Shared Voices, an effort launched by the Denyce Graves Foundation with major support from the Ford Foundation, is an unprecedented classical music student exchange program in partnership with the Metropolitan Opera, four preeminent Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and four top American conservatories (including Manhattan School of Music).
Through the initiative’s shared learning and performance opportunities, the goal is that students, faculty, and administrators will contribute to a more dynamic and diverse classical vocal arts landscape across the country. The year-long Shared Voices program will allow students and faculty from Howard University, Fisk University, Morgan State University, and Morehouse College to form musical alliances with faculty and students from Manhattan School of Music (MSM), the Juilliard School, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
Student participants will have access to individual coaching, classes, rehearsals, performances, and other activities across the partnering universities. The Metropolitan Opera will offer master classes as part of the program. The inaugural cohort of students were officially welcomed on September 30 at the program launch at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“After speaking with my students over the years and hearing what they felt they needed to advance their careers, I knew we would have to develop a program where students of all backgrounds could learn and expand their perspectives in an environment that fosters excellence, inclusion, and belonging,” said Shared Voices founder and renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. “I am so excited to have welcomed our fist cohort of students and have great expectations for how their careers grow and blossom as a result of this program.”
“The potential of the Shared Voices collaboration is powerful and when fully realized will be a significant force within the opera field,” said MSM President James Gandre. “It will allow all students from participating schools to experience the best of each institution, expanding the experiences of all involved. The access to opportunity that this program will provide will deepen students’ understanding of what it takes to have a successful career in classical music in the 21st century.”
Taking part in the program’s inaugural year are two MSM classical voice students: Jaydon Beleford (BM ’24) and Hannah Jeané Jones (MM ’24).
“I’m so honored to be in it,” Ms. Jones told The Washington Post. “I’m just going to soak everything up. I hope to gain a sense of where I stand in this industry. I will learn more about myself and learn more about my people.”
The program’s kick-off event welcomed the 16 inaugural student cohort members and included performances by Howard University’s choir and a presentation of the presidential Volunteer Service Award to Ms. Graves. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard alumna, sent official greetings.
(In photo above at the September 30 launch event, right to left: MSM President James Gandre; Opera America President and CEO Marc Scorca; mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves; and Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick)