Jackson State University music students Madison Perry, Bryan Jefferson and recent graduate Maya Davis, were selected to participate in the prestigious LA Opera’s HBCU Opera Career Comprehensive over the summer.
Only eight artists from HBCUs around the country were accepted into the program. JSU had the largest representation.
“This tells the world that we’re very serious here at JSU about nurturing our students and preparing them for real-world experiences and careers,” said Assistant Professor of Music Phyllis Hale, Ph.D. “We have the faculty who have the knowledge, skillset, and determination to ensure when our students leave here, they can tackle any environment.”
The free program provides 10 online courses giving participants an understanding of the opera industry while providing valuable training. HBCU students and graduates work closely with renowned tenor Russell Thomas and other distinguished LA Opera and industry staff.
“I definitely want to thank everyone for encouraging us and giving us opportunities to perform, not just in the music building but around the school and outside of the school, and I’ve been very grateful for the opportunities because they’ve primed me for this experience,” shared Davis. She received her Bachelor of Arts in vocal performance from JSU in the summer of 2022.
The comprehensive immerses students in months of rigorous coaching and training with opera professionals. The participants learn every aspect of a professional opera singer’s career, both on stage and behind the scenes.
The aspiring opera performers receive training in vocal coaching, instruction in languages, and presentation from the company’s administrative staff and industry professionals.
Perry shared how she’s already noticed significant improvements in her craft, especially when it comes to singing in foreign languages.
“These are like professional coaches that speak the language and do this for a living,” said an excited Perry. “It’s so helpful. I didn’t think my Italian was horrible, but this has been an extra boost to my confidence. Like, I can get this language and take it and apply it whenever I sing.”
Perry graduates in December and credits JSU’s music department and the comprehensive for equipping her for future endeavors.
Thomas, the founder of the LA Opera HBCU Opera Career Comprehensive, said the goal of the program is to help level the playing field for aspiring opera singers from HBCUs. He noted that HBCU singers are just as talented as singers from other schools but have not had the same opportunities.
“My goal is to build a bridge between outstanding HBCU singers and the influential people who are working at the top of the opera field,” he said. “This virtual mentorship program will help these singers take their talents to the next level.”