Since its establishment in 1977, the William Warfield Scholarship Fund, Inc. (WWSF) has provided financial aid to more than 50 African American classical singers, including Eastman students and high school-aged performers. Annually, the WWSF holds a benefit concert to spotlight Eastman’s WWSF scholarship recipients. On Sunday, January 22, 2023, at 3:00 PM, their 46th concert will be held in Kilbourn Hall, featuring the 2022-2023 William Warfield Scholarship Recipient Kayla Sconiers ‘24E, mezzo-soprano; and former WWSF Recipient Adrienne Danrich ‘93E, an award-winning singer, writer, and composer.
“Being the recipient of the William Warfield Scholarship is an immense privilege and self-confidence boost for me as an African American performer in the arts,” says Kayla Sconiers. “This network of trailblazers inspires me to achieve my goals and aspirations. As I grow and gain new knowledge from the program, I will carry the experience with me – forever – by encouraging others along the way.”
Joining Sconiers and Danrich on the concert program are: Thomas Warfield, William Warfield Scholarship Fund President Emeritus/Artist; the Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church ensemble; Kevin Nitsch ‘92E (MM), ‘95E (DMA), pianist; and Concert Emcee Deanna Dewberry, Anchor and Investigative Reporter for News10 NBC and WHEC-TV.
The 2023 William Warfield Legacy Award will be presented to Lee Koonce ‘96E (MM), President and Artistic Director of Gateways Music Festival and supporter of WWSF; and Denyce Graves, American mezzo-soprano.
Lee Koonce is grateful to have been chosen for the WWSF Legacy Award in recognition of his commitment to celebrating and bringing awareness to classical musicians of African descent. Koonce shares his connection with William Warfield himself – “[he] was a very good friend during the time we both lived in Chicago and an early and ardent supporter of Gateways – singing many times in Festival concerts. William was a consummate musician with high and impeccable musical standards, so any connection to him is an honor, indeed.”
Over four decades, recipients of the William Warfield Scholarship have included such notable singers as Eastman alumna and current faculty member Nicole Cabell ‘01E (1999-2001), soprano, winner of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition; Julia Bullock ‘09E (2007-2009), Musical America’s 2021 “Artist of the Year”; singer and choirmaster Jason Alexander Holmes ‘07E (2006-2007), Artistic Director of the Cincinnati Boychoir; bass-baritone Jamal Moore, who was featured with the University of Rochester a cappella ensemble The Yellowjackets on NBC‘s The Sing-Off in 2011; and Kearstin Piper Brown, soprano, most recently nominated for best performer in a musical for her role in the opera Intimate Apparel.
Kearstin Piper Brown also serves on the WWSF board, a decision she made to honor her “beloved professor, William Warfield.” She says that he “encouraged me to further my vocal studies. By serving on the WWSF board, I hope to assist with further access to scholarships, resources, and mentorship opportunities for young Black singers pursuing a career in performance.”
Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door, $10 for students with URID, and can be purchased at EastmanTheatre.org.
Please consider supporting the WWSF by donating here: williamwarfield.org/contribute
For more information, visit the William Warfield Scholarship Fund.
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William Warfield Scholarship Fund, Lolita Forsett, President of the Board,
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Artists performing at the Scholarship Fund Concert include:
Kayla Sconiers, mezzo-soprano, is a third-year undergraduate Voice Performance major at the Eastman School of Music and is a 2022-2023 William Warfield Scholarship Fund recipient. She has worked with the Gateways Music Festival and performed alongside Jon Batiste to debut his American Symphony at Carnegie Hall in Spring 2022.
Adrienne Danrich, (1991-1993) Midwest EMMY winnerfor her performance and narration of This Little Light of Mine: The Stories of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price. She has performed with Opera houses around the world: San Francisco Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Pacific, and many more. She is an alumna of the Eastman School of Music and past recipient of the William Warfield Scholarship Award.
Thomas Warfield, an international performing artist, has lived in six countries. He is founder/artistic director of PeaceArt, a 32-year-old global peace organization. Thomas Warfield has been Director of Dance at the Rochester Institute of Technology for 24 years. He has served on many boards: World Dance Alliance (Hong Kong), ARTWalk, Rochester Arts Council, Young Audiences, Greentopia, Rochester City Ballet, Gateways Music Festival, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Rochester Fringe Festival, NYS Association of Teaching Artists, NY Dance Festival, and was a former president of the William Warfield Scholarship Fund.
The Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church Music Ministry has ministered through song since the church’s inception in 1939. The church’s history includes the renowned singer and actor William C. Warfield, whose father Rev. Robert E. Warfield, was called to pastor the church from 1947 until his death in 1966. Mt. Vernon’s Male Chorus began under the leadership of Thaddeus Warfield, the youngest brother of William Warfield, who served as Minister of Music until his retirement in 1993.
Kevin Nitsch is a pianist, collaborator and teacher in the Rochester area. He performs regularly with Rochester Oratorio Society, Finger Lakes Opera, Lyric Opera and Madrigalia; and, holds a MM and a DMA in Performance and Literature in Piano Performance from the Eastman School of Music.
Deanna Dewberry is a multi-award-winning anchor and investigative reporter with more than two decades of experience in television news. Deanna is a dedicated advocate for breast cancer research and her advocacy has earned her 12 regional Emmy Awards, which included being named the region’s top consumer reporter.
About the William Warfield Scholarship Fund
Formed in March 1977 (incorporated in 1979) under the leadership of Anastasia L. “Tessa” Martin to honor the life and legacy of William Warfield, we are a 15-member board, 100% volunteer operated with no paid personnel.
The William Warfield Scholarship Fund is dedicated to providing financial support and encouragement for African American students to attain success in the field of classical vocal music; and fostering wider recognition of the life and legacy of William Warfield.
We provide an annual scholarship for African American vocal students at the Eastman School of Music, and an annual scholarship concert and spring luncheon that feature our Eastman scholarship recipient. Now in its fourth year, the “William Warfield Classical Vocal Competition for African American High School Students” provides financial support and encouragement to African American students in schools across the country.
What Are Future Goals for the WWSF?
As our financial and volunteer resources allow, we will develop educational programs that inform the public about the life and legacy of William Warfield; and continue to identify ways to support African American classical vocal students and their careers.
About William Warfield
William Warfield was born in West Helena, Arkansas on January 22, 1920, the oldest of five sons of a Baptist minister and sharecropper. His parents, Robert and Bertha McCamery Warfield, were the children of African American slaves. In 1925 his father moved his family north to Rochester to seek better educational and employment opportunities.
William graduated from Rochester city schools and earned a New York state cosmetology license. During his senior high school year, he won the National Music Educators League Competition and a full scholarship to any American music school of his choice. William chose the Eastman School of Music, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1942 and 1946.
He described how he encountered virulent racism as he started working in his professional field, recounting painful memories of racial slurs, closed doors. and impossible barriers. Opportunities for an African American male opera singer remained too limited, but concert tours and popular music scenes presented him with ample professional fulfillment. “Opera wasn’t ready for me, or any black male …But it never occurred to me to give up.”
William was known worldwide for his work as a soloist, recitalist, actor, narrator, and activist. He was acclaimed throughout the world as one of the great vocal artists of our time, was a star in every field open to a singer’s art and was one of the world’s leading experts on Negro Spirituals and German Lieder. Best known for his portrayals of Porgy in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and of Joe, the dock hand, in the movie Show Boat, he won a Grammy in 1984 for his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia. In 1991, he published his uncommonly personal memoir, My Music & My Life.
Warfield died at age 82 on August 25, 2002, in Chicago from complications from a broken neck suffered in a fall. He is buried in Rochester’s Mt. Hope Cemetery. Many members of his family continue to live in Rochester.
About Eastman School of Music:
The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training.
More than 900 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Division of the Eastman School of Music—about 500 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. They come from almost every state, and approximately 23 percent are from other countries. They are taught by a faculty comprised of more than 130 highly regarded performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy winners, Emmy winners, Guggenheim fellows, ASCAP Award recipients, published authors, recording artists, and acclaimed musicians who have performed in the world’s greatest concert halls. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community. Additionally, more than 1,700 members of the Rochester community, from young children through senior citizens, are enrolled in the Eastman Community Music School.
About the University of Rochester:
The University of Rochester is one of the nation’s leading private research universities, one of only 62-member institutions in the Association of American Universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives undergraduates exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College, School of Arts and Sciences, and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and the Memorial Art Gallery.