“Singing Down the Barriers” 2024–Registration Extended!

The registration deadline for this summer’s Singing Down the Barriers Institute has been extended until April 15, 2024!

Singing Down the Barriers (SDtB) is an intensive exploration of the repertoire of African American, African and African Diaspora concert composers for the university student, apprentice, teacher (private, high school or university), coach, choral conductor, church musician, professional singer, or organization administrator. The institute offers an approach to performance and is also designed to provide a historical perspective and discussions to examine our contemporary attitudes toward performing/understanding this music. Questions such as “who is allowed to sing this repertoire” are examined and addressed in sessions throughout the two week institute.

Week 1 of SDtB (online) is an intensive introduction to this repertoire. In tandem with a directed curriculum of readings, resources, recordings, and reflective exercises, the SDtB Institute in Week 1 seeks to help participants overcome the barriers that prevent successful engagement with and eventual performance of African American and African Diaspora concert repertoire including art song, opera arias and spirituals. Attendees will take part in lectures and panels with scholars and artists specializing in this repertoire, join in discussions on practical topics, and explore repertoire in small group breakout sessions. From poetry analysis and historical background to surveying the songs of contemporary African American composers, attendees will leave with a stronger understanding of the cultural context and performance practices needed to successfully sing, teach, coach and present this repertoire.

Week 2 of the SDtB Institute (in-person) is designed as a follow-up to Week 1 (or previous participation in the SDtB Institute) and will focus on performance aspects and practical applicability of information from Week 1. Daily coaching and lessons, sessions to help navigate singing/teaching dialect as well as guided readings, discussion groups, and sessions on special topics (including individual composers), will continue to enrich knowledge of repertoire from artistic, administrative and vocal practitioner stances.

Guest artists in Week 2 include soprano Karen Slack and baritone Justin Austin. The core workshop faculty include Dr. Louise Toppin, Dr. Caroline Helton, Dr. Emery Stephens and Hampsong Foundation managing director Christie Finn.

Registration Deadline: April 15, 2024

SDtB Institute is an adult summer intensive of the U-M School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and is offered in partnership with the Hampsong Foundation via the Classic Song Research Initiative.


  • (Online) June 3 – June 7, 2024
  • (In-Person) June 10 – June 14, 2024

More information (and program registration) here: https://smtd.umich.edu/engagement-outreach/adult-programs/singing-down-the-barriers/