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Generously supported by the Katherine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation

January 7, 2021 (New York) — OPERA America is pleased to announce the inaugural participants of the IDEA Opera Residencies (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) program, a new initiative that provides New York City-based composers and librettists of color an opportunity to explore opera as an expressive medium.
The program is supported by the Katherine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation.

IDEA Opera Residencies are part of a series of programs designed by OPERA America to embrace the talent of BIPOC creators who have not been adequately included in the development of the contemporary American opera repertoire. Resident artists will have the support of OPERA America, access to facilities at the National Opera Center, and introductions to producers across the country. “IDEA Opera Residencies open the doors to composers and librettists of color who have distinguished themselves in other disciplines and want to explore
the potential of opera,” explained Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “By encouraging their creative development, we will enrich the entire art form with new voices that reflect the diversity of our country.”

The first-ever IDEA Opera Resident Artists are:

  • Laura Jobin-Acosta, composer

  • J. Mae Barizo, librettist

  • Tamar-kali Brown, composer

See below for additional information about the artists.

Each artist will receive a full-year residency at OPERA America’s National Opera Center and a total package of
$22,500 including direct grants for the exploration of opera as an artistic medium, career and promotional support, and facility and recording services. In addition, they will receive mentorship from field leaders,

introductions to the field through Opera America Magazine and OPERA America’s digital and social platforms, and participation at national convenings like the Opera Conference and New Works Forum.

The grantees were selected from an applicant pool of 30 by an independent adjudication panel of industry experts consisting of Anne Hiatt, co-founder and general director, Opera on Tap; Anthony Trecek-King, associate professor of choral music and director of choral activities, The Hartt School; Matthew Ozawa, stage director and consultant, and interim director of Lyric Unlimited, Lyric Opera of Chicago; Randall Eng, resident composer and associate arts professor, New York University; and Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist and playwright.

IDEA Opera Residencies are the most recent addition to OPERA America’s grant programs designed to increase the depth and breadth of the contemporary American opera repertoire. Since the inception of its granting programs, OPERA America has awarded over $20 million to the opera field to support the work of opera creators, companies, and administrators.

Applications for the next round of IDEA Opera Residencies will open in the first quarter of 2021. More information about OPERA America’s grant programs is available at operaamerica.org/Grants.


Laura Jobin-Acosta is a motivated and passionate composer. She recently graduated with her master’s degree in classical composition from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Laura Kaminsky and Kamala Sankaram.

Jobin-Acosta realized her compositional skills by attending the 2017 Walden Creative Musicians Retreat, where she wrote a piece that was premiered by the Mivos Quartet. While still in graduate school, she was commissioned to compose The Seven Last Words of Christ by Calvary-St. George Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Jobin-Acosta’s unique multicultural upbringing and singing background are reflected in her music, which can be described as beautiful, weird, and full of dialogue. She has significant local and international singing experience that extends to Munich, Vienna, and Israel, and she regularly performs new music in New York City, where she resides.

J. Mae Barizo was born in Toronto to Philippine immigrants. A prize-winning poet, critic, and performer, she is the author of The Cumulus Effect. Her recent work has appeared in Poetry, AGNI, Bookforum, Boston Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. She is the recipient of awards from Bennington College, the New School, Poets House, and the Jerome Foundation. Phillip Lopate wrote that Barizo’s “exquisite poems display throughout a mastery of poetic form … It is clear we are in the hands of a highly cultivated, intelligent writer.”

A classically trained musician and champion of cross-genre work, Barizo has recently collaborated with Salman Rushdie, Rob Moose, and the American String Quartet.
Her song cycle Lunar Songs, written with composer Jessie Montgomery and commissioned for the Leonard Bernstein centennial, was premiered in 2019 by Mellissa Hughes and the Metropolis Ensemble. She lives in New York City and teaches cross-genre collaboration at the New School and Pratt Institute.

Tamar-kali Brown is a Brooklyn-born-and-bred artist and second-generation musician with roots in the coastal Sea Islands of South Carolina. As a composer, Brown has defied boundaries to craft her own unique alternative sound.

The year 2017 marked her debut as a film score composer. Her score for Dee Rees’ Oscar-nominated Mudbound garnered her the World Soundtrack Academy’s 2018 Discovery of the Year Award and has been classified by IndieWire as one of the 25 Best Film Scores of the 21st century.

2019 was a hallmark year for her work as a composer. In addition to debuting her first symphonic commission, Brown scored four films. Three of these were featured at the
2020 Sundance Film Festival, including Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wanted, Kitty Green’s The Assistant, and Josephine Decker’s psychological drama Shirley, whose soundtrack was named The Guardian’s Contemporary Album of the Month in June 2020. The fourth was the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble.

2021 promises a range of new works, from orchestral composition and live performances to film scores and a new solo EP.


OPERA America (operaamerica.org) leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation, and enjoyment of opera. The organization is committed to:

  • Delivering professional development to artists, administrators, and trustees.
  • Increasing appreciation of opera through educational and audience development resources.
  • Offering support and services that foster the creation and presentation of new works.
  • Fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion across all aspects of the opera industry.
  • Undertaking national research and representing the field to policymakers and the media.
  • Managing the National Opera Center, a custom-built facility that provides a centralized space for collaboration, rehearsal, and performance.

Founded in 1970, OPERA America fulfills its mission through public programs, an annual conference, regional workshops, consultations, granting programs, publications, and online resources. It is the only organization serving all constituents of opera: artists, administrators, trustees, educators, and audience members.
Membership includes 160 professional opera companies; 350 associate, business, and education members; and 1,600 individuals. OPERA America extends its reach to 80,000 annual visitors to its National Opera Center and over 70,000 subscribers and followers on digital and social media. Representing over 90 percent of eligible professional companies, OPERA America is empowered to lead field-wide change.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting and nurturing the creation and development of new works led to the formation of the Opera Fund, a growing endowment that allows OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works. Currently, OPERA America awards more than $2 million each year through its range of grant initiatives.

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