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Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Opera star Angela Brown to receive inaugural alumni award from African American Arts Institute

Angela Brown

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Opera's newest diva is coming home.

Angela Brown, the Indiana University School of Music alumna who delighted audiences and critics in her Metropolitan Opera debut last fall, will return to Bloomington on Monday (April 25) to receive the IU African American Arts Institute's inaugural Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award. Established this year as part of the AAAI's 30th anniversary celebration, the award, which will be given annually, recognizes outstanding contributions made in the arts by former members of the institute.

"Angela has reached the pinnacle," said Charles E. Sykes, AAAI's director since 1991. Sykes will present Brown with the award honoring her outstanding achievements as a vocal artist at the institute's 30th anniversary banquet Monday evening at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Brown, who studied in the early-to-mid-1990s at the School of Music with Distinguished Professor Virginia Zeani, made her Met Opera debut in October in the title role of Aida. After her performance, she was quickly anointed opera's rising star. As one audience member told CBS News, "the future of opera" had arrived.

In many ways, Brown epitomizes the late Herman C. Hudson's vision for the AAAI. Hudson, founder of the Office of Afro-American Affairs and the Minority Achievers Program at IU Bloomington, believed the institute should strive for the highest levels of excellence in performance. Throughout its 30-year history, the institute has nurtured and developed the talents of students of diverse backgrounds who come to IU with varying artistic interests and experience. Brown is one of many highly talented members of the institute who have gone on to successful careers in the arts -- some as ensemble members, others as management or artistic assistants who help shape the talents of other student performers.

As part of its mission, the institute exposes students to a wide range of musical styles. As a young girl growing up in Indianapolis, Brown sang gospel music in her grandfather's Baptist church, and in talent and variety shows held at places such as the Indianapolis Civic Theatre. While at IU, she sang with the institute's African American Choral Ensemble and served as vocal coach from 1991 to 1997 for the IU Soul Revue, a group of singers and musicians that performs traditional rhythm and blues, soul, funk and contemporary black popular music. IU Soul Revue director Tyron Cooper played guitar on Brown's 2004 CD of African American spirituals.

"Angela was just a presence," Sykes said, adding that Brown was one of the first graduate students he appointed to work at the institute. "She sang in choir, was the vocal coach of the Soul Revue and worked on costumes, all of this while playing mother figure for many of our students."

Brown will perform next month with the Michigan Opera Theatre in the highly anticipated world premiere of Margaret Garner, which features music by Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour and a libretto by Toni Morrison, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature. Brown will reprise her role as Cilla in Margaret Garner with the Cincinnati Opera in June.

A large plaque engraved with Brown's name will be mounted on the wall in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

To learn more about the institute, read the story "Thirty years and still grooving: IU's African American Arts Institute" at

To learn more about Angela Brown, go to or read the IU Music magazine story "A Date With Destiny" at

Reporters who wish to attend the banquet or speak with Brown should contact Ryan Piurek, IU Media Relations, at 812-855-5393 or