the Face of Convention
In MaLeata Carson's fourth year of college, she decided to trade Oberlin for the Dominican Republic. While living and studying in the small town of Santiago, far from the capital city of Santo Domingo, the Latin American studies and voice major fell in love with the culture and people of her temporary home.
"Still, I didn't even realize there was a music scene there until I was about to leave," she moans, "and then Marinela Sanchez, one of the most popular sopranos in the Dominican Republic, invited me to perform some duets with her. I left before we had the chance, but I knew I would be back."
Carson graduated, and, armed with a Fulbright grant to study social commentary in Dominican popular music, headed back south. Her singing career blossomed, leading to performances at the U.S. Embassy, the elite Santo Domingo Country Club, the National Symphony Orchestra in the National Theater of Santo Domingo, and with Dominican director and composer Caonex Peguero.
Despite the growing source of talent in the Dominican Republic, many roles
are still awarded to Americans or Europeans, a practice frustrating to local singers. "Most people, especially in Third World countries, look at the United States as an example of greatness," Carson says. "But there is an overwhelming sense of nationalism that is emerging in many arenas. Music is one of them."
What has Carson really excited is the idea of taking classical music to a broader spectrum of Dominicans. "Many concert halls and small theaters aren't being used, and there are hundreds of people who want to see, hear, and appreciate good music."
She's creating a program infused with classical and Dominican folk-influenced works, that is free to her audience. "I'm so excited to see elite Domincans sitting next to my friends from the barrio who have never heard this kind of music. Sometimes I wish I could be in the audience to hear their comments."