Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brooklyn-based American Opera Project receives NEA grant to develop, present composer NKEIRU OKOYE's folk opera "HARRIET TUBMAN" in 2013

Nkeiru Okoye, PhD (Conrad Williams) 

Brooklyn, New York - National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman announced last week that AOP (American Opera Projects) is one of 832 non-profit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. AOP is recommended for a $15,000 grant to support the creation, development and presentation of Nkeiru Okoye's folk opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed the Line to Freedom, during 2013, the 100th anniversary year of Tubman's death and the 150th anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation. Performances of the opera will occur in states along the Underground Railroad where Tubman was active.

"I'm proud to announce these 832 grants to the American public including AOP's Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed the Line to Freedom," said Chairman Landesman.  "These projects offer extraordinary examples of creativity in our country, including the creation of new work, innovative ways of engaging audiences, and exemplary education programs."

Charles Jarden, General Director of AOP, states "AOP is grateful to the NEA for their support of new work, especially new opera.  Harriet Tubman is the fourth AOP opera in four years to receive NEA funds.  With the aid of this generous support AOP has launched four stylistically different, artistically excellent projects that have had and will continue for many years to have an impact on citizens of our county. AOP commissioned Nkeiru Okoye for songs  in our I HEAR AMERICA SINGING program, through funds from New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs, and we witnessed the powerful impact of her music on the general public when we performed them in various inner city locations.  We are thrilled to be working with Nkeiru on her first opera and her choice of the Tubman story is perfect for AOP, a Brooklyn-based opera company."

In March 2012, the NEA received 1,509 eligible applications for Art Works requesting more than $74 million in funding. The 832 recommended NEA grants total $22.3 million, span 13 artistic disciplines and fields, and focus primarily on the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing works for the benefit of American audiences. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.

As part of AOP First Chance, a public workshop series for developing new opera and music-theater works, music from Harriet Tubman has been presented at several New York City venues including Galapagos Art Space and the Brooklyn Public Library. It has also received libretto development in closed workshop sessions at AOP. Sample videos may be viewed at the opera's First Chance page on the AOP website at

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at
A native New Yorker of African American and Nigerian descent, Nkeiru Okoye has had her music performed on four continents. Okoye's penchant for infusing popular and non-Western influences in a 'classical' framework shows in her most performed works, SONGS OF HARRIET TUBMAN (2007), the precursor for her opera, PHILLIS WHEATLEY (2005, commissioned by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, and recorded by the Moscow Symphony), VOICES SHOUTING OUT (2002); RUTH: an Orchestral Choreopoem, (1998); THE GENESIS (1997) and AFRICAN SKETCHES. Okoye's orchestral works have been performed by the Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Mississippi, Richmond, New Jersey Chamber, Cambridge Symphony, Western Piedmont, Rutgers University, Central Jersey, Hopkins, and New Horizons Symphony orchestras. Okoye has gotten awards, commissions and commendations from MEET THE COMPOSER, MetLife Creative Connections, John Duffy Composer Institute, Composer's Collaborative, Inc., Yvar Mikhashov Trust for New Music (1999); and numerous awards by the NAACP. Okoye is a frequent guest lecturer and panelist. In 2005, Okoye was a composer mentor at the University of Ghana for the International Society of Contemporary Music's World New Music Days.  In 2007, Okoye was honored at Nigeria's 40under40 ceremony, in Lagos. Nkeiru Okoye (in KEAR roo oh KOY yeh) has BM in composition from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and an MA and a Ph.D. in theory and composition from Rutgers University. In addition to being a composer, Dr. Okoye is a soft sculpture artist/creator of the "Canbie Collection" of multicultural dolls, which may be found in museums and galleries nationwide, including the Smithsonian.

For 25 years, AOP (American Opera Projects) has been creating, developing and presenting new American opera and music theatre projects. AOP, based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has produced over 20 world premiere operas including Patience & Sarah (1998), Stefan Weisman's Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby's This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline's Out Cold (2012), part of BAM's 30th Next Wave Festival.  AOP produces concerts and events including presentations of new music at Works and Process at the Guggenheim, the Rubin Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall. AOP-developed projects include Stephen Schwartz's Séance on a Wet Afternoon (New York City Opera, 2011), Jorge Martín's Before Night Falls (Fort Worth Opera, 2010), Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness (Royal Opera House (UK), 2011), and Jack Perla's Love/Hate (ODC Theater and San Francisco Opera, 2012). UPCOMING: Gregory Spears's Paul's Case (UrbanArias, and Roulette, 2013).   

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