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‘History Maker’ Denyce Graves visits Baltimore school to share story of operatic success

Nadine Randrianarivelo sings for Denyce Graves during a master class at the Baltimore School for the Arts. (Courtesy of Roy Lewis / The HistoryMakers)

BALTIMORE (WBFF) – A local operatic ‘history maker’ with an international reputation is bringing her expertise and candid story of her path to success to the Baltimore School for the Arts. On Thursday, famed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, a D.C. native, will host a special class from 2 to 4 p.m.

The performer, who was recently featured as part of a buzzworthy, star-studded dedication ceremony for the opening of Washington D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, will stop by the Baltimore performing arts schools to lead a master class with a handful of vocal students. Then, Graves will host a Q&A session and talk to students about her own school experiences, offer career insight and detail her journey to the top of the global operatic food chain.

“Having our kids meet one of the leading African American opera singers in the world is a huge thrill," Dr. Chris Ford, director of BSA, says, "It helps our students envision their potential futures."

The role model and star, best known for her portrayal of the title role in Bizet’s “Carmen,” will be “challenging our students to commit to their education,” says Stephanie Jayakanthan, the school’s director of marketing and communications.

Graves’ appearance is a part of a national project this fall, “Back to School with the History Makers.” The year-long program is a series of nation-wide events that will bring 400 leading African-American voices into schools to share their stories, motivate students and discuss topics related to the African-American experience especially as the presidential campaign season is underway. HistoryMakers are going ‘back to school’ in 51 cities and across 28 states.

Mellasenah Edwards, Baltimore School for the Arts' music department head, arranged Graves' visit with Historymakers, and explains just why it's so important for students to have the opportunity to connect with the mezzo-soprano and hear her story of perseverance and commitment in the high-stakes performing arts realm.

“Her life story is an inspiration for our students," says Edwards, who adds, "She started off singing one of her first lessons with one of our former teachers, Lauretta Young. She did her schooling at an institution similar to BSA (Duke Ellington School for the Arts). Many of our students can see themselves having a similar career or following a similar path.”

With the program now in its seventh year and flourishing, Graves’ visit to the Baltimore School for the Arts on Thursday is one of this year’s featured HistoryMakers events. Graves, by the way, stays busy balancing performing operatic roles across the world, taking time to make educational appearances such as these, and juggling responsibilities as an active member of the vocal faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.

The HistoryMakers, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, is the country’s largest African-American video oral history archive, which is also an excellent digital resource for classrooms. To date, the organization has interviewed over 2,700 HistoryMakers with the goal of creating an archive of 5,000 interviews or 20,000 hours of unique, first person testimony in a one-of-a-kind digital archive for teachers, students and the general public.

The HistoryMakers’ founder and executive director, Julieanna Richardson emphasizes, “We are committed to the notion that our nation’s youth, both minority and non-minority, will benefit from the stories of real world African American high achievers who have overcome obstacles in their path to success.”

To learn more about Denyce Graves, click here.


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