Renowned opera singer Angela Brown will be a visiting artist in Butler University’s School of Music during the 2014-2015 school year, presenting master classes, lectures, and—if her schedule allows—performances.
“I am thrilled that Angela has agreed to bring her expertise to Butler’s School of Music,” said Ronald Caltabiano, Dean of Butler’s Jordan College of the Arts. “From the quality of her voice and her stage presence to her work ethic and experience singing in great opera houses, she will be a great asset to our voice students and our entire program.”
Brown agreed to regular visits to Butler after performing in April at the second annual Butler ArtsFest, where she sang selections from Porgy and Bess. Caltabiano asked whether she’d be interested in being a visiting artist.
Brown has presented master classes at universities across the country, but this is the first time she’s been hired as a visiting artist.
“I’m going to offer good, sage advice and encouragement” that will help students prepare for their future, she said.
-Performing is a job, and the competition is intense. “You need to be prepared. Just because you’re the cat’s meow in school and you get every part, out in the world you have a whole lot more people you’re going to come up against.”
-Don’t be jealous of others’ success. “Success is going to look different for everyone.”
-Shut up and do your job. “I learned early on that your opinion doesn’t count. Just do your job. Nobody’s asking you anything. Just do your job and prove yourself. Later on, you can have an opinion. I’ve had some of those situations where I might have been right about expressing myself, but it didn’t necessarily turn out the way I wanted it to be.”
-It’s better to be prepared and have no opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared. “There were times early on in my career—I didn’t even call it a career; I was still in school—where I had so many things going on like classes and working and all of that. When I had professional opportunities to perform, I wasn’t always as perfect as I could be. But you have to know the music. You have to be ready. You have to be on time.”
Brown, who still lives in Indianapolis, grew up with dreams of singing, but she didn’t know what genre. As a student at Oakwood College (now University) in Huntsville, Alabama, “I had the opportunity to find out what my true voice was,” she said. “Or one of my voices. I have many voices.”
She tried out musical theater, gospel, R&B, and jazz, and, ultimately, chose opera. Her Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Aida led a New York Times reviewer to write: “At last an Aida.” She’s been featured in publications as diverse as Ebony and Psychology Today, and performed all over the world.
She has collaborated with celebrated American composer Richard Danielpour—in his opera Margaret Garner and his work A Woman’s Life, which set the poetry of Maya Angelou for Brown’s voice in an orchestral song cycle. In 2015, she is slated to portray Addie in Daniel Schnyder’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, a chamber opera about the great jazz saxophonist.
In addition to appearing in operas, Brown also presents a solo show called Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View, which is part of her mission to bring opera to everyone. It also plays into another piece of advice she will share with Butler students this year: “You can’t wait to be hired.”
“You have to make your own opportunities,” she said. “That’s why I do Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View. It became a vehicle for me to express myself in ways other than a staged opera. I was still able to get the best of me onstage, but not necessarily hired by an opera company. And it keeps you employed.”