From assassin, marriage broker and surly servant to accomplished entrepreneur, philanthropist and family man, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music alumnus and basso profundo Quincy Roberts has come a long way.
Roberts first experienced opera in the fifth grade, when he went to The Dallas Opera’s “Porgy and Bess.” “I fell in love with the production and decided that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he said. “From that moment, I pretended I was an opera singer and made ‘opera sounds.’”
Roberts attended middle and high schools for the performing arts before being cast in numerous roles as a student with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater—including in “Rigoletto,” “The Bartered Bride” and “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” among others—adding to his colorful resume and graduating with a B.M. in Voice Performance in 2002.
He was one recital away from earning his Performer Diploma in spring 2004 when his grandfather called from Dallas, Texas; Roberts’ uncle had died. Dallas born and raised, he returned home for the funeral and never performed that final recital.
But Roberts did sing with a number of professional symphonies and opera companies, including Opera Carolina, where he was performing when his grandfather called with an offer in 2006. He was ready to retire and wondered if his grandson wanted the family business. “Absolutely,” said Roberts. “I’ll be home after this gig.”
Roberts’ grandfather and uncle founded Roberts Trucking in 1979, the year the younger Roberts was born. They had only two trucks and two drivers: themselves. The company still had two trucks when Roberts took the wheel and became CEO in 2006.
Today, the company owns 56 trucks and partners with hundreds of owner-operators to run a total of approximately 350 trucks in North Texas. The booming business has 65 full-time employees, and annual sales have burgeoned from $150,000 in 2006 to $20,000,000 in 2020.
During this marathon road trip, Roberts has also become a very passionate philanthropist and community advocate, sharing the power of music wherever he can, including with his latest initiative, OperaTruck—an 18-wheel, flatbed “big rig” that has been customized as an outdoor mobile stage.
Since Roberts sits on the Dallas Opera Board of Trustees, he was a natural choice for the company’s director of education, Kristian Roberts (no relation), to call and ask if he had any ideas about how they could bring opera to the community using a truck.
“I had lots of ideas,” he said. “Even though it was her brainchild, I took it as my baby, figuring out the truck and all the mechanical logistics. I took care of the truck, and she took care of the gigs.”
Roberts sentimentally chose one of his grandfather’s dump trucks, which was manufactured in 2000 and boasts more than one million miles of character. It was retrofitted just for this and now hauls a 30-foot trailer that can safely socially distance four singers onstage while presenting family-friendly fare.
OperaTruck debuted April 13 with a Dallas Opera performance of George Bizet’s “Dr. Miracle” at the North Texas Food Bank, followed by an encore performance April 17 at the Dallas Family Gateway, a homeless shelter where Roberts sits on the board.
OperaTruck is reminiscent of the Feb. 26 Shingle Mountain concert Roberts sponsored and organized.
Roberts Trucking was contracted by the city to clean up an illegal toxic waste site containing 150,000 tons of roofing debris in a south Dallas community of color.
When the purge was complete, Roberts used his connections to present a concert for the neighborhood, including members of the Dallas Symphony, internationally famous tenor Lawrence Brownlee and pianist and Grammy-winning music producer Shaun Martin, staged for the residents by The Concert Truck.
“Music brings healing, and I wanted to bring something special,” Roberts explained.
Roberts is also a member of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Board of Governors; sponsors numerous local non-profit organizations, including the Dallas Metroplex Musicians’ Association, Two Wins organization and the Kappa Kamp at Paul Quinn College; and serves as mentor to several startup companies and emerging entrepreneurs, in addition to multiple other endeavors.
He also still performs professionally, as a member of the Dallas Opera Chorus for 12 years, normally squeezing two shows per season into his packed schedule. Fittingly, he got to sing in the company’s 2008 production of “Porgy and Bess.”
“IU was a great experience for me,” reminisced Roberts. “Along with a superb education, I had amazing performance opportunities on one of the biggest stages in the country, and the friendships I made are priceless. Those were, undoubtedly, some of the best years of my life—just surreal.”
Some of those priceless friendships include Brownlee and classical tubist Richard White. The trio united in 2018 to form the Brownlee, Roberts and White Brothers in Achievement Scholarship for the Jacobs School.
Roberts and Brownlee also formed the Interlude Foundation to promote diversity, equity and inclusion throughout classical music.
“My music education experience at IU has been extremely important in my professional development, not only as a musician but as an entrepreneur,” Roberts said. “Certainly, an opera singer is an entrepreneur—the product is you. And the relationships I’ve built with former classmates and professors have enabled me to achieve great personal success and the ability to open doors for others.”
Roberts’ advice for current students? “Cherish the moment you’re in; it’s only for a short time, but this experience will undoubtedly continue to pay off for a lifetime.”
Editor’s Note: On April 16, 2022, Roberts received the inaugural Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Centennial Award “for his generosity of spirit, emblematic citizenship and deep appreciation for sharing and contributing to the arts and education.”