree in Journalism. His interest in music stems from an early start with piano lessons and becoming a church organist in his teens. He studied organ with Niel Pauw and Marian Steyl, as well as singing under Peet van Heerden and Dr Magdalena Oosthuizen. Since starting his career as a journalist in community newspapers in 2000, he has been involved in arts journalism. After working in the magazine industry for three years, he joined Die Burger in Cape Town in October 2007 as Assistant Arts Editor and specialist writer on not only classical music and opera, but also dance and theatre. He has served as a judge of classical music performances for the kykNET Fiesta Prizes, Kanna Awards (KKNK), the Hans Gabor Belvedere International Singing Competition (media jury), as well as the Fleur du Cape Theatre Awards. Also, he has been a member of the festival programme selection committees of the Suidoosterfees, KKNK, Aardklop, and the Vryfees in Bloemfontein. He is co-editor of the oral history book about the Eoan Group opera company, Eoan – Our Story (Fourthwall Books, 2013).
Sibusiso straddles the musical worlds of African choral music, composition and opera. He has worked for more than 15 years as a professional conductor and has knowledge of a broad repertoire and many different styles of music. He is, however, a specialist in African choral music which, in South Africa, is closely linked to opera performance and composition. He grew up singing choral music in his mother-tongue, isiXhosa, as well as in other South African languages like Sesotho, Setswana, isiZulu, Afrikaans, and Tshivenda.
As a composer, he has three written operas, choral works for a cappella choir as well as works for choir, soloists and orchestra. Madiba, the African Opera was commissioned and premiered by Opera South Africa in 2014 and premiered on 23 May 2014 at the South African State Theatre and was revised at the same venue on 29 November 2015. The 30-minute opera, Blood of Mine was premiered by Cape Town Opera and UCT South African College of Music in November 2015. His third opera, Amagokra will be premiered in 2021 (postponed from May 2020 due to COVID-19), by the Cape Town Opera Company and UCT South African College of Music.
Born in South Africa, Theo Magongoma is an operatic baritone who is a graduate of the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town and a former member of the Cape Town Opera Studio for Emerging Young Artists. He has a substantial background in performance and maintains an extensive repertoire across many languages from opera, oratorio, operetta to art song. He has performed as a soloist with the leading orchestras of South Africa and at Art Festivals around the world. He has featured in productions internationally in the USA, Italy, Germany, UK, Ireland, Singapore, Amsterdam, The Kyodo Theatre in Tokyo, Japan and at Châtalet de Paris Opera in France. Theo has worked with the South African-born artist /opera director, William Kentridge, on his production of The Magic Flute. He has also worked with South African composer Neo Muyanga on Tsohle produced by Unyazi Festival at the University of Cape Town, A Revolting Mass, produced by Spielart Festival in Munich, Germany and Naham – Songs of Light and Weight, produced by the Sharjah Arts Foundation in Dubai. Theo has been the recipient of numerous prizes and scholarships, including from Queensland Opera (Australia) and The Bruce Foote Scholarship from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas (USA). He was invited to join Dallas Opera’s first Young Artists Studio and toured the north of Texas with the Wagner society. Theo has been involved in various educational musical collaborations and adjudicated and given workshop training to choirs and their soloists throughout South Africa, as well as in Botswana. Theo holds a BMus Honours in Music Performance degree from the University of Cape Town, majoring in voice. He is currently completing his MMus in Music Performance at Stellenbosch University and writing a thesis focusing on the idea of the ‘black South African operatic voice’ in the global setting. His thesis is under the guidance of Dr. Hilde Roos at Africa Open Institute. He was featured in the 2020 publication of OPERA UK Magazine, included among ‘the new gold standard’ of opera singers on the rise in the world today.
Theo is a member of the Guild of the Choral and Indigenous Music Practitioners at the Miriam Makeba Centre, Fort Hare University. He is a member of AOTOS (The Association of Teachers of Singing) and is an affiliate member of BORN (Black Opera Research Network).