Kenneth Overton,
Conference Presenter, Opera Singer, Actor, Arts Administrator


Mr. Overton will be participating and performing in "The Concept of the Concert Spiritual & Black Art Music" at More Than the Promise of the American Myth: Rethinking Burleigh & Sheppard in the Second Gilded Age.

Tell us about yourself and your musical background.

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. The start of my formal musical training began at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. After that, I went to The North Carolina School of the Arts and the Hartt School of Music, majoring in Voice/Opera Performance. 

What people and/or experiences have been most formative in your career?

This is a BIGGIE! First, I would say that as a 15-year-old, seeing Jessye Norman in recital was a life-changing experience. After being told by my high school choir director that I should study classical music, I saw someone who looked like me on a great stage making incredible music. Next, I would say two conductors who taught me so much through their expectation of excellence were Maestro Willie Anthony Waters and Maestro Anton Coppola.

What influence have the works of Burleigh and Sheppard had on you?

Burleigh has had a profound influence in my life. In high school, my choir director would play albums of great singers. One day he played a recording of the great Marian Anderson singing Burleigh's arrangement of Deep River. I remember being incredibly moved by her and that arrangement so I begged my teacher to let me learn it, and he did. Since then, I measure all of the spirituals that I consider singing to the artistry of Burleigh. The beauty, simplicity, and authenticity of his works remain so very special to me. TIMELESS.

Tell us about your future hopes and plans.

In the immediate future, I plan on continuing to share the music of the spirituals in my concerts and recitals all over the world. After that, I can definitely see a full-time career in arts administration or producing. Keeping this music alive is my lifetime mission. 

Learn more about Mr. Overton.