School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan

Singing Down the Barriers

“Singing Down the Barriers” (SDTB) is an intensive introduction to the repertoire of African American composers for the college student, apprentice, teacher (private, high school or university), coach, choral conductor, church musician,professional singer, or organization administrator In tandem with a directed curriculum of readings, resources, recordings, reflective exercises, and performance, the Institute seeks to help participants overcome the barriers that prevent successful engagement with and performance of African American concert repertoire including art song and spirituals.

Entering its third year, “Singing Down the Barriers” continues to focus on performance and conversation to eliminate barriers to the performance of African American concert repertoire, with students able to benefit from either continued online interaction or the opportunity to meet in-person on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The SDtB Institute is an adult summer intensive of the U-M SMTD and is offered in partnership with the Hampsong Foundation via the Classic Song Research Initiative.

Program Dates: June 12, 2023 – June 16, 2023

*Program Tuition:


  • In-Person Performer + Room / Meals: $850
  • In-Person Performer + Room (no meals): $700
  • In-Person Performer + Meals (no room): $700


  • In-Person Observer + Room / Meals: $750
  • In-Person Observer + Room (no meals): $600
  • In-Person Observer + Meals (no room): $600


  • Online Participant: $300

*Tuition for “Singing Down the Barriers” covers all instructional classes, events and materials. Travel costs incurred for those attending in person are the responsibility of the participant.

Application Deadline: May 1, 2023


2023 Core Faculty

Louise Toppin, Program Director, Prof. of Music (Voice), University of Michigan

Christie Finn, Hampsong Foundation & Classic Song Research Initiative, University of Michigan

Caroline Helton, Assoc. Prof. of Musical Theatre (Voice), University of Michigan

Scott Piper, Assoc. Prof. of Music / Chair of Vocal Department, University of Michigan

Emery Stephens, Asst. Prof. of Music, St. Olaf College

With Special Guest, Thomas Hampson

2023 Additional Program Faculty

Naomi André – Prof. of Music (Musicology), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Jean Bernard Cerin – Asst. Prof. of Voice, Cornell University

Cherry Duke, Dir. of Opera, University of Texas El Paso

Byron Jones, Prof. of Voice, Shenandoah University

Marquita Lister, Lect. of Voice, Morgan State University

Jamie Reimer – Assoc. Prof. of Voice, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Robert Sims – Prof. of Voice, University of Northern Iowa

Darryl Taylor – Prof. of Voice, University of California-Irvine

Website up to date as of 2/15/2023

Program Sample Schedule

Those interested in this summer’s program can see a sample schedule below. More information specific to the 2023 Singing Down the Barriers Program will be posted shortly!

PROGRAM SCHEDULE – 2022 Singing Down the Barriers (HYBRID – In-Person and Remote)

Application Requirements & Resources

For program consideration, all application and audition materials must be received by the application deadline of April 15, 2023. Applications may be accepted after the deadline if openings remain. Review, admission, and notification for late applications will be on a rolling basis. 

To apply to the 2023 Singing Down the Barriers Program, you must complete the online application and pay the $50 non-refundable application fee.  The following items will be required for your 2023 Singing Down the Barriers Application to be considered complete:


  • Complete the Online Application
  • Pay the non-refundable $50 application fee
  • A one-page introduction of the applicant, including why they are interested in participating in this program


  • Upload a video of the applicant singing a work by an African American composer via the online application. 
  • Upload a repertoire list of works by African American or African Diaspora composers that the applicant has already performed AND a list of some works the applicant would like to perform via the online application.  This should be done in one document.

    Contact Us

    Office of Engagement & Outreach-Youth & Adult Programs
    University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance
    Stearns Building │ 2005 Baits Drive │ Ann Arbor, MI 48109
    Phone: (734) 936-2660 

    Engagement & Outreach Staff monitors emails and phone lines at the following times
    Sunday – Thursday, 10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. EST