Louise Toppin is a noted performer, scholar and professor who specializes in the concert repertoire of African American composers. In the span of her career, more than 30 songs and 2 operas have been written expressly for her voice. In addition, she has sung the world premiere of 30 more songs and arias of contemporary composers. As the administrator of the George Shirley Vocal Competition for the past nine years and Videmus (a non-profit organization that promotes the concert repertoire of African American and women composers) for more than twenty-five years, she encourages the performance and scholarship of African American compositions by students and scholars through recordings, conference presentation, live performances, and lectures.
As a performer she has received critical acclaim for her operatic, orchestral, and oratorio performances throughout the United States, Czech Republic, Scotland, Japan, China, Uruguay, Colombia, Cuba, Sweden, the Caribbean, Bermuda, New Zealand, England, and Spain in such halls as Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall and Carnegie Hall (New York), Weill Recital Hall (New York), the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), the Gran Teatre del Licieu (Barcelona), the Beijing Concert Hall, and the Shanghai Opera House and the International Albeniz Festival in Camprodon, Spain.
Recent performances include the 150th celebration for the ratification of the 13th amendment for Congress and President Obama at the U.S. Capitol, a performance in Havana, Cuba for the new U.S. Ambassador’s residence and a featured recital for the opening of the Smithsonian’s African American Heritage Museum.
She appears annually on concert series and professional conventions in the United States. Has presented recitals, masterclasses, and lectures on traditional repertoire and the music of African American and women composers on college campuses such as Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, Tufts University, the universities of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oregon, Wyoming, Northern Iowa, Northern Illinois, Colorado, California (Irvine), Indiana of Pennsylvania, Delta State, Morgan State, Clark Atlanta, George Mason, Agnes Scott College, Sweet Briar College, Illinois State, Brooklyn College, Queens College, University of Hawaii, Shenandoah, Auburn, Alvernia University, Old Dominion University, Berklee College of Music, MIT, Claflin University, Coker College, Bucknell University, Southeastern Georgia, Emory, Howard University, Jacksonville University, Virginia State University, Pepperdine University, University of Denver, Colorado State, and many universities and colleges in North Carolina, as well as summer festivals such as Aspen (Colorado) and Yachats (Oregon).
Her orchestral appearances include the Norrköping Symphony (Sweden), Vaxjo Symphony (Sweden), the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Czech National Symphony, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, (Sweden), Tokyo City Orchestra (Japan), The Montevideo Philharmonic (Uruguay), the Scotland Festival Orchestra (Aberdeen, Scotland), the Honolulu, Bermuda, Petersburg, Fayetteville, Fairfield, Toledo, Canton, North Carolina, Eugene, Fort Collins, Charlotte, Lafayette, Erie Chamber and Raleigh Chamber Symphony Orchestras, the Bach Aria Group, the Phoenix Bach Consort, and the Washington DC Bach Consort with conductors such as Paul Freeman, Richard Aulden Clark, Danail Rachev, Vladminir Ashkenazy, Justin Brown, James Meena, and Gearhart Zimmerman.
Her operatic roles include the title role in the world premiere of the opera Luyala by composer William Banfield, Twelfth Nigth by Joel Feigin (created role of Maria), Treemonisha in Scott Joplin's Treemonisha, Mary in William Grant Still’s Highway One, Lucy in Menotti's The Telephone, Clara in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Most recently she was contracted to sing Clara in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for Opera Carolina, Baltimore Opera, and Piedmont Opera companies.
She toured for Joanne Rile Artist Management Gershwin by Request with baritone Ben Matthews and pianist Leon Bates in 1992-1994, then in A Gershwin Party with Leon Bates, piano and William Brown, tenor from 1994-2004. The trio appeared on the Minnesota Pops Cabaret Concert Series in Orchestra Hall, Braden Auditorium Artists Series in Illinois, Coral Gables Concert Series in Miami, Spivey Hall Concert Series in Atlanta, and NPR’s Performance Today broadcast. Toured New Zealand and the U.S. in 2001-02 as a member of the group Triptych (Louise Toppin, soprano, Selma Gokcen, cello, Fritz Gearhart, violin and Donna Coleman, piano). Has appeared at various times since 2005 in Gershwin on Broadway with Leon Bates (piano) and other singers such as Cedric Cannon, LaRose Saxon, Robert Sims, and Robert Mack. The show played December 2014 in the Hudson Theater, (Broadway), with Robert Sims, baritone and Leon Bates, piano. She has created and tours in many other recitals such as: Music of African American composers; Music of Women composers; Pictures from an Exhibition (a visual show interacting art with music); and Music of Spanish composers.
Her compact discs of American Music are:Songs of Illumination, (Centaur Records), Ah love, but a day (Albany Records), Extensions of the Tradition (Albany Records), More Still (Cambria Records), Sence you went away (Albany Records) and Paul Freeman Introduces... Vol. II and IV (Albany Records) with the Czech National Symphony, A Hall Johnson collection published by Carl Fisher (2003),Highway One (opera by William Grant Still) released on Albany Records, The Major’s Letter (Albany Records), Poetry Preludes (Albany Records), Good News (Visionary Records), He’ll Bring it to Pass (Albany Records), Somewhere Far Away with the Dvorak Symphony conducted by Julius Williams (Albany Records), and Heart on the Wall, art songs with symphony by African American composers with the Dvorak Symphony on Albany Records and La saison des fleurs (music for soprano and fortepiano) released in March 2017. Soon for release in 2019 a CD of works for soprano by T. J. Anderson and a two volume CD of chamber music of African American composers also in 2019.
In demand as a presenter and guest clinician for masterclasses, in the summer she teaches for programs in Bogota, Colombia (The National Conservatory of Music), Amalfi, Italy (The Amalfi Coast Music Festival), Baltimore, Maryland, (The Baltimore Summer Opera Workshop) and Accra, Ghana for the Ghana Symphony Orchestra. She is the Director of the non-profit organization Videmus which is the internationally recognized leader in the promotion of the music of African American concert composers through recordings, performances, and educational programming. Through Videmus, she administers annually the George Shirley African American Art Song and Opera Aria Competition in Michigan. The competition, which is now in its ninth year, awards more than $30,000 to high school, undergraduate and graduate students throughout the United States.
She is a graduate of The University of Michigan (DMA voice), Peabody Conservatory (MM voice, MM piano) and The University of North Carolina (BM piano). Her teachers and coaches include: George Shirley, Reri Grist, Charlotte Holloman, Sylvia Olden Lee, and Mattiwilda Dobbs. In the summers of 1995 & 1996 she worked with Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge and Elly Ameling respectively at the Britten Pears School in England.
She was previously Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Music at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to that she served as Area Head of Voice and the Associate Chair for Performance, Composition and Music Education at UNC. Earlier positions include East Carolina University, Bowling Green State University and Eastern Michigan University. Currently, she is Professor of Voice at The University of Michigan.
- To create a repository of music
- To provide access to scores
- To encourage research, exploration and performance of new works
- To assist student competitors
Help us to educate more people about this repertoire. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.
All Payments are processed through Videmus, Inc., a 501(c)(3). Videmus provides fundraising and administrative support for this project as well as for the George Shirley Vocal competition. All payments made on this site directly benefit the continuation of this project.