Lift Every Voice

Lift Every Voice
Oratorio Masterclass with Maestro Stanley Thurston

Wednesday, May 1, 2024, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Christ Episcopal Church
4001 Franklin Street, Kensington, MD 20895

In the culminating event of the pilot semester of Cantate’s Lift Every Voice Choral Fellowship, renowned conductor, pianist, composer, and arranger Stanley Thurston offers his expertise in a masterclass on oratorio to Tenor Opal Clyburn-Miller, Countertenor Chuanyuan Liu, and Bass-Baritone Louis Cleare. Come hear these extraordinary singers, and learn about oratorio repertoire, context, and tradition as well as the singer/conductor relationship. The event is open to the public. Tickets are not required, but RSVPs are encouraged at While admission is free, donations to the LEV program are warmly welcomed.

Stanley J. Thurston is the founding Artistic Director of The Heritage Signature Chorale. He has appeared as conductor in concert venues including Carnegie Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall, the U.S. Capitol, Music Center at Strathmore, Carter Barron Amphitheater, DAR Constitution Hall, and many more. He has appeared as guest conductor with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Soulful Symphony, Washington Symphony Orchestra, and National Symphony Orchestra. Choruses under his direction have performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra,

Washington Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Festival Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Royal Ballet. Guest director appearances have included Choral Arts Society of Washington, Cathedral Choral Society, IN Series Opera and Opera Americana.

Mr. Thurston is well known as a pianist, composer, and arranger. His orchestral arrangements have been performed by the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, New Jersey, as well as by the National Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared, as conductor, with such well-known artists as Denyce Graves, Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, the Canadian Brass, Dionne Warwick, Sweet Honey in the Rock, gospel greats Walter Hawkins and the Wynan Brothers, and jazz legends Ramsey Lewis and Wynton Marsalis. He has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and BET, Black Entertainment Television. He served as music director for the Washington Performing Arts Of Thee We Sing concert/telecast, commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Marian Anderson’s historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial. He also served as a Panelist for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, was guest conductor with the Choral Arts Society of Washington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert, and was commissioned by the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee to compose and conduct a special musical tribute for President Obama’s National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral. He was guest conductor with the Reston Community Orchestra’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Concert, was principal music coordinator, director and conductor for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture Groundbreaking Ceremony, and conductor for premiere performances of Ysaye M. Barnwell’s Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem.

A graduate of the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, he made his European opera conducting debut in Verdi’s La Traviata with Romania’s Opera Constanta, and returned to conduct Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. His 2014-15 Washington, DC opera conducting included Puccini’s Tosca, Bellini’s La Sonnambula and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Subsequent conducting assignments with the IN Series included Beethoven’s Fidelio, Copland’s The Tender Land, Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, Die Zauberflöte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ, and R. Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses. Previous positions have included Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra’s NSO In Your Neighborhood concert series, Choirmaster, Sixth Presbyterian Church; Interim Music Director of National City Christian Church; Music Director for The Gospel at Colonus, Georgetown University; Minister of Music, First Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.; Principal Conductor of the Municipal Opera Company of Baltimore; and guest clinician for D.C. Commission on the Arts “D.C. Choral Masterpieces” workshop.

On March 19, 2018 he conducted The Heritage Signature Chorale’s debut performance at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble, and in 2019 Mr. Thurston led the 250-voice Choir performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the National Symphony Orchestra for the opening of the REACH at The Kennedy Center.

He is currently Artist-in-Residence at Washington National Cathedral, Artistic Director Emeritus of the Washington Performing Arts Choirs, Director of Music and Worship Arts at Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, D.C.; and Artistic Partner in the Cathedral Choral Society and the Heritage Signature Chorale’s I, Too, Sing America Project, a journey to build a more equitable and connected musical community, highlighting the contemporary and historical contributions African Americans have made to America’s musical culture

Bethesda, MD, December 28, 2023 – Cantate proudly announces its Spring 2024 Lift Every Voice Cohort: Simone Brown, soprano; Chuanyuan Liu, countertenor; Opal Clyburn-Miller, tenor; and Louis Cleare, bass-baritone. These extraordinary young singers will join Cantate Concert Choir to provide skilled support to each of the sections while receiving professional-level training and first-hand experience in the performance of varied choral repertoire. In the program’s pilot semester (Spring 2024) each of these fellows will receive additional support and opportunities from Cantate’s community of seasoned arts professionals: resume consulting, vocal coaching, and an oratorio masterclass open to the public. Fellows will emerge from their residency with Cantate better prepared to advance their musical careers in the choral field.

LEV is the evolution of Cantate’s Young Artist of Color (CYAC) residency. Launched in 2021 the CYAC – now LEV – aims to address the widespread racial inequity in the field of classical music by providing mentoring and performance opportunities to exceptional young BIPOC artists. In the program’s first season, Cantate featured baritone Anthony Anderson, who returned to perform with Cantate as a soloist on Magnificat this past December. Composer Ronald “Trey” Walton has recently completed his residency with a recital of his works in October 2023. Each extraordinary young artist worked with advisors throughout the Cantate programming year to refine his craft and prepare to present his polished works.

Applications to the spring pilot of LEV were open to pre-professional singers – those pursuing a career in music but not yet subsisting on income provided by performing or teaching in the field. Vocational singers aged 30 and under without professional representation were considered. Live auditions were held in November, with an accompanist provided at no cost to applicants, who were also welcome to submit video or audio recordings of contrasting style for equal consideration. One choral scholar was selected for each voice type: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The inaugural cohort of LEV fellows will perform on Cantate’s April Peace and Light concert. Fellows are compensated for rehearsals and performances and provided a travel stipend. Resume consultation, vocal coaching as appropriate, and masterclass participation are provided to LEV fellows free of charge.

Additional questions about the program may be addressed to Cara Schaefer, Cantate’s Executive Director, at

Cantate, a nonprofit corporation under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is supported in part by funding from the Montgomery County government and the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Maryland State Arts Council, and The Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts.
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