From the July 2020 Desktop News | Grace Bumbry and Shirley Verrett are amongst the most impactful African American female voices in opera, both rising to esteem in the mid to late twentieth century. The two sopranos famously joined forces in 1982 to perform a recital to honor Marian Anderson, the first African American to perform a principal role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955.
An esteemed vocal performer herself, Dr. Luvada A. Harrison seeks to honor the women with her recent $5,000 music fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Harrison, an assistant professor of musical theatre and voice at The University of Alabama, was one of 21 people who received the fellowship recognizing those who work in the arts this year.
In collaboration with Dr. Alexis Davis-Hazell, a mezzo soprano, and Dr. Kevin T. Chance, pianist, Harrison intends to put the grant towards the touring and preparation expenses of a recital program of operatic arias and duets, a tribute to the performance by Bumbry and Verrett.
“It will commemorate the recital presented by two of the most famous and respected African American operatic divas of their time,” Harrison said. “We’re paying homage to those whose shoulders we stand upon.”
Harrison has helped her students with similar grants in the past. As a faculty member at Stillman College prior to holding her position at UA, she received a grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of Tuscaloosa. This grant enabled music majors to attend the 2013 National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music Conference.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for students to network with students from other schools and to be exposed to scholars and professional performers that look like them,” Harrison said.
Harrison is currently taking part in several other projects, recently narrating Dwight Cammeron’s documentary on Alabama’s first African American architect, “The Wallace Rayfield Story.” She is also a Collaborative Arts Research Initiative (CARI) Fellow.