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. 

Attendees will take part in lectures and panels with scholars and artists specializing in this repertoire, join in discussions on practical topics, and explore repertoire in small group breakout sessions. From poetry analysis and historical background to surveying the songs of contemporary African American composers today, attendees will leave with a stronger understanding of the cultural context and performance practices needed to successfully sing, teach, coach and present this repertoire. 

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: 

  • Week 1 (Held Remotely) = July 11 – July 15, 2022
  • Week 2 (Held In-Person) = July 18 – July 22, 2022

*Program Tuition: 

  • Week 1 (Held Remotely) = $300
  • Week 2 (Held In-Person) = $500

*Tuition for “Singing Down the Barriers” covers all instructional classes, events and materials. Housing / meal costs for those participating in Week 2 (in-person) of the program are the responsibility of the participant

Application Deadline: May 1, 2022
Admissions Notification: June 1, 2022

Application information for the 2022 Singing Down the Barriers Institute will be posted in January 2022.


Louise Toppin, Director, Professor of Voice & Music, University of Michigan
Christie Finn, Hampsong Foundation & Classic Song Research Initiative, University of Michigan
Caroline Helton, Associate Professor of Music, University of Michigan
Scott Piper, Associate Professor of Music / Chair of Vocal Department, University of Michigan
Emery Stephens, Assistant Professor of Music, St. Olaf College

With Special Guest, Thomas Hampson

*More information on 2022 Guest Faculty and Panelists to be posted in January 2022

Program material requirements will be posted in January 2022

Applications are due May 1, 2022

To apply to the Singing Down the Barriers Institute, you must complete the following three steps. Your application will not be considered complete until all of the below requirements have been received by the Office of Engagement & Outreach.

  • 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

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