Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Unsung Heroes Behind the 105 Voices Of History

The powerful angelic sounds of the 105 Voices of History Choir made their Inaugural performance on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The diverse students from various corners of the country performed with heart and soul. Months of regional practices and five days of nonstop rehearsing on the campus of Tennessee State University were evident in every solo and group performance.

The students even outperformed the megastar headliners who have been performing for years to sold-out arenas and packed audiences around the world. Students performed every genre of music including: Jazz, Gospel, Pop, Spiritual, and Classical. Their classical sounds were by far my personal favorites. The students were truly the "best of the best" who shared their God given talents with those in attendance.

Much was said about the various sponsors of 105 Voices of History Choir. They were uplifted often. Who were not mentioned with the same reverence (and frequency) were the choral directors who were the sources of the training and teaching the gifted students received while preparing for the Nashville's debut.

Each director teaches music and has been directing choirs for many years. All have performed on stages around the world and are extraordinary musicians in their own right. They arranged the music, chose the musical selections, auditioned the students, gave vocal coaching to the soloists, and conducted the choir. Many 12-14 hours days went into preparing for the 105 Voices of History Grand Ole Opry's performance.

In addition to the preparations for Nashville concert, the directors teach full schedules at their HBCU schools, travel nationally and internationally for their individual choir concerts, and perform professionally on renowned stages.

The choral directors were truly the unsung heroes of the evening. They embodied servant leadership. They showed the students class and dignity at every turn by their speech and actions with students before the curtains were lifted. They taught their students that being talented is one thing; but talent combined with an education, dedication, and a desire to succeed are the ultimate keys to opening doors long after the lights of Opry stage have dimmed.

To each choral director who traveled to give Nashville one of the grandest performances ever heard, the city of Nashville salute. You truly deserve a standing ovation.

(Full Bios of Conductors Below)

A. Jan Taylor-National Conductor

A. Jan Taylor, educator, pianist, singer and choral conductor, is Director of Choral Music Activities at Prairie View A&M University. A native of Houston, Texas, she received the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Houston, and the Master of Arts degree from Prairie View A&M University. She is currently completing requirements for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting at the University of Houston, where she studies with Charles Hausmann.

Prior to her appointment at Prairie View, Taylor taught general music, piano, and trained choirs in elementary, middle, and high schools in the Houston Independent School District. She has served as adjudicator and choral clinician for numerous choral competitions, festivals, and regional choirs across the state of Texas. As an authority on the African-American spiritual, Taylor frequently lectures on the performance practices and preservation of the genre.

She is the founding director of Intermezzo, a professional vocal chamber ensemble, and has traveled throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia as a singer with such premier professional choral ensembles as the Houston Chamber Choir and the Houston Chorale. As Assistant Conductor of the Houston Symphony Chorus from 2003 until 2006, she assisted in preparing the chorus for world-class conductors in performances of such choral-orchestral works as Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, the Verdi Requiem, and Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony. She has prepared choruses and collaborated with such renowned conductors and composers as Barbara Baker, Roland Carter, Nathan Carter, Moses Hogan, and Adolphus Hailstork. For the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, she coaches and accompanies singers, and conducts the Guild’s Chorus in performances of spirituals, African-American concert music, and operatic works.

Under Mrs. Taylor’s direction, the Prairie View A&M University Concert Chorale and PV Chamber Singers have performed to critical acclaim throughout the United States and abroad, including performances at the Texas Music Educators Association convention, and the International Festival Wratislavia Cantans, a prestigious music festival for choirs and orchestras in Poland. Her choirs have performed with the Houston Symphony, the Acadian Symphony, and have collaborated with several professional and community choruses in the Greater Houston area.

Taylor is a member of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Chorus, and holds memberships in the Texas Music Educators Association, American Choral Directors Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, and Sigma Alpha Iota, a music fraternity for women.

D'Walla Simmons Burke-National Conductor

Maestra D'Walla Simmons-Burke is a native of Fort Valley, Georgia and was educated in the public schools of Peach County (GA); Hampton Institute (University) (VA); The University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign (IL); The University of South Carolina of Columbia (SC); and has pursued doctoral studies in Music Education with triple minors in Research Methodology, Administration Leadership and Music History, at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

She has studied voice with Anna L. Lumpkin (GA), Vernon Holliston (GA), Princess Brown (GA), Shelia Maye (VA), Samuel Roberson (VA), Dodi Protero (IL), William Warfield (IL), and mentor Roland M. Carter (TN). Simmons-Burke has held teaching positions in the Fulton County Public Schools (GA), Voorhees College (Denmark, SC) and presently at Winston-Salem State University where she has been the Director of Choral &Vocal Studies of the Fine Arts Department for 22 years.

Simmons-Burke is the founder of three of the four choral ensembles currently existing within the Fine Arts Department at Winston-Salem State University (Winston-Salem State University Women; Winston-Salem State University Men and the renowned Winston-Salem State University Burke Singers). She has performed frequently as a soprano and in such operas as Lost in the Stars, LaTraviata, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Telephone and The Old Maid and the Thief.

February 2004, Burke debuted (soprano) with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in a celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday Holiday Celebration. In April, 2008, she conducted Gabriel Faure's Requiem with the New England Symphony and New England Symphony Chorale at Carnegie Hall. She returned to Carnegie Hall, January, 2010 to conduct the Winston-Salem State University Choir in concert. Burke has also traveled internationally with her choral ensembles. The Winston-Salem State University Choir has performed and recorded (Somewhere Far Away; Albany Record Label) with the Dvorák Symphony in Prague, Czech Republic. This recording, featuring the Winston-Salem State University Choir was nominated in 2010 for a Grammy Award in several categories. The renowned Winston Salem State University Burke Singers have traveled and performed in West Africa and have performed with Grammy Award Winner Patti Austin in concert. Maestra Simmons-Burke's Choirs have recorded and produced seven compact disks (In Silent Night; Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing; I Wanna Be Ready; Hold Fast To Dreams; Pieces of A Dream; Joy To the World; 20th Anniversary Celebration In Honor of D'Walla Simmons-Burke).

Under Simmons-Burke's baton, her choral ensembles have performed for such regional and national dignitaries as President George W. Bush; Kweisi Mfume; Susan Taylor; former North Carolina Governor James Hunt; Maya Angelou; Dick Gregory and Pope John Paul II, to name a few. Her exceptional and diverse vocal and choral pedagogies are continuously demonstrated through the outstanding students she has produced. As a result, Simmons-Burke has been the recipient of several teaching awards such as the Winston-Salem State University Patterson Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (1996) and the Winston-Salem State University Cedric Rodney Service Award (2006). D'Walla is also the recipient of many community service and performance awards. Just recently she was honored by the National Women of Achievement for her national achievements in music with the "Keepers of the Dream Award".

D' Walla is listed in Outstanding Young Women of America and holds memberships in many other organizations such as the Music Educators National Conference; the American Choral Directors Association; the National Association of African American Studies; the National Association for the Study and Performance of African-American Music; The Intercollegiate Music Association (board member); the National Associations for African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Latino Studies; The Intercollegiate Musicians Association (board member); The Piedmont Opera Theatre (former board member); Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Moles, Inc. and The Links, Inc.

She is often sought after as a sacred music and multicultural music clinician/ lecturer and soloist. Burke has also made numerous guest appearances as a guest conductor and adjudicator for several High School and Middle School All-State and All-County festivals and collegiate choral festivals and workshops. She is married to Fred A. Burke and they have two daughters and two grandsons.

Jeremy Scott Winston-National Conductor

Jeremy Scott Winston, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a notable musician, educator, clinician and scholar. He recently taught at University of California at Berkeley’s renowned Young Musicians’ Program in the summer of 2011. Jeremy currently serves as the Ray Charles Distinguished Chair of Sacred and Choral Music at Wilberforce University and Director of Music Ministries at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Appointed to the distinguished chair position by former congressman, Floyd H. Flake, at the early age of twenty-four, Jeremy sought out to recreate the nation’s oldest private Historically Black College music program to become a haven for multi-talented musicians. Jeremy has taken huge strides over the past eight years of his appointment to this distinguished position. Breathing life anew into Wilberforce’s music program, Jeremy has increased enrollment of music majors over 700%, hired four world-class faculty members, put students in touch with renowned musicians including Kathleen Battle, Adolphus Hailstork, Donnie McClurkin, Roberta Flack, Rachelle Ferrell, Take6, and more. As the conductor and director of The Award-Winning Wilberforce University Choir, Jeremy has taken this ensemble to new heights. After being hailed as “The Best Collegiate Choir” and “The Best Overall Choir” by The National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM; oldest African-American music association) in October of 2005, The Choir has been in high demand throughout the country. Regularly performing in New York, NY; Baltimore, MD; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; and Las Vegas, NV; this choir is poised to begin the ‘next big thing’ in choral music. In October of 2006, Jeremy made history with the University by arranging and conducting The Choir on the title track of the major motion picture Amazing Grace with gospel vocalist, Chris Tomlin. Under Jeremy’s direction, The Wilberforce Universtity Choir has performed with opera star Angela Brown (Oakwood graduate), Wynton Marsalis, The Lincoln Jazz Orchestra, The Ohio Players, and recently performed the full production of Porgy and Bess with The Dayton Opera Company. Spreading his wings in the local community, Jeremy sits on the Board of Trustees for The Dayton Opera Company and Unified Health Solutions.

Leading the musical ministry at United Theological Seminary, Jeremy started one of a few fully certified music ministry programs in the nation. The Floyd and Elaine Flake Music Ministry program at United combines technological capabilities of online instruction with outstanding musical experiences and in-class education. In its first year, the certificate program hosted renowned composer Mrs. Carol Cymbala of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and scholar Dr. James Abbington, Chairman of hymn committee for the recent hymnal Total Praise.

Jeremy attended Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Vocal Performance in May 2001. Jeremy was reunited with Professor Lloyd Mallory. Under his tutelage, Jeremy had many opportunities to grow his musical talents. He served as assistant conductor of the world-renowned Oakwood College Aeolians, a traveling tenor soloist with this same choral ensemble, and as am interim choir director at the local high school, Oakwood Academy in 1999. In 1998, Jeremy took full leadership of the Aeolians during their summer session when Dr. Lloyd Mallory took ill. While completing only one year of study at Oakwood, Jeremy led the choir in concerts at Riverside SDA Church in Nashville, TN; Brinklow SDA Church in Aston, MD, and Community Praise Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

Jeremy was the recipient of the Departmental Award from the music program in 2000 and the coveted Alma Blackman Scholarship in 2001. Jeremy formed his own group that performed gospel and acapella tunes in the tradition of Take6. Jeremy graduated from Oakwood College with honorable mention in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Continuing his education at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, Jeremy received his Master of Arts Degree in May 2003. Jeremy was a graduate assistant to master conductor, arranger and composer, Dr. Nathan Carter. As a graduate assistant, Jeremy worked alongside Dr. Carter, preparing and conducting the choir in numerous concerts and special performances. While at Morgan State University, Jeremy worked with many legendary musicians and orchestras, such as Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Jazz Orchestra, Kurt Masur and the Paris Symphony, Vladimir Valek and the Czech Philharmonic and Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra. As a tenor soloist with the Morgan State Choir, Mr. Winston performed with Raleigh Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony.

Jeremy is married to the former Angelique Samuel of Queens, New York. They have two beautiful girls, Jordyn Sherrell and Joelle Simone Winston.

Travis W. Alexander- Concert Organist, Conductor, Pianist, Tenor

Travis W. Alexander received Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in performance from the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Presently he serves on the music faculty at North Carolina A & T University where he teaches Piano, Music History and directs the University Choir and Chamber Singers.

Maestro recently conducted the NC A&T State University Choir in a concert performance at THE WHITE HOUSE in Washington, DC on February 26, 2011. He also was chosen to select and conduct the music for the combined choirs for the October 2011 Inauguration of the University of North Carolina State System President, Tom Ross. Also in September 2011, he served as Regional Conductor for the HBCU 105 Voices of History National Concert Choir and official concert organist for the choir’s annual concert at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, playing the historic Aeolian Skinner Pipe Organ. He also served on the initial HBCU Conductor’s Summit Team and as a workshop facilitator for the 105 Voices of History at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Maestro Alexander has worked extensively with Maestro James Meena and Opera Carolina in concert with Denyce Graves, Mezzo-Soprano and in a production of AIDA. In October of 2007, he served as conductor for a premiere performance of musical excerpts from the Lion King at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC. As a conductor, he has coached with Sir David Willcocks, former Organist and Master of the Choristers at King’s College, Cambridge, England. He has given organ recitals in the Long Library of the Blenheim Palace, Quedgeley Parish Church, and Bristol Cathedral in England.

Mr. Alexander is the founder of the Gethsemane Concert Choir of the historic Gethsemane AME Zion Church in Charlotte, NC which tours internationally. He has conducted choral concerts in Rome, Florence and Venice, London, Wales, Africa and Canada. He and the Gethsemane Concert Choir were presented in a joint concert/organ recital on Venice Island with the Coro Monte Peralba at the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.

Since his brief tenure at A&T, Maestro has developed a comprehensive choral program with a repertoire that is wide and encompasses music of all styles and period. Both choral ensembles have doubled in size and perform a minimum of 20 concerts a year. Recent choral performances have been presented in NY, CT, FL, GA, SC, DC and MD. The University Choir has performed for Julian Bond, Maya Angelou, Julianne Malveaux, Susan Taylor, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Roland Martin and Douglas Miller, Donna Brazile & Charles Bowden.

Maestro is also noted as a singer and for his helden tenor quality voice. He has sung both tenor and baritone repertoire. He has performed as a singer/conductor throughout West Africa, culminating in a recital at the National Theater in Ghana. He has performed annually for Maya Angelou and the United Negro College Fund Women Who Lead Extravaganza, and given a recital in the Mozart Room at the private resort of the Von Trapp Family in Stowe, Vermont. He continues to sing for weddings, oratorio performances, and for various religious, social and civic functions.

Maestro Alexander is a member of the American Guild of Organists, American Choral Directors Association, Royal School of Church Music, Organ Historical Society, College Music Society and Music Educators National Conference. He is listed in Who’s Who Among American Educators and as Scholar All American. He is also a life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., where he serves as Sixth District Accompanist and Basileus of the Phi Chi Chapter, where he was named Omega Man of the Year 2007.

Damon H.Dandridge-Dean of Students

Damon H. Dandridge is currently a doctoral candidate at Michagan State University where he is the conductor of the Collegiate Chorale. He previously served as Director of Choral Activities at Cheney University of Pennsylvania. He holds the Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Florida State University and the Bachelor of Music Education degree in Choral Music/Voice from South Carolina State University. Professor Dandridge has worked with The 105 Voices of History since its inception, serving as a National Conductor in 2008. He has had the esteemed pleasure of working with some of the most influential African-American composers of our time including Brazeal W. Dennard, Roland M. Carter, Dr. André J. Thomas, and Moses G. Hogan. As an artist, Dandridge's choral arrangements have been met with worldwide acclaim. From across the United States to Korea, Australia, and Italy, his pieces have been featured at various all-state festivals and international festivals. He is a past winner of the National Association of Negro Musicians’ Brantley Spiritual Arrangement Award.

Dandridge is an active member of ACDA, NANM, Phi Mu Alpha, and Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc.

Gloria Quinlan-Vocal Coach


Gloria Harrison Quinlan, a native of Houston, Texas, received the Bachelor of Music Education degree in Voice from Texas Southern University, the Master of Music in Voice from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Voice from The University of Texas at Austin. After a position as Assistant Professor of Music at Knoxville College in Knoxville, Tennessee, she was Associate Professor of Music at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and later served as Chair of the Music Department. She also served as Chair of the Humanities and Fine Arts Department at Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, Texas, and is currently Professor of Music, Voice/Choral and Director of the Huston-Tillotson UniversityUniversity Concert Choir.

She studied Voice with Ruth Stewart (Texas Southern University), Larry Day (Colorado State University) and the late Martha Deatherage (University of Texas), and coached with Gerard Souzay, the late Darryl Hobson-Byrd and the late David Garvey. Dr. Quinlan studied choral conducting with the late Ruthabel Rollins at TSU.

Dr. Quinlan has enjoyed success as a performer, in opera, as a soloist with ensembles, and as a recitalist, throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Significant performances include: Soprano soloist in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Caribbean Chorale and Puerto Rico Symphony; Soprano soloist with the Austin Civic Chorus and Symphonietta in a performance of the Brahms Requiem; Soprano Soloist with the Capitol City Men’s Chorus; and Soprano Soloist with the Austin Singers in a performance of the Brahms Requiem. She recently recorded with the Trombone Choir of The Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin. She has also performed with the Scott Joplin Orchestra of Houston, Texas.

Dr. Quinlan has received acclaim as a choral conductor. She founded the Concert Choir of the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Her choir at Huston-Tillotson University performed for President Jimmy Carter. President George W. Bush invited the Huston-Tillotson University Choir to perform at the opening of the Texas State Museum (a performance broadcasted nationwide). Dr. Quinlan was also selected as the choir conductor for the Lady Bird Johnson funeral service. She served as Minister of Music for Ebenezer Baptist Church from 1997 to 2008. She served as a Regional Conductor for the 105 Voices of History Historically Black Colleges and Universities National Concert Choir in 2009 and 2010, and made her conducting debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in September, 2011, directing the 105 Voices of History. She currently serves as the Vocal Coach for the 105 Voices of History.

Her University choir performed the Duke Ellington Sacred Concert with an All Star Jazz Band in 2009 and 2010, in collaboration with the Austin Chamber Music Center. In 2009, members of her choir also appeared in a production and recording of Duke Ellington’s opera, Queenie Pie, in collaboration with the Opera Department of the Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin.

Honors include the Danforth Compton Fellowship, Graduate Opportunity Fellowship, and a Graduate Scholarship Award from General Conference, Seventh Day Adventist Church. She also received the Fine Arts Award as an outstanding Music Educator by the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Delta Beta Chapter, and the Outstanding Achievement in Fine Arts award from the National Women of Achievement, Inc. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Music Educators National Conference, Texas Music Educators Conference, American Choral Directors Association and Texas Choral Directors Association. Dr. Quinlan is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Dr. Quinlan and husband Quincy Quinlan make their home in Austin, Texas with their son Mykal.

Edryn J. Coleman-Regional Conductor


Mr. Edryn J. Coleman is the Director of Choral Activities at Lincoln University. He holds a wealth of knowledge and experience in the fields of Choral Conducting and Choral Music Education respectively. Mr. Coleman, a native of Montgomery, AL, holds an undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance from Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL), one of the nations oldest HBCUs, and a Masters in Music Education from Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL). He is currently pursing his doctoral degree from The Shenandoah Conservatory of Music (Winchester, VA) in Music Education.

Mr. Coleman has numerous years of experience in music education. He has worked with choral students from kindergarten to college. Mr. Coleman is recognized for his numerous guest conducting appearances. He has conducted over sixteen honor choirs across the states of Maryland and Virginia. In addition to his guest conductor vitae, Mr. Coleman has presented numerous workshops for MENC, NANM, and various school districts on choral music topics such as sight-singing, and repertoire selection.

While in the public school system, Mr. Coleman served in many leadership roles in the Maryland Music Educators Association of MENC. Before leaving Maryland, Mr. Coleman was voted President-Elect of this esteemed body of Music Educators. He also served as the membership chair for the Maryland Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association. An organization dedicated to the teaching and preserving of choral music.

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

A wonderful article on musical genius at work.

Ronald W said...

Hey stranger. Great article as usual!