Art Talk Monday: The Classical Singer

This week's Art Talk Monday is written by Jessica Slaughter, NCLAC Executive Director. NCLAC had an exciting week last week, as we held our beer-tasting fundraiser, ARToberfest, as well as our annual School Show Presentation.

Opera soprano Brenda Wimberly presented her show, The Classical Singer, to 232 students and chaperones at the Dixie Center for the Arts.

Brenda warming up before the performance

NCLAC holds a musical presentation for Lincoln Parish middle school students each year at the Dixie Center. This year’s participants included students from IA Lewis, Simsboro High School, Ruston Christian Homeschoolers, and Montessori School of Ruston. Her stage show included a portion of Puccini’s Vissi d’arte from Tosca, which brought tears to my eyes. It was breathtaking. Ms. Wimberly sang works in English, as well as Italian, French and German. The performance included arias, art songs and musical theatre. The students were a very respectful audience, and Brenda says she was “amazed” at the experience and “the way that I (she) was received by the students.”

Ms. Wimberly offered an interactive element to the show with a student sing-a-long and a question and answer session. She led the audience in a vocal exercise using the word pizza. Their 200+ voices singing together sounded angelic. Brenda walked around and answered questions offered by the students, such as how long she had been singing, what inspired her to sing opera, and “Are you famous?!”

This unique, private educational performance was made possible through sponsorship by Ruston Civic Symphony Society and NCLAC’s partnership with the Dixie Center for the Arts. In addition, Lincoln Parish Achieve provided bussing for the public schools, making this educational field trip free for each of the schools and students. Thank you so much to these wonderful sponsors who help NCLAC in our art education programs.

Wimberly is a Louisiana native who has studied opera around the globe. She holds degrees in vocal performance from Prairie View A&M University, where she received the Presidential Citation in Performing Arts from NAFEO, and the University of Michigan. She has also studied with the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and the San Francisco Opera. She was accompanied by pianist LaDonald Ensley from Monroe.

It is proving more difficult each year to secure student attendance for this annual performance. Perhaps it’s testing, changing school policies, a tighter academic timeline … I’m sure there are many reasons for the change. The NCLAC office has pondered if perhaps bringing performers to the schools, rather than bringing schools to the theatre, would be a better plan. However, as I was sitting in this historic theatre experiencing Ms. Wimberly’s program, I decided that it is necessary to continue to bring students to this space.  There is definitely a time and place for bringing artists to schools – it is essential as well! – but there is also something incredibly magical about seeing an artist in an environment dedicated to his/her craft. So as long as we’re able to coordinate these shows and bring students on site, we will continue to plant the seeds and cultivate an appreciation for the arts.

If you would like to see more photos from this performance, visit our facebook page.


Brenda Wimberly with accompanist LaDonald Ensley

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