(WASHINGTON)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced that countertenor John Holiday is the 2017 winner of the Marian Anderson Vocal Award. The Award, which honors trailblazing contralto Marian Anderson’s personal and humanitarian achievements, celebrates excellence in performance by recognizing a young American singer who has achieved initial professional success in the vocal arts and who exhibits promise for a significant career. In addition to receiving a $10,000 cash prize, Holiday will perform a recital on Thursday, February 15, 2018 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater and will establish an educational residency at the opera workshop program of Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
“Having known about this award for many years, it is both an honor and very humbling to join the ranks of past winners, some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends and others whom I have long admired. Joining this extraordinary roster of winners is one of the most amazing achievements of my life,” said Holiday. “As an African American in the world of opera, I cannot begin to express how much receiving this award means to me. Marian Anderson stepped through the door so that so many of us could follow her, and I am forever grateful.”
John Holiday is one of opera’s brightest rising stars. His many recent high-profile debuts include the Sorceress in Barrie Kosky’s acclaimed production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at LA Opera, Caesar in Tazewell Thompson’s new production of Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica at The Glimmerglass Festival, and the title role in Handel’s Giulio Cesare for Wolf Trap Opera. He made his Carnegie Hall debut as soloist in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Robert Spano. He joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera to cover Nireno in Giulio Cesare under Harry Bicket in David McVicar’s new production and reprised his roles in Philip Glass’s Galileo Galilei at Cincinnati Opera, having first performed the work at Portland Opera for his debut. Future engagements include a return to The Glimmerglass Festival to make his debut in the title role in Xerxes and his debut with Opera Philadelphia in the world-premiere of Daniel Roumain’s We Shall Not Be Moved. A full biography is below.
To celebrate the Award, Holiday will perform a recital co-presented by WNO and the Kennedy Center’s Fortas Chamber Music Concerts on Thursday, February 15, 2018 in the Terrace Theater. Ticket information for the recital will be announced in the coming weeks.
In keeping with its mission to develop programs and initiatives that connect exemplary artists with the community, the Kennedy Center will work with Holiday to create a learning program for an educational residency at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the District of Columbia’s public arts magnet high school. The residency will include master classes and workshops with vocal music students, as well as other events developed by Holiday. The school offers a dual curriculum encompassing professional arts training along with academic enrichment, helping to prepare its students for both college and future careers in the arts.
“I’m so proud that John Holiday is our Marian Anderson Vocal Award winner this year,” said WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. “The countertenor voice is so unique, and John is such a vibrant performer and personality. His range from Hip Hop to Handel separates him from all other artists. I look forward to our audience discovering his artistry at his recital, and for the vocal students at the Duke Ellington School to learn valuable lessons from John about harnessing one’s talent and leading by example. John is the perfect embodiment of the spirit of Marian Anderson’s legacy.”
John Holiday was selected from a pool of singers who were nominated by opera companies, orchestral and choral organizations, agents, professional music critics, and other organizations and individuals across the country. The selection committee included distinguished members of the opera and classical music communities: Harolyn Blackwell, soprano; Jeremy Geffen, Director of Artistic Planning at Carnegie Hall; Charles MacKay, General Director of the Santa Fe Opera; Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director of Washington National Opera and Artistic and General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival; and Brian Zeger, Artistic Director of the Vocal Department at The Juilliard School.
Prior Award recipients include Sylvia McNair, Denyce Graves, Philip Zawisza, Nancy Maultsby, Patricia Racette, Michelle DeYoung, Nathan Gunn, Marguerite Krull, Eric Owens, Lawrence Brownlee, Indira Mahajan, Sasha Cooke, J’nai Bridges, Jamie Barton, and, most recently, soprano Janai Brugger.