Katherine Jolly Leads Conversation on the Spiritual as an American Genre

June 26, 2020
Hillary Hempstead
headshot of Katherine Jolly, searing a grey turtleneck shirt.
Associate Professor of Voice Katherine Jolly. Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Earlier this month, Associate Professor of Voice Katherine Jolly both moderated and participated in a discussion titled “Voice of the Spirit,” with other internationally renowned African American opera singers, including Florence Quivar, George Shirley, and Ollie Watts Davis. 

The discussion was produced through SongFest, one of the premiere art song festivals in the country and housed at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where Jolly was served on the festival voice faculty for the current season. Through conversation, the four singers shared their musical heritage and their thoughts on the spiritual genre.

Voices of the Spirit participant images.
Photo credit: courtesy of SongFest

“The impetus for the discussion was two-fold,” says Jolly, who states that the purpose of the talk was to highlight “the importance of the spiritual as an American genre in the classical vocal world, as well as the importance of featuring prominent African American singers, given what is going on in America right now.”

Jolly hopes that singers and non-singers alike will be inspired by the discussion and that it will cause them to “dig deeper into the history of the spiritual, engage with the many recordings, and think about the ways in which African Americans have shaped this genre. Like jazz, it is one of the original American art forms.”

Learn more and watch the conversation.

fair skinned smiling black woman in gray turtle neck sweater.

Katherine Jolly

  • Associate Professor of Voice
View Katherine Jolly's biography
I think that there’s a new understanding that we are all humans and we can do our best work if we take care of ourselves and if we take care of each other, and I am happy to be teaching from that perspective.

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