‘….And So We Sing’
by Bridgette Cooper
Music has been in my life since I can remember. My mother was a former opera singer and recitalist, her dream was to become a great opera singer. In the late 1940s which was almost unheard of, she was one of the first students of color to be accepted to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. My grandmother took my mother to see Marian Anderson in concert at the historical Lincoln Memorial in 1939 when my mom was 9 years old. The color of skin was never an issue in my family, ever. My father, a Bahamian, was used to seeing highly accomplished people of color including those in his own family and those who started the Eleuthera School of Music in my homeland, the Bahamas. My mom, was the daughter of a nurse and the first African-American professional plumber in Washington DC. As a matter of fact, I don’t ever remember them making race an issue.
My mother and father always took my sisters and I to orchestra concerts as well as enrolling us into a yearly orchestra program for elementary school students. I remember getting books about opera singers and instrumentalists. By the time I reached junior high my general music teacher heard something unique in me. As the story goes, she called my mom and asked her to come to a school program in which I would be singing. The rest, as they say, is history. After that concert, I remember my music teacher and my mother taking me to as many concerts given by Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle as they could get tickets to. As I look back, I realize they were showing me the many accomplishments that we have had in the area of music itself.
So it began. My official proclamation to my parents to become an opera singer came when I was in high school. Not just any opera singer, but an opera singer who could also make a difference in the world, to make my mark on the industry like no other. I looked to those singers that I studied in college, of all colors, but especially those of color who for obvious reasons had an extra obstacle to overcome, the color of their skin. My parents paid for my college “as a gift,” I now look at it as an investment. I knew with that investment there would have to be some sort of great “return.”
After college I began auditioning, toured with companies, opera companies stateside and abroad, television, stage, and radio. I have found that not only because of my parents’ investment in me as a person, but that I, as a classical singer have an obligation to make the world a better place because of those that paved the way long before me. Those incredible African-American singers, who never had the opportunity to be recognized for their contributions, such as Marian Anderson, found the strength to endure and achieve across racial barriers in classical music. The world we live in today has changed a great deal since then. Though the country has it’s first African-American president in office just how far have we come?
While doing research to write this article, I am still left with the same question. Why aren’t there more singers of color on each roster in every opera company throughout America despite the incredible work of Porgy and Bess, and several other great operas based in African-American culture? The answer to those questions lies within each one of us. It is up to each of us to answer that question. If you don’t like the answer, then by all means, be proactive, get involved. In your own unique way, contibute to the colorful world of music!
Critically acclaimed mezzo soprano, Bridgette Cooper, made her Carnegie Hall debut in the “Voices of the New Millennium Concert” in the Weill Recital Hall in New York City. Her lyrical, rich, velvety voice has been compared to the great contralto, Marian Anderson. Bridgette, has most recently been added to the USO Entertainer Tour Roster, which provides entertainment for our national and international military bases. She was personally invited by the Ambassador of the Bahamas to sing the Bahamian National Anthem for their Independence Day Celebration, which celebrates her Bahamian heritage.
Bridgette’s numerous recital and guest soloist appearances includes, Fox 45 Morning Show, national radio personality Donnie Simpson’s Morning Wish Event, a tour of Schubert Lieder in Austria, Royal Palm Beach, Florida’s and North Haven Connecticut’s celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was met with critical acclaim from the Mayor of Royal Palm Beach as well as North Haven Newspaper reviews; the unveiling of Thomas Jefferson’s reissued North Star Newspaper; the Star Spangled Banner Museum Immigration Ceremony; Christ Church Centennial Celebration in Miami, Florida; Greenbelt Arts Center cable TV recital; Johns Hopkins Artist Series at the Kimmel Cancer Center dedicated to her late father, Attorney Clement T. Cooper, just to name a few. Bridgette’s stage experience includes performances with the Chicago Lyric Opera in the world premiere of Amistad, the Broadway National Tour of Showboat, The International Tour of Porgy and Bess, The Washington National Opera premiere of Le Cid with Placido Domingo and The Crucible which she starred as Tituba and was directed by Academy Award winning director Bruce Berensford (Driving Miss Daisey), Ebony Opera Theater, Aspen Opera Theater, Opera-Works, East Carolina Opera Theater, Her operatic repertoire includes Thisbe from La Cenerentola, La Principessa from Adriana LeCouvreur, Carmen from Carmen, among others.
Bridgette’s stage and television credits include HBO’s The Wire, American Theater of Harlem’s premiere of stage classics such as Picnic, which she starred as Rosemary; and Raisin in the Sun, as Beneatha. Toyota Beltway commercial, semi finalist in the TV Oxygen network’s Monique’s reality pageant, hosted by the comedian/actress, Fox 45 Morning Show and the HBO Pilot The Washingtonian produced by Sarah Jessica Parker. Bridgette is also the host of LA’s Smooth Jazz Beach Radio’s Smooth reviews, as well as guest host for 101 AM Radio.
Bridgette is the recipient of many international and national vocal, academic and professional awards including, winner of the Paul Robeson National Vocal Competition; finalist for the Bel Canto Foundation of Chicago; NATS State winner and regional finalist; semi finalist of the Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition; Meistersinger Competition of Graz, Austria; Ms. American Achievement District of Columbia; International Who’s Who of Professional business Women, and Outstanding College students of America.
Ms. Cooper received her Bachelor of Music degree from East Carolina University, a Professional Studies Diploma from Peabody Institute and attended the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. Bridgette can be reached at: www.jazzyoperagirl.com