D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

‘Songs of the Season’ Returns to Kennedy Center

Mezzo-Soprano Kristina Nicole Lewis to Star as Featured Soloist

The Choral Arts Society of Washington continues its diverse offerings for the year with a celebration of the world’s favorite Christmas carols and holiday classics in a concert that will feature the Choral Arts Chorus, youth choir and internationally-acclaimed mezzo-soprano Kristina Nicole Lewis.

The popular program, “Songs of the Season: Christmas with Choral Arts,” opens Dec. 15 with performances continuing through Dec. 24 at the Kennedy Center in Northwest. Artistic Director Scott Tucker and Associate Conductor, Brandon Straub will lead from the podium.

Lewis, a native of Birmingham, has enjoyed success throughout the U.S. and abroad with a voice that has been described as one that “enters the soul and moves the spirit.”

After graduating from the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia in 2015, and with previous training from Johns Hopkins’ Peabody Conservatory where she earned her Master of Music in Voice and Converse College Petrie School of Music with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Converse College Petrie School of Music, Lewis says she took a little time away from the stage before realizing just how much she missed it.

Audiences who attend the show will undoubtedly discover how fortunate we all are that she decided to return and share her vocal gifts. But even more of a surprise for some readers may be her admission that she became an opera singer less by design and more due to unforeseen circumstances – that is, “by accident.”

“I went to college with plans to pursue my dream as a piano performer after having studied since the age of six,” she said. “In my sophomore year in college, I began playing for voice students and joined the choir where I was told that I had a lovely voice. One instructor offered to provide voice lessons on the side which quickly led to my entering voice competitions and the pursuit of graduate studies.”

She admits that she remained apprehensive because she had limited knowledge about the opportunities for vocalists and did not know then how far her voice could take her. But she wanted to give it a try.

“As an African American, I would be lying if I said race doesn’t matter in this industry,” she said. “But I’ve been fortunate and have taken advantage of every opportunity that’s come my way. Even so, after receiving my degree in 2015, and with 10 years of consecutive studies, I needed to take a pause. I needed to reassess. I needed some downtime.”

“Then, remembering the doors that had been opened by the likes of Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman for Blacks in the future like me, I became even more determined to go after this challenging career and use my gifts as far as they’d take me. Many Black opera singers are doing well in the U.S. and Europe but you have to work hard, network efficiently and have a tough skin. Things in America are still more difficult for us than in Europe but they’ve gotten better.”

When asked if she feels comfortable with being described as a “diva” she said she wells the title both with pride and her own set of expectations.

“Leontyne was a diva because of her stage presence,” she said. “She was like a goddess and a true force to be reckoned with. I’d like to think I have followed her example. But as much as I am a diva on stage, I don’t feel I exude that kind of temperament when I’m not performing. Diva or not, you have to be persistent if you hope for a successful career. You’ve got to be prepared for the many rejections, the constant auditions and the uncertainty of consistent employment. In today’s world, there are more singers, many of whom are Black, but there are fewer opportunities.”

She says she took a brief hiatus from the stage because it began to feel too much like work.

“I stopped enjoying what I was doing,” she said. “Two years later, I knew I had to get back to what I loved and what I never believed I would miss so much.”

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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