Event: The Graduate School, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin will present a series of events to celebrate Black History Month and the premiere of “When I Rise,” the award-winning documentary film about Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted University of Texas music student who became a target of racial discrimination and ascended to the heights of international opera. All events are free and open to the public.
The events on Feb. 3 include a film screening, performance and panel discussion featuring Conrad and emerging vocal star Icy Simpson (M.M. 2009), a University of Texas at Austin graduate who is pursuing her Artist Diploma in Opera Performance from the Butler School of Music.
There will be a Black History Month concert celebrating black composers and arrangers with Conrad as a special guest on Feb. 5. This concert is presented by the Butler School of Music and the Huston-Tillotson University Music Department.
When: Film screening and performance: Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m.
Where: LBJ Auditorium, 2313 Red River
When: Black History Month concert: Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bates Recital Hall
Background: “When I Rise” is a production of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. It was directed by Mat Hames, produced by James Moll and Michael Rosen, executive produced by Don Carleton and made possible in part by ATandT. There will be a national television premiere of “When I Rise” on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series, “Independent Lens,” hosted by America Ferrera on Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 10 p.m. EST.
Barbara Smith Conrad (B.A. 1959) is a mezzo-soprano whose distinguished career has touched the lives of audiences around the world. She is an artist whose musical breadth encompasses a span as great as the distance between the Baptist church of her youth and opera houses around the world. She was one of the early pioneers in the movement to create a more open and diverse university community, and her accomplishments and fortitude as a student represent an important chapter in the university’s history. The Texas Exes Students Association named her a Distinguished Alumnus in 1985 and the university honored her with the founding of the Barbara Smith Conrad Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Fine Arts.
Icy Simpson is a soprano and graduate from The University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music (M.M. 2009). Among her many awards, Simpson is the winner of the 2008 Classical Singer Competition-University Division and the winner of the “Peoples’ Choice” Award in the Dallas Opera Guild Competition 2008. In January 2009, Simpson was invited to participate in a master class with Maestro James Levine via the Marilyn Horne Foundation. She is pursuing an Artist’s Diploma in Opera from The University of Texas at Austin where she is a student of Professor Darlene Wiley.