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African Americans have had a profound impact on the development of music in the United States. While their role in the history of American popular and folk music is now generally acknowledged and appreciated, their influence within the "classical" music world has received little attention--even within the African American community.

Afrocentric Voices focuses on African American performers and composers and on the vocal music forms they influenced, especially opera and art songs, including Negro spirituals composed for concert performance.

The musicians profiled here not only opened pathways for today's young African Americans through their own accomplishments, they advised and encouraged youth with lectures and master classes, articles and books. Many of them established scholarships and competitions for young musicians whose talents and desires lead them to seek out careers in "classical" music. These artists showed--and continue to show--the African American community that support of their young artists is important and does yield positive results.

Presented here is an extensive bibliography of books and other research resources. There is a small--but growing--list of biographies of vocalists and composers, such as Marian Anderson, Harry T. Burleigh, Leontyne Price, and others. Most of these biographies now have video playlists of these musicians in performance themselves or of others performing their works, as well as photographs, music score examples, and links to resources related to their lives or careers.

Additionally, Afrocentric Voices has a chronology of major events and accomplishments by African American vocal musicians and a list of libraries and research centers that house significant collections of resources by and about African American musicians. A Gallery page of images from across the Web has been added to this site. Where available, the images also will have links to biographies, either here on Afrocentric Voices or elsewhere, on the represented performers or composers. Click on the musician's picture to the right to see it and the others on display.

Porgy and Bess Survey Completed!!

With the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the opera, Porgy and Bess in 2010, I surveyed the changing opinions of singers, teachers, opera directors, etc., on the opera's controversial subject matter and the impact of the proviso placed by the Gershwin family restricting assignment of singing roles in staged productions to Blacks--a restriction which will likely be in place until the opera enters the public domain in 2030.

Additionally, singers George Shirley, Angela Simpson, Stephen Swanson, Adrienne Webster, and Simon Estes discussed their experiences with and opinions of the opera. Their interviews are shared in the article, "Current Perspectives on Porgy and Bess," published in the May 2011 edition of the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Journal.

The article, "Surveying Current Perceptions of Porgy and Bess," which is based on the analysis of the survey--along with excerpts from the interviews, has also now been published in the October 2011 edition of the IMSLP Journal.

If you have any questions, please email me at

Afrocentric Voices Radio

Afrocentric Voices Radio is an Internet broadcast station that features performances of African American vocalists and vocal works by African American composers.

The current track playing on Afrocentric Voices Radio is displayed to the left. Click on the Play icon to listen or go to the direct link at Recordings of historic voices like Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, Todd Duncan, and Dorothy Maynor; composers William Grant Still, R. Nathaniel Dett and Margaret Bonds, and of course, many of the contemporary composers and vocalists featured on this site.

Each month, a new theme will be featured on Afrocentric Voices Radio. Then from 1:00-2:00 p.m. CDT, you can hear exclusively those works that fit that theme.

Upcoming themes are listed on the Afrocentric Voices Radio Station Page.

Please feel free to share your comments via email or in my Guestbook.

For more information about the service, visit the Afrocentric Voices Radio page.

With the growing interest in sharing recordings of great singers, services like YouTube are providing the means to access video recordings of classic and contemporary performers. In addition to the video clips below, playlists featuring African American vocalists are being added to the bottom of the biographies presented on this site.

Are you either an individual or choral group giving a performance that includes classical vocal music by an African American? Are you an African American vocalist who will be presenting a recital or lecture or performing in an opera? Do you know of vocal works by Black composers soon to be published or performed? Is there a conference or competition, or have you found a relevant book, Web site or other resource that is not yet listed on this site? I would like to know about it and help you get the word out about it. Please place your announcement under the Afrocentric Voices Forum: Concerts/Conferences/New Publications section. I would especially like notices about scholarships/awards that would be of interest to young African-American singers.

A research project, called The Art of the Negro Spiritual (ANS), is underway. It will look into historical and performance aspects of the Negro Spiritual as an art song form. The site includes an e-book that has excerpts from the forthcoming book and a survey on the challenges of bringing spiritual art songs to the voice studio. For more information, visit

Also, Come Down Angels, the first recording from the ANS research project, has now been released. It includes spiritual art songs by composers Edward Boatner, Margaret Bonds, H. T. Burleigh, John Carter, Maria Corley, R. Nathaniel Dett, Roland Hayes, Hall Johnson, Betty Jackson King, Robert Mac Gimsey, Undine Smith Moore, Julia Perry, and Hale Smith. The recording comes from live recitals performed by soprano Randye Jones and pianist Francis Conlon. To order copies of the compact disc, visit AhhJay Music at

Negro Spirituals Discussion Group

The Negro Spiritual Group is now open on Yahoogroups. This discussion list:

    The Negro Spiritual Group is for anyone interested in discussing all aspects of the genre. This includes: the history of spirituals, the role it played in slavery and the Christian beliefs of slaves, the post-Civil War use of spirituals in choral anthems and solo vocal concert music, and its importance to the American Civil Rights Movement. Posters to the list may not only raise issues and questions, but they may announce upcoming events, newly released publications and recordings, etc. related to Negro Spirituals.

To join the discussion list, complete the form below:

Subscribe to negrospiritual
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Afrocentric Voices

Please submit contributions, comments, or suggestions to Randye Jones. . Contents of Afrocentric Voices may be used for non-commercial purposes only if the source is acknowledged. All material remains the property of its creator. All commercial rights reserved.

To cite this page:
Afrocentric Voices in Classical Music. Created by Randye Jones. Created/Last modified: June 5, 2012. Accessed: .

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