The Women of Color in the Academy Project will present Robin Wilson, associate professor of dance at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, with the 2012-13 Shirley Verrett Award. The annual award, established by the Office of the Senior Vice Provost, honors the legacy of internationally acclaimed opera singer Shirley Verrett (1931-2010), who served as the James Earl Jones Distinguished University Professor of Voice at SMTD. The award, which includes a $5,000 stipend, recognizes a U-M faculty member whose work has supported the success of women in creative fields who come from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds, and advances diversity as part of the University's educational mission. The award will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 4 p.m. at Stamps Auditorium in the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus.
Robin Wilson is best known as a founding member of the New York dance company Urban Bush Women. She performed in New York for more than a decade with such choreographers as Dianne McIntyre, Kevin Wynn, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. A member of Ann Arbor Dance Works, Wilson has performed at the New Orleans Dance Festival and the BAAD!Ass Women Festival in New York. She has taught workshops at Washington University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, New York State Summer School for the Arts, Michigan Youth Arts Festival, Urban Bush Women's Summer Leadership Institute, and in Suriname and Costa Rica. In 2008 she traveled to Ghana with the Michigan Gospel Chorale where her choreography was performed at the Ghanaian National Theater.
Wilson directs and performs with several liturgical dance ensembles and offers movement workshops for non-profit organizations and schools. She has organized student service projects in New Orleans and was a 2008 Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates Fellow. She has presented papers at the Society of Dance History Scholars and the Congress for Research in Dance, and has written a chapter on African diaspora dance for the Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History. She continues to research this topic throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
Shirley Verrett taught at SMTD from 1996 until her death in 2010. A celebrated mezzo-soprano, she performed more than 40 roles during a brilliant international career and was especially well known for her starring roles in Carmen and Delila. She was a pioneering leader among the generation of black singers that followed Marian Anderson's historical Metropolitan Opera debut in 1955. As a teacher, Verrett mentored students in both vocal skills and professionalism, and her attentive, nuanced coaching created a transformative experience that students came to describe as "being Verretticized."
The Shirley Verrett Award is administered and sponsored by the Women of Color in the Academy Project (WOCAP) at the Center for the Education of Women. WOCAP was founded by a group of female faculty of color at the University in 1994.