Where in the world is Kristin Lewis…?

Hello Kristin Lewis Foundation Friends and Patrons!!!

I’m going to be honest with you…it’s been difficult to pin down Kristin for this month’s interview. She is so busy these days. She jet sets all over Europe (which I wish I could also do), and she’s making some major moves as a global ambassador for the Arts and culture… Here’s the latest scoop on what’s going on with my BFF!

Amerie: What time is it in Vienna?
Kristin: It’s 3:00pm. What time is it in Arkansas…?

Amerie: I dunno… the crack of dawn….
Kristin: (laughing) No, I think that it’s around 8:00am.

Amerie: It is. Why has it been a month since we last caught up with each other? Each attempt to reach you went straight to voice mail.
Kristin: Has it really been a month? I guess that time really does fly when you’re having fun…(laughing)! But sincerely I apologize for having missed your calls. I’ve been expanding the activities of the Kristin Lewis Foundation by creating a second Foundation based in Vienna, Austria. I am very excited about this new venture because it will allow for me to have greater reach toward positively impacting the lives of many others. One of the activities of the Austrian organization, which is called Kristin Lewis International Verein für Ausbildung und Förderung junger Künstler (which translates as the Association for the Education and Development of Young Artists), will hosts its inaugural concert this September. It will be held in a very beautiful cathedral in the center of Vienna. It is called the Minoritenkirche (in English called the Friars Minor Conventual Church). It is a magnificent structure that was built in the 13th century. An interesting fact is that it actually took 100 years to build it.


Minoritenplatz 2A, 1010 Wien
Architect: König Ottokar II. Přemysl


Amerie: Whoa! Wait! You’ve created a new Foundation? Your reach has just become global! I told you that you were going to turn into the Tyra Banks of Opera! But what does that mean? Are you just going to focus on your philanthropy work and take a step back from performing for a while? Are you winding down your career?
Kristin: No, absolutely not! In fact, I am in the midst of preparing 2 new roles that I will debut this season. I will perform the title role in Puccini’s Tosca at the Hamburg (Germany) State Opera; and l will make my American debut at Dallas Opera, singing the title role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. So, no, I’m definitely not winding down my career in performances. (Laughing) I simply feel called to give back to the next generation of top musicians.

Amerie: Now that you’ve gone global, what’s the purpose of Kristin Lewis International?
Kristin: That’s a good question. The mission is to provide professional and practical resources to emerging artists, in order to further refine their talents and aid in their artistic development. Vienna is the ideal location because of its many resources. It is a haven for “the best of the best.” To be able to provide an opportunity for young artists to study and further develop their talents gratifies me with a level of fulfillment that is second only to being on stage.

Organ at the church


South facade with the two rose windows and the neo-Gothic arcades.


Amerie: That’s a wonderfully ambitious goal that I pray is fully realized. I do have a question though…
Kristin: What is it?

Amerie: Um… As you continue your Vienna concert series… could you like… ask Adam Driver to come moderate one of your concerts….?
Kristin: Adam Driver?

Amerie: Yes! He’s my favorite actor. He’s the Supreme Leader of the Galaxy! He’s Darth Vadar’s grandson….Luke Skywalker’s nephew. The child of Princess Leia and Han Solo. And he is a classically trained actor who went to Julliard. Perhaps he would appreciate being a part of this.
Kristin: It sounds as if you really would like to meet him…and you’d like my help in doing so. Establishing a connection to Hollywood might be “in the cards” sometime in the future…who knows? (Laughing) I forgot how much you love Star Wars… But please, one step at a time.

Amerie: I do. So Jedi mind tricks aren’t gonna work with getting me what I desire?
Kristin: (laughing) That’s probably not a good look.

Amerie: I tried.
Kristin: You did…. (laughing) Is there anything else you’re considering using or have in mind for Jedi tricks?

Amerie: No, but I do hope that you will keep progressing and moving forward because this venture has the potential of making a huge impact on the world. Thank you for answering the call to improve the quality of life for others. Thank you for using your superhero powers for good.
Kristin: Aw… Thanks…

Amerie: Well, there you have it folks, coming to you straight outta Vienna!

Minoritenkirche 1609 – Detail from the view of Vienna Houfnagel
Click image for larger view.

The Good Book of Ruminations

Philosophical ruminations can be extremely important to consider when embarking upon a career in performance. Divine guidance, natural talent, dedication and humility are among the fundamental tools needed for success. Further, I invite aspiring artists to read the thoughts of seasoned artistic professionals, or Apostles, as they share their most meaningful words of wisdom in a new blog entitled,

The Good Book of Ruminations:

A Musician’s Guide To Survival.

The Good Book of Ruminations 3: 1-5

A Good Word from Operatic Apostle and Bass, Dr. Morris Robinson.

Chapter 3

1Believeth that the place upon which ye standeth is solid ground and follow the path laid before thee. 2Focus thyself not upon the destination, but upon each step. 3Be ye pure in thought and truthful in thine own soul. 4Taketh only wise counsel and do good work. 5When thou ploweth the field, the toll of thine hand shall shewn forth. At harvest ye shall gather ripe fruit and a bountiful harvest.



Dr. Morris Robinson

Trust the process and don’t focus on the end results. Set realistic goals while remembering that they require honesty from all involved parties – teachers, coaches, and most importantly, one’s self. Capabilities can indeed change with constant development. To that end, your realistic goals may change as well. Stay focused on developing your own unique voice, and the rest will take care of itself.
~ Dr. Morris Robinson.

Artist of the Month, July 2018

Anita Rachvelishvili was born in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. She became internationally known on December 7, 2009, the opening night of the Teatro alla Scala season, singing the title role in Bizet’s Carmen. Jonas Kaufmann portrayed the dangerously passionate Don José in this production staged by Emma Date and conducted by Maestro Daniel Barenboim. This performance, which was her operatic career as well as role debut, was televised worldwide. She has since debuted the role Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Bayerische Staatsoper München, the Staatsoper Berlin, the Seattle Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Teatro Regio in Turin, the Canadian Opera Company, Teatro all’Opera di Roma, the Arena di Verona, as well as making a return to the Teatro alla Scala in what has become one of her signature roles.

Ms. Rachvelishvili made her Netherlands debut as Dalila in concertante of Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila at the Concertgebouw. She debuted at Carnegie Hall alongside Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann as the Principessa di Bouillon in Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. She has also been heard as Dulcinée in Massenet’s Don Quichotte at the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari. Her other operatic roles have included Isabella in Rossinis L’Italiana in Algeri, performed at Teatro alla Scala, and the title role in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the Castell de Peralada Festival.


Ms. Rachvelischvili was presented at the Staatsoper Berlin as Lyubasha in their new production of Rimsky Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride, staged by Dmitry Cherniakov and conducted by Daniel Barenboim. She has appeared as the Konschakowna in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Borodin’s Prince Igor. At the Arena di Verona and Teatro alla Scala she has performed Amneris in Verdi’s Aida, the second of which was a new production led by Maestro Zubin Mehta. She has also performed Verdi’s Requiem at the Salzburg Easter Festival.


This season she will return to Teatro alla Scala in performances of the Verdi Requiem, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in the title role of Carmen, the Dutch National Opera in the role of Marfa in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina and her debut with the Paris Opera as Amneris in Aida. Engagements in future seasons include her Paris Opera debut as Amneris in “Aida”, “Samson et Dalila” in Berlin and Sao Paulo and at the Arena di Verona, and Azucena in “Il Trovatore” at Covent Garden and Opéra Bastille.

Discover more about this wonderful artist at: http://anitarachvelishvili.com/en/


Did you know… ?

Music activates certain regions in your brain which are involved in movement, planning, attention, learning and memory. It also releases dopamine, which improves your mood and reduces stress and anxiety and induces pleasure, joy and motivation. Music is also proven to bring memories back to an injured brain, which can help people with brain injuries, such as Alzheimer’s, recall personal memories. Music can enhance altruism in humans and just simply make us be nicer to one another! Learning to play an instrument, the human voice being one of the most complicated to master, activates the brain even more and in more complex ways, even increasing the size of the corpus callosum, which is the area of the brain that allows communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

About the contributor: Tamara GalloTamara_Gallo

The Kristin Lewis Foundation “Nightingale”


Each month, talented Kristin Lewis Foundation scholarship award winners or finalists will be presented in La Fermata. They will be lovingly referred to as “Nightingales” and “Troubadours,” in homage to artists who have shared their gift of beautiful singing throughout history.

A “Nightingale” is derived from “night”, and the Old English galan, “to sing.” Its Old English form nihtgale, means “night and day songstress.” A “Troubadour” was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages. This word is etymologically masculine.

The Kristin Lewis Foundation, an organization that shines a spotlight on talented musicians, is extremely proud of all the wonderful singers who participate in its scholarship program. The fifteen finalists chosen from universities and colleges across the country each year are invited to Arkansas for a two-day audition process, in competition for financial awards.

Each participant is given an invaluable opportunity to work with esteemed professionals from leading, international opera houses during the scholarship auditions. These singers are among the next generation of great artists who intend to grace the world’s top opera stages.

The Kristin Lewis Foundation “Nightingale” for the month of July is

Naomi Brigell, mezzo- soprano.


Naomi is quickly gaining recognition as an “expressive, athletic and strong-voiced” presence on the operatic stage and “lights up every scene she’s in” (Naples Daily News). A native of Belmont, MA, she is currently an apprentice artist at Des Moines Opera. In addition Naomi is presently singing the role of Third Wood Sprite in the mainstage production of Rusalka. Earlier in the year she joined Opera Naples as a resident artist, where she performed the roles of Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and Giannetta in L’elisir d’amore under the baton of Ramón Tebar.


Other recent operatic roles in which she has performed include the Dritte Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Opera in the Heights, Sesto in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito with Chicago Summer Opera, and Zulma in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri with Operativo Houston, where she also covered the role of Isabella. Further operatic highlights have included Nancy in Britten’s Albert Herring and Rebecca Nurse in Ward’s The Crucible. Equally at home on the concert stage, Naomi has appeared as an oratorio soloist with Palm Beach Symphony, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston Lutheran Choral, and Boston University Concert Choir.


In 2017, Brigell was awarded the Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Competition’s grand prize: a residency in Vienna to study with operatic soprano Carol Byers, coaches from the staff of the Wiener Staatsoper, a noted stage director and native speaking language/diction coaches. In 2018, she was first runner-up in the Madame Rose Competition at Mobile Opera. During her formal academic studies, Naomi was awarded titled scholarships, including the Winifred and Maurice Hirsch Memorial Scholarship at the University of Houston and the prestigious, Ellalou Dimmock Vocal Honors Award at Boston University.

Naomi Brigell with German vocal coach, Werner Lemberg.
Naomi Brigell with German vocal coach, Werner Lemberg.

The Vienna Stipendium awarded to Naomi was granted on September 19-27, 2017. Her Stipendium included an all expense paid round trip airfare, housing and a daily stipend. She received daily voice lessons from dramatic soprano Carol Byers, Italian diction and voice coaching from the Vienna State Opera pianist Luisella Germano, German diction and vocal coaching from Werner Lemberg, and acting lessons from noted Stage Director, Peter Pawlik. Cultural excursions within the city of Vienna were also granted. Here is a reflection of Naomi’s trip to Vienna in her own words:

Naomi Brigell with operatic dramatic soprano and voice teacher, Carol Byers.
Naomi Brigell with operatic dramatic soprano and voice teacher, Carol Byers.
Naomi Brigell with European Stage Director, Peter Pawlik.
Naomi Brigell with European Stage Director, Peter Pawlik.

“My lessons with Carol Byers were really helpful for reminding me about certain aspects of my technique that I have neglected recently, and also for helping me find my fullest and most mature sound throughout my entire range. I loved the fact that she never let me get away with even one tone that was less than my best– that helped me make sure that I was singing as well as I possibly could throughout an entire piece! She also helped me get more into my body when I sing, which is something that I have struggled with in the past.

All of my coachings were also incredibly beneficial. I worked very closely on language skills with native speakers (German with Werner Lemberg and Italian with Luisella Germano). I worked on phrasing, musicality, and the “big picture” of each aria with David Aronson. Also, Peter Pawlik helped me to theatrically work through my characters in a completely natural way, where I was using the way I act in everyday life to help motivate my characters and their movements. He was especially helpful for physicalizing my pants role characters, which is, of course, always a challenge.
It’s safe to say I completely fell in love with Vienna. Not only is it beautiful, but it has such a rich arts and musical presence that is around every corner. Being able to participate in so many cultural activities and go to so many performances was such a delightful and immersive experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I also must thank the foundation for supporting me financially, allowing me to enjoy the city and all it had to offer without worrying about financial burdens.

Overall, I feel like I grew as an artist and a person during my week in Vienna. I left feeling motivated– I know I have a lot of work to do, but this trip and everyone involved gave me tools and encouragement to do that work and continue to pursue this career.“

Where in the World Is Kristin Lewis…?

An interview with Amerie Jones

Kristin Lewis is not only the Founder and Board President of the Kristin Lewis Foundation, but she is also a world-renowned opera singer, who continues to travel around the world. Ms. Lewis credits a lot of her travel to performing the title role in the opera Aïda, one of Giuseppe Verdi’s most beloved operas.Ms. Lewis is jet setting this summer in Verona, Italy. Let’s get the scoop on what she has been up to!

Amerie: It’s been really hard trying to pin you down to get this interview done. You must be really busy. How’s Italy?

Kristin: Yes, I’ve been extremely busy, balancing performance life with foundation work. It’s all very exciting! Italy…well what can I say? The country – its culture, history, food and people – is beautiful. It is also very hot here…very similar to…Arkansas’ summer heat! (giggle) Interestingly, the people of Verona, similar to Arkansans, seem to take it all in stride and do what’s needed to get through the summer heat.

Amerie: Well, I pray to get through the heat in Arkansas.

Kristin: (laugh) Prayer is always good. And air conditioning is one of God’s special gifts to the world.

Amerie: (giggle) True. True. So, what’s going on in Verona, Italy these days that have you so busy?

Kristin: I am performing in the Arena di Verona Opera Festival. One of the interesting literary points about this city is that it is the setting of two Shakespeare plays. One of these plays, in particular, is the familiar and tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet. Legend says that the feud between the families of these star-crossed lovers, the Capulets and Montagues, is based upon an actual rivalry between the Capuleti and Montecchi families of Verona in the 14th century. Both family homes still exist in the center of the city. It is plausible that there could have actually been a love story amidst the conflict of these families.

I’ve visited Juliet’s house several times over the years. My first impression was one of slight disappointment because the house was not reminiscent of what has been presented in Hollywood movies. For example, Juliet’s home, depicted in films like “Shakespeare in Love” and television series like Shonda Rhymes’ “Still Star-Crossed,” illustrate the Capulet’s home as a grand palace. The actual home is far less ostentatious; yet, one can instantly feel the romanticism and mystery that linger when viewing it.

Amerie: OK, now that you’ve given us some historical trivia about Verona, tell us more about the Summer Opera Festival in which you’re performing.

Kristin: Well, before I do that, I have to tell you a little history about the actual structure where the Festival performances will take place. First of all it is a distinct privilege to perform in an outdoor arena that was built in 30 AD and originally seated 30,000 people. The arena was devastated by an earthquake in 1117, which destroyed its outer limestone facade; yet, the inner structure is still sound to this day. The Arena di Verona, which now comfortably seats 22,000, is the third largest existing arena in Italy, following Rome and Capua.

Amerie: eah, how interesting! You’re right. While you were talking, I just looked up the seating capacity of Verizon Arena here in Little Rock. The seating there is just 18,000.

Kristin: The Arena di Verona is a huge tourist attraction, as is the Arena in Rome. The difference is that the one in Verona is still functional. Because the seating of the Arena here in Verona is made of marble, it creates the most amazing acoustics! One does not need a microphone when singing on the enormous stage! It’s similar to the feeling of singing in your bathroom, only better! The voice never gets lost. The natural amplification is nearly perfect.

Arena di Verona

Amerie: Really… !

Kristin: Yes. What is very sad however, about the history of the Arena during ancient Roman times, is its original purpose. Back then, it was also a place of entertainment, but the type characterized as being quite brutal, thus leading to the deaths of many innocent people. For example, people from miles around would travel to Verona just to see gladiators fight…

Amerie: Yes! They came to watch Spartacus and the gods of the Arena! I wonder if Spartacus really looked like Andy Whitfield?

Kristin: (laugh) I don’t know about that, but yes, the public did come and watch the gladiators fight. Still, the really sad part was that people came here to be amused by the death of others… People stolen into captivity, including Christians, were forced to face savage beasts for base entertainment. Thousands of people died in this place…

Amerie: Man, what a way to be a Debbie Downer….

Kristin: I wasn’t trying to be, but this part of Italian history is sad. Because it was illegal to practice Christianity until the 4th century AD, so many Christians were persecuted in arenas and in other ways as well, of course. Fortunately Constantine eventually made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Before then, there was very little respect for Christians….

Amerie: No love for Christians, Kris? Not a smidge?

Kristin: (giggle) Nothing… Nada… But now the Arena is the home of a magnificent opera festival. It began in 1913, and the first opera produced was Aïda as a way of celebrating the centennial birth of the composer, Verdi. The festival subsequently grew each year, and is now a world famous tourist attraction.

Amerie: So how long is the festival?

Kristin: It began at the end of June and will end at the beginning of September. During this period, five different operatic productions and two concerts will be performed.

Amerie: So it’s safe to say that we are all excited that you’re performing Aïda at this year’s festival! I noticed on the Arena‘s webpage that the season will be opened with Bizet‘s Carmen, then followed by Aïda.

Aïda Arena di Verona
Kristin: Correct. The other productions being presented are The Barber of Seville, Turandot and Nabucco.

Amerie: So is this your first time participating in the festival at the Arena di Verona?

Kristin: No. This is the second time I’ve had the privilege to perform in this festival. The first time was relatively early in my career. I have come to realize that the difference between the first time I performed here and this time is that I am approaching my performances with an inner security that I didn’t have before. In a way it affirms for me that I’m truly at home in this role.

The authenticity needed to capture the essence of Aïda never waivers; therefore, the bar is constantly being set very high for sopranos attempting this role. In this production the conductor, Maestro Jordi Bernàcer, is fantastic! He seems to truly understand how to bring out the beauty of every phrase. He equally understands the necessity of allowing singers the time to breathe calmly, which aids significantly toward our ability to sing beautiful phrases.

Amerie: OMG! Aida starts and ends the festival this year! From the description of the festival on its homepage, it truly is a spectacle… but not in a bad way….

Kristin: I understand what you meant…. Yes, it’s truly a marvel and “must see” for any traveler in or around Italy during the summer months. The set was designed by one of the best in the world, Franco Zeffirelli! The costumes and back drops are also very beautiful.

Amerie: So what’s the difference between doing the production in an indoor, smaller venue versus an outdoor, larger one?

Kristin: The most obvious difference is being at the mercy of the weather. One must acclimate and be flexible in dealing with the heat, rain and wind. Moreover, in theatres, a character’s movements onstage can be more intricate because the audience can see everything happening more clearly. However, in an outdoor arena like this one, detailed movements can get lost. Therefore, this means that the performers’ gestures must be made in a more grandiose fashion.

Aïda Arena di Verona

Amerie: I feel you…. So, Ms. Lewis, what are your final words for us?

Kristin: For those who will have an opportunity to attend a performance in Verona, you are promised an evening of dramatic excitement and beautiful music…

Amerie: Thank you, Ms. Lewis. There you have it folks! Kristin is doing really great things in Verona, Italy! We’re so proud of you!

Kristin: (giggle) Thank you. The pleasure is mine.

The Good Book of Ruminations

Philosophical ruminations can be extremely important to consider when embarking upon a career in performance. Divine guidance, natural talent, dedication and humility are among the fundamental tools needed for success. Further, I invite aspiring artists to read the thoughts of seasoned artistic professionals, or Opera Apostles, as they share their most meaningful words of wisdom in a new blog entitled,

The Good Book of Ruminations:
A Musician’s Guide To Survival.

The Good Book of Ruminations 2:1-5
A Word from Living Opera Legend and Apostles, Jessye Norman

Chapter 2

1Before thou standeth before others, seek ye first a teacher with good knowledge. 2Be ye not afraid to search high and low. 3For thine preparation will show forth like pure gold whilst standing in the place where the spotlight shineth most brightly. 4When thou singeth, danceth or playeth, be ye ever steadfast, 5for laud shall be bestowed upon thee who hath first taken heed to find joy preparing in their room.


Jessey Norman
Jessey Norman

I tend to say to my younger colleagues, you know, that we’re not oracles just because we happen to have been in the business longer than they. But I would encourage anyone – a singer, a violinist, a pianist, a dancer – that the one thing that we must all do is to work and prepare…and to be willing to enjoy the preparation process, because we spend much more time in rehearsal than we actually do onstage. And we have to make ourselves comfortable with the idea of preparation and the time that that takes, and the time that that simply needs. Working hard is it’s own reward. ~ Jessye Norman.

Artist of the Month, June 2018

Artist of the month: Lawrence Brownlee, tenor

Named 2017 “Male Singer of the Year” by both the International Opera Awards and Bachtrack magazine, American-born Lawrence Brownlee has been hailed by the Associated Press as one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors.”

One of the most in-demand singers around the world, Brownlee has performed with nearly every leading symphonic orchestra including the Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Academia di Santa Cecilia, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra. He has appeared on the stages of the top opera companies around the globe, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Bavarian State Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, The Vienna State Opera, Opera National de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, Teatro Real Madrid, Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie, and the festivals of Salzburg and Baden Baden. Broadcasts of his operas and concerts – including his 2014 Bastille Day performance in Paris, attended by the French President and Prime Minister, have been enjoyed by millions.

Brownlee captivates audiences and critics around the world, and his voice has been praised by NPR as “an instrument of great beauty and expression…perfectly suited to the early nineteenth century operas of Rossini and Donizetti,” ushering in “a new golden age in high male voices” (The New York Times). Brownlee also serves as Artistic Advisor at Opera Philadelphia, helping the company to expand their repertoire, diversity efforts and community initiatives.

Lawrence_and_Placido_at_the_New_Orleans_Gala_Jan_09Brownlee’s latest album, Allegro Io Son, received a Critic’s Choice from Opera News, among numerous other accolades, and followed his previous Grammy-nominated release on Delos Records, Virtuoso Rossini Arias, which prompted New Yorker critic, Alex Ross, to ask “is there a finer Rossini tenor than Lawrence Brownlee?” The rest of his critically acclaimed discography and videography is a testament to his broad impact across the classical music scene. His opera and concert recordings include Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra, Armida at the Metropolitan Opera, Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Academia di Santa Cecilia, and Carmina Burana with the Berlin Philharmonic. He also released a disc of African- American spirituals entitled Spiritual Sketches with pianist Damien Sneed, which the pair performed at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and which NPR praised as an album of “soulful singing” that “sounds like it’s coming straight from his heart to yours.”

Mr. Brownlee has had a busy recital tour this spring that included San Francisco, Boston, Princeton, and more, with numerous performances, often notably featuring his groundbreaking new song cycle Cycles of My Being, composed by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by Terrance Hayes. Enjoy a beautiful performance of “Inhale, Exhale” From “Cycles of My Being” here: “Inhale, Exhale” from CYLES OF MY BEING.

Brownlee is the fourth of six children and first discovered music when he learned to play bass, drums and piano at his family’s church in Youngstown, Ohio. He was awarded a Masters of Music from Indiana University and went on to win a Grand Prize in the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. Alongside his singing career, Brownlee is an avid salsa dancer and an accomplished photographer, specializing in artist portraits of his on-stage colleagues. A die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State football fan, Brownlee has sung the National Anthem at numerous NFL games. He is a champion for autism awareness through the organization Autism Speaks, and he is a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity Inc, a historically African American fraternity, committed to social action and empowerment.

You can explore more about this prolific artist via his webpage:

Met_Armida photo credit: Ruby Washington nyt
Lawrence at the Met in Armida. photo credit: Ruby Washington nyt

About the contributor: Tamara Gallo

Did You Know… ?

The 2018 Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Auditions were held on March 11-12, on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock – Pulaski Technical College.

Fifteen rising stars from colleges and universities across the country were invited to Little Rock to audition for financial scholarships. In addition, one all-expense paid trip to Vienna, Austria was granted for a week long, intensive vocal study course with dramatic soprano and teacher, Carol Byers; Italian and German vocal coaches, Luisella Germano and Werner Lemberg; and noted stage director Peter Pawlik.

Judges 2018
Dr. George Shirley, Maestra Kathleen Kelly, Kristin Lewis and Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff


Three illustrious powerhouses of the opera world, Dr. George Shirley, Maestra Kathleen Kelly, and Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff, judged and mentored each finalist throughout the two-day audition process.

Vice Mayor Kathy Webb and Dr. George Shirley


During the 2018 Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Finals’ Concert, Dr. George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing at The Metropolitan Opera, was granted a Name Day, March 11th, in the state of Arkansas! He was also bestowed with a Key to the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, by Vice Mayor Kathy Webb.

Link to G. Shirley video
Click image to see video

Above is a short video presentation from the Finals‘ Concert. Included are our judges, Kristin Lewis, Vice Mayor Webb, and the Kristin Lewis Foundation Board Vice President, Mrs. Barbara Hawes. The video is accompanied by a musical clip of Dr. Shirley’s beautiful rendition of “Un’aura amoroso” from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti.

2018 Kristin Lewis Foundation Scholarship Award Participants


… TO

Gabrielle Beteag,


on being named the 2018 recipient of the Foundation’s top vocal scholarship award,
the Vienna Stipendium!

Gabrielle Beteag is a mezzo soprano native to Atlanta, Georgia. She recently graduated from Georgia State University with a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance, where she was seen onstage as Lady Billows in Albert Herring and Katisha in The Mikado. This summer, Gabrielle will return to the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop to perform the role of Augusta Tabor in the Ballad of Baby Doe and to cover the role of Jo March in Little Women. Her other role credits include Madame de Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites and Secretary in The Consul. Gabrielle was the 2018 recipient of the Kristin Lewis Vocal Scholarship Vienna Stipendium. She is also a recent winner of Georgia State University’s Brumby Concerto Competition and was the 2017 graduate division winner of the Opera Guild for Atlanta’s Vocal Scholarship Competition.

Vienna is the land of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Mahler, Hadyn and many other historic locations, from Schönbrunn Palace to St. Stephen’s Cathedral to the Mozarthaus Vienna, an immersive museum that includes Amadeus’ original, preserved apartment, await Gabrielle!

She will receive a one week, all expense paid trip to Vienna, Austria, for voice lessons with noted soprano Carol Byers, vocal coaching with collaborative pianists from the Vienna State Opera, acting and diction lessons.