Message from the National Opera Association
NOA is committed to a message of love and compassion through opera.
In light of the ongoing social unrest occurring across our nation, related to the senseless murder of George Floyd, we continue to stand united in our ongoing efforts to work for social justice and to eradicate racism. We embrace and celebrate our diversity, and stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As educators, we seek to help our colleagues and students become global good citizens - humans who are committed to building a world where each person's voice has the right to be heard regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. Moving forward, our IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Access) Committee and Board of Directors will be charged with creating and implementing new resources, offering historical background information, and facilitating other ways we can begin to repair and grow as an organization and industry.
As an influential institution, higher education has a moral and ethical responsibility to provide students with an education that is firmly rooted in social justice, in the hope of eradicating the social and systematic racism in our country. As opera educators we are committed to providing our students with a safe place where they can develop their voices, engage in vigorous dialogue, and learn from one another.
We are the foundation builders of opera, and our foundation will forever be strong enough to welcome everyone in our house.
The National Opera Association recognizes the importance of ethnic and racial diversity in professional opera. The Legacy Project of the National Opera Association is established to achieve that goal by recognizing the contributions of those who have led progress toward that goal, and to assist, through career development grants, those who demonstrate potential to advance the goal.
Background and History
The Legacy Program of the National Opera Association began in 1995, in observance of the 50th anniversary of singer Todd Duncan’s contract with New York City Opera. It was the first contract for an African-American singer with a major US opera company, and has become the focal point for the National Opera Association's recognition of the outstanding contributions of African-American artists to opera in America.
The inaugural event of the Legacy Program took place in Boston in December of 1995 as the joint initiative of the NOA and the W. E. B. DuBois Foundation at Harvard University. In conjunction with NOA’s annual convention, over 300 singers, conductors, and educators gathered from around the world to honor Todd Duncan, Mattiwilda Dobbs, Robert McFerrin, and Camilla Williams as the first recipients of the “Lift Every Voice” Legacy Awards.
NOA celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Legacy Program at its 2016 Convention in Indianapolis.
Oral History Project
The following video interviews, recorded in Chicago on July 18, 2019 by Richard Poppino, comprise an oral history of the groundbreaking careers of African-American artists to the field of opera:
- George Shirley
- Cicely Jackson Perry
- Daniel Washington
- Darryl Taylor
- Elvira Green
- Gail Robinson-Oturu
- Louise Toppin
- Osceola Davis
- Patrice Eaton
- Robert Sims
- Uzee Brown
- Willis Patterson
"Lift Every Voice" Legacy Award Recipients
Etta Moten Barnett
|Sylvia Olden Lee
Anne Wiggins Brown
Charlotte Wesley Holloman
Leslie Savoy Burrs
|2006||H. Leslie Adams
|2009||Robert Owens||Luther Saxon|
|2010||Curtis Rayam||Marie Hadley Robinson|
|2011||Felicia Weathers||Donnie Ray Albert|
|2012||Edward Pierson||Gwendolyn Bradley|
|2013||Willie Anthony Waters|
|2014||Louise Toppin||Olive Moorefield Mach|
|2017||Jessye Norman||Marian Anderson*|
* denotes posthumous award