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On Creating Your Own Path

Congratulations to alumna Angela Brown, Project Jumpstart’s Entrepreneur of the Month for October.

Angela Brown
Photo: Ron Ely

This month, Project Jumpstart interviews Jacobs School alumna, soprano Angela Brown, who was a recent recipient of the IU Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

Angela is an in-demand artist all over the world, with performances at major opera houses including The Metropolitan Opera, National Opera of Paris, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Indianapolis Opera.

In addition to her work as an operatic soprano, Angela performs in a wide variety of other genres, including musical theatre and gospel.

She has also created her own one-woman show, Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View, that has gained international recognition for popularizing opera in the form of an edgy, yet educational, concert presentation.

Project Jumpstart: How should young singers prepare themselves for the changing world of classical music and how to best be the 'new face' of opera?

Angela Brown: I would say don’t try to be the face of opera but try to be the face of music. Whatever genres that you came in singing, continue to sing them, but put them in your back pocket so you can learn your foundation. Everybody needs a foundation. When it comes to operatic music today, you sing authentically in that genre, but there are a lot of parties that you’re going to be asked to sing for and you have to be versatile. You need to have many things in your arsenal to pull out. Keep everything and use them all with excellence.

Angela Brown

A promotional video of Angela's program Opera...from a Sistah's Point of View, which she performed in the MAC at the Jacobs School of Music.

PJ: Can you talk about your program Opera…from a Sistah’s Point of View and how you think we can best develop new audiences for opera?

AB: Opera…From a Sistah’s Point of View is a show that demystifies opera for audiences that normally wouldn’t go. It’s about being exposed; it’s about diversity. If we all can find something that personally resonates within opera ... that’s going to be the best thing for us. Also, I think that an issue related to the dwindling of audiences is opera houses themselves, especially in the U.S. If you look at the opera houses in Europe, they are realitively small. We have these huge, colossal buildings to put opera in and the art form was not originally meant to be enjoyed that way. It was meant to be a more intimate experience. I think something the music entrepreneurship programs at IU can do is take the music, grass-roots, to the streets. Take it to people and perform it in smaller, more intimate spaces. That way, it can become more attractive to more people.

Angela Brown

Angela joined Project Jumpstart and several Jacobs School of Music students for a {well-advised} breakfast.

PJ: Why do you think it’s important for singers to view themselves as not just musicians but also entrepreneurs?

AB: It’s important to know how to run your business because when you get out of here, you are your own commodity. You have to find different creative ways to express yourself and try to make some revenue. I think creative programming is very important. You can do something with creative, theme-based concerts to keep yourself busy. I never thought that opera and opera companies, would be my only source of income because it’s just not like that today. Everybody has to come with something else.

Angela Brown

Enjoy an interview with Angela Brown, recorded in Bloomington last week.

PJ: How do you make the adjustment from having a steady teacher while in school to becoming your own teacher once you're out in the world?

AB: You always have to have another set of ears so it’s always good to have a teacher or a coach to check in with from time to time. Sometimes we can fall into bad habits, especially if our career gets busy. You don’t always hear yourself objectively. You don’t always hear that the diction isn’t as crisp, that your support is lagging. Once you start doing this all the time and you’re on the stage and traveling and you’re learning new music; it’s a grind and it’s a job. You always have to find some way to check in and keep yourself healthy.

Angela Brown

Angela Brown in a production of Verdi's Don Carlo at Cincinnati Opera.

PJ: What skills did you acquire during your time at Jacobs that you use the most while working in a professional career?

AB: I will say that I definitely learned how to read and learn an opera score here. And that has been extremely useful to me. Also, I learned that nothing is perfect but you don’t know it isn’t perfect until you do it. You’ve got to have the guts to just get out there and go try it. The Jacobs School of Music is a wonderful cocoon and a wonderful place to try different things.

Angela Brown

Angela and a group of Jacobs students strike their best "diva" pose.

PJ: How do you go about measuring success?

AB: You can’t let anyone determine what success is going to look like for you because everybody’s success is different. You can be inspired by me, but you can never be me. You may not be the best singer for the Metropolitan Opera, but maybe you will be the best singer to sing regionally, or locally, or at your church. It’s all about your passion. If you have a passion for this business, you shouldn’t care if you’re singing at the Met. If you determine your success by satisfaction, by what makes your heart feel good, then we are all rich in so many different ways. I totally believe that, what God has for me is for me. Nobody can take that away. If it’s long-lived or short-lived, it was mine for that moment and I’m grateful for it.

JCEIProject Partner: The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Kelley School of Business offers one of the most comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculums in the world, with nationally-ranked academic programs that a wide range of real-world entrepreneurial experiences through cross-campus initiatives with university departments and involvement with the business community.

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