Black Splendor, like air, still rises throughout the Pacific Northwest. Black Splendor testifies the living tradition of Black Art Music. Black Splendor is already represented and already canonized, for it is the consequence of an inevitably thriving Black Community. Black Splendor is the understanding that jazz is a way of living; that sounds born in the Black Church hit different; that opera is African. Black Splendor cherishes Black Realities manifested through Black Compositions.
Black Splendor, done with the trouble of the world, is a balm of our own creation ― supersonic and boundless. Possibilities for healing become abundant when I simply adorn myself with the Black Splendor that surrounds me. Black Splendor, like Lorde, is deliberate and afraid of nothing. In other words, Black Splendor towers above the self-limiting horizon of Being and rests on the apex of Wholeness for all to see!
Black Splendor is part ancestral, part dream. Sankofa. Black Splendor exists in proximity to itself. Sankofa. Black Splendor is the name of Frances Walker-Slocum, who allowed me to allow myself. Black Splendor is Pan-African. It is multivalent, ineffable. Black Splendor assumes genetic gestures of praise and honor. Black Splendor is Heka. Black Splendor is queer. Black Splendor Ra-imagines love in these gardens and beyond. Black Splendor nods back at you; Black Splendor is reflected in you, beloved.
- Joe Williams, Music from Home Creative Director
Black Splendor is a 10-Part Weekly Virtual Series. The Schedule is:
Composer and Pianist Marcel E. C. Augustin
Featured Music: Grace by Marcel E. C. Augustin (b. 1997)
Saxophonist, pianist and composer Marcel E.C. Augustin is a phenomenal musician from Tacoma Washington. He is currently finishing his Bachelors in Music Performance with a Saxophone focus at Pacific Lutheran University. He has played at numerous venues within the Tacoma/ Seattle area including Lakewold Gardens, McMenamin's Spanish ballroom, The Triple Door, Odd Otter, The Tacoma Convention Center and many others! Marcel is currently working on assembling a gospel music group within the community that will have a focus on bringing everyone together through music!
Soprano Ellaina Lewis
Featured Music: I Believe by Dave Ragland (b. 1978)
Soprano, Ellaina Lewis, demonstrates an extensive range of vocal and dramatic ability. Originally from Washington, D.C., she now makes her home in Seattle. She is a popular artist on Northwest stages. In addition to Seattle Opera, where Ms. Lewis performed the role of Strawberry Woman in Porgy and Bess, are Puget Sound Opera, Tacoma Opera, Seattle Choral Company, Everett Symphony, Sammamish Symphony, Octava Chamber Orchestra, and the Northwest New Works Festival. Ms. Lewis has sung principal roles such as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula, Monica in Menotti’s The Medium, Treemonisha in Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, Erzulie in Flaherty’s Once on this Island, and Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote.
Concert engagements include repertoire ranging from Haydn's Creation and Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate to Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. Ms. Lewis has had the pleasure on many occasions to blend her love of singing and her passion for dance. She has collaborated with S.D. Prism Dance Theater, contributing vocal improvisations as the dancers interpret the choreography of the company’s founder, Sonia Dawkins. Silk Road, was a multimedia production by A.C. Petersen, inspired by the lives of immigrant women working in sweatshops. It featured contemporary dance, music, with Ellaina as vocal soloist, video, and field-recorded voices. Premier performances include the title role in Sally Hemings, an opera and film production by Garrett Fisher and the role of Simona in Night Flight, the operatic adaptation of the Saint-Exupery novel with Book-It Repertory Theatre.
Flutist Adam Eccleston
Busy by Jasmine Barnes (b. 1991)
A devoted humanitarian, activist and firm supporter of arts education, Adam Eccleston has worked extensively with many social change organizations such as, BRAVO Youth Orchestras, where he is the Program Director. BRAVO is an El Sistema inspired music program based in Portland, Oregon that serves over 600 students. He is a faculty member with the Global Leaders Program that empowers arts changemakers to grow organizations that impact communities. Adam serves on the board of the Greater Portland Flute Society and is currently on the committee of the Umoja Flute Institute, which celebrate flutists of African descent and their contributions to music. www.ufinstitute.com
As a performer, Adam has appeared with orchestras such as the Oregon Symphony. At 19 years old, he made his solo debut performing Borne Carmen Fantasy for Flute and Orchestra. Adam has been awarded top prizes in competitions, one of which is the New York Flute Club Competition for which he received accolades for his featured recital at the Yamaha Piano Salon. Currently, he is the Artist in Residence for All Classical Portland Radio Station and sits as Chair of the newly Recording Inclusivity Initiative, which brings to light music of underrepresented composers. As a firm supporter of new music, he has premiered works by Robert Beaser, Anthony Green and made the Pacific Northwest premiere of works by Valerie Coleman and Julio Racine.
Mr. Eccleston studied with Paula Robison, Tara Helen O’Connor, Eric Lamb and Thaddeus Watson, retired piccolo player of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Frankfurt Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. He currently holds two master degrees and enjoys baking and watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Vocalist Dr. Melvin Rouse, Jr
Featured Music: 'Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Dr. Melvin Rouse, Jr is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Puget Sound. Though he is primarily a neuroscientist and pedagogue, having done his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University and post-doctoral study at UC San Diego Medical School, he is also a musician with both informal and formal training in traditional Black American gospel music and jazz. Growing up the son of a preacher in a Black church, he started singing in the choir at an early age and by adolescence was the minister of music for his home church. While in college, as an organist and pianist, Dr. Rouse studied jazz theory and improvisation with Chip McNeil, Musical Director and Saxophonist for Grammy award-winning recording artist, Arturo Sandoval, and over the years has performed semi-professionally in several jazz combos. As a singer, prior to his career in science, he performed with/for noted gospel legends such as Karen Clark-Sheard and Dorinda Clark-Cole of the Clark Sisters, Marvin Sapp, Fred Hammond, and many others. Though science pedagogy is professor Rouse's primary training and vocation, music is, and always will be, a core part of who he is.
Composer Damien Geter & Soprano Ibidunni Ojikutu
Featured Music: Ingemisco from An African American Requiem (Commissioned by Resonance Ensemble, Portland OR.) by Damien Geter (b. 1980)
Damien is a diverse artist whose credits include performances ranging from the operatic stage to the television screen. Damien's 2019-2020 season includes appearances with the Metropolitan Opera (Undertaker in Porgy and Bess), Seattle Opera (Colonel in The Rising and the Falling), Eugene Opera (Angelotti in Tosca). Other appearances included roles with Seattle Opera in the role of the Undertaker, and covering the role of Jake in Porgy and Bess; with Vashon Opera in the role of Colline in La Boheme and Dr. Grenvil in Verdi’s La Traviata with Portland Opera.
More roles include the Four Villains in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann; Colline in Puccini's La Boheme; Alcindoro (La Boheme), Bass Slave (The Difficulty of Crossing a Field - David Lang), and Soloist (Little Match Girl Passion - David Lang)
A highly sought after singer on the concert stage, Damien's repertoire in that realm includes Elijah, Beethoven 9, Brahms' Requiem, Verdi's Requiem, and Mozart's Requiem, to name a few.
Damien made his TV debut in the role of John Sacks on NBC's Grimm. He was also seen in Netflix's Trinkets which aired in spring of 2019.
A native of Chesterfield County, VA, Damien is also a composer whose piece American Apollo is due to premiere in April 2021 with Washington National Opera and An African American Requiem is due to premiere with Resonance Ensemble and the Oregon Symphony in May, 2022.
He is the owner of DG Music, Sans Fear Publishing.
A frequent performer in the Pacific Northwest (and Bellingham High School alum), Soprano Ibidunni Ojikutu is known for having a strong foundation in traditional and contemporary repertoire and has studied extensively in both areas. Ms.Ojikutu made her Seattle Opera debut as Strawberry Woman in their 2011 production of Porgy and Bess. Opera News said of her performance, “Ibidunni Ojikutu's turn as Strawberry Woman was as charming as the lilt in her voice.”
A recipient of the top award in the Seattle Opera Guild Training Grant Competition, Ms. Ojikutu is a teaching and freelance artist with Seattle Opera Outreach and Seattle Opera. Ms, Ojikutu was also pleased to reprise the role of Strawberry Woman in Seattle Operas 2018 production of Porgy and Bess along with making her role debut as Serena in the same production.
Ms. Ojikutu was thrilled to make her debut with Seattle Art Song Society (SASS) as a performer in their Black Voices and Womxn's Voices Concerts. It was also a privilege to be included as a featured artist on Lakewold Garden's "Songs From Home" concert series, as well as being a featured performer on Bellingham Symphony Orchestra’s “Home For The Holidays” concert.
Ms. Ojikutu's project, Roar with collaborative pianist Rebecca Manalac, was a concert of songs of and about women. Featuring the works of Florence Price, Nina Simone, Libby Larsen, and others, Roar also featured the west coast premiere of "Nobody Knows" with words by Mahze Kane & music by Nailah Nombeko.
Upcoming projects include performing "Songs of Harriet Tubman" with Western Washington University Symphony Orchestra as well as a currently unnamed recording project featuring Libby Larsen’s “Try Me Good King”. Ms. Ojikutu is also an active adjudicator and masterclass clinician.
Mezzo-soprano Jasmine Johnson
Featured Music: The Fox and The Stork (World Premiere) by Maria Thompson Corley (b.1966)
Jasmine Johnson, mezzo-soprano, is a 2020-2021 Portland Opera Resident artist that made her professional debut with Opera Parallèle in San Francisco in the world premiere of their original opera, Amazing Grace, in 2015. She is committed to bringing opera and other genres of music to her community. Jasmine’s singing career started in Houston, Texas where she was in the Houston Grand Opera high school voice studio when she was in 12th grade. She was also a YOUNGARTS first place winner in classical voice in the 12th grade. Jasmine has been on stage seen performing all genres of music. She collaborated with many opera and musical theatre companies in the Bay Area. She received her Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Postgraduate Diploma in Vocal Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Violinist Robert Murphy
Featured Music: II. Andantino molto sostenuto e dolce from 4 African Dances, Op. 58 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Robert T. Murphy, a McNair Fellow, began violin studies in Columbia, SC. He received his Bachelor of Music in performance, and a Masters of Music in violin pedagogy and performance. He studied violin with Myron Kartman, Bernard Zinck, Katherine Rapaport, and string pedagogy with Darcey Drexler and Mimi Zweig. He has played in masterclasses for Jamie Laredo, the Cleveland Duo, and Robert Hanford.
Mr. Murphy has taught, as a string orchestra educator and violin pedagogue, at Whitefish Bay Middle and High School Orchestra, and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. His students have gone on to study at major conservatories and universities, and perform in professional orchestras. He has given masterclasses, and has adjudicated for many music festivals and competitions throughout the United States and China.
Mr Murphy has played with the Cascade Symphony Orchestra (principal second), Denver Philharmonic China Tour Orchestra, Thalia Symphony (principal second violinist), Kenosha Symphony, Youngstown Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, and has collaborated with such artists as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Hootie and Blowfish, Crystal Gayle, and Al Jarreau.
Mr. Murphy currently teaches string orchestra at the Seattle Waldorf School, private violin at the Music Center of the Northwest, coaches viola at the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, and performs as a first violinist with the Everett Philharmonic and the Sound Ensemble.
Baritone Michael Parham
Featured Music: Let The Waters Of Healing from Winnie by Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen (b. 1975)
Michael Parham, a baritone hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee developed his passion for music through his experiences with the Chattanooga Boys Choir and the Oakwood University Aeolians. It was during the Summer Voice Festival at Manhattan School of Music that he discovered his passion for opera while performing Schaunard in La Boheme.
Most recently, Michael’s “resonant and ear caressing” baritone voice was heard in professional role debuts as Tiger “Jackie” Brown in Threepenny Opera with City Lyric Opera, Lawyer Frazier in Porgy and Bess with South Florida Symphony, and Peter in Hansel and Gretel with Opera Las Vegas. As well, he made his debut in the eponymous role of Don Giovanni with UNLV Opera Theater. Over the summer of 2019, Michael made yet another role debut as Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus with the Martina Arroyo Prelude to Performance. This spring, Michael was scheduled to reprise the role of Peter* in Hansel and Gretel with City Lyric Opera alongside covering the role of Conte di Luna* in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at Portland Opera. In February of 2021 Michael will make his solo recital debut with Portland Opera followed by several virtual ensemble and solo performances this spring.
As a self-proclaimed “Choir Boy” Mr. Parham jumps at the opportunity to perform choral music and sacred works; he is a touring member of the American Spiritual Ensemble. Michael has been a featured soloist in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, Dubois’s Seven Last Words of Christ, and Mozart’s Mass in C.
Michael was a 2019-20 New York district winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a 2019 Semi-Finalist in the Premiere Opera Foundation Competition, and a 2017 Finalist in the Meistersinger Competition in Graz, Austria.
Michael is currently a 2020-21 Resident Artist at Portland Opera. He is an alumnus of Oakwood University and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. In addition, Michael holds a certificate in Italian Studies from the Istituto Avventista di Cultura Biblica in Florence, Italy
Composer and Cellist Gretchen Yanover
Featured Music: Through Chenoa's Eyes by Gretchen Yanover (b. 1972)
Locally grown cellist Gretchen Yanover began playing cello in Seattle Public Schools. She earned a BA in Music Performance and a Teaching Certificate from UW. Gretchen won a position in NW Sinfonietta Orchestra on the same day she taught her first string orchestra classes. Embracing an interwoven path of teaching and performing, Ms. Yanover guided students in music for 17 years, while continuing to grow her solo music career. Gretchen moved her focus from teaching to solo performing in 2016, and continues to compose with her electric cello and looping pedal. She has four solo albums to date.
Gretchen loves exploring places on foot, reading for fun, and having yoga-dance parties at home with her daughter.
Bass vocalist Edwin Jahmal Davis
Featured Music: Prelude to The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc by Julius Eastman (1940-1990)
Edwin Jhamal Davis is a native of Utica, MS. He's an alumnus of Jackson State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with dual minors in Chemistry and Music. In 2014, while studying voice with soprano Phyllis Lewis- Hale, he made his professional debut with the Mississippi Opera singing Simone in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. He is a Master's Degree recipient of the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with well-acclaimed baritone and bass-baritone, Mark Oswald and James Morris. He was crowned the national winner of the Marian Anderson Vocal Arts Competition hosted by the National Association of Negro Musicians in its centennial celebration and is also a Metropolitan Opera Eastern Region award winner. He is currently serving as Bass in Residence with the Portland Opera Association, for the 2020-2021 season.
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