Conservatory Junior Performs Music by Cleveland Native

Cydney Washington, a Chicago native and junior Voice Performance major at the BW Conservatory of Music, performed work by Cleveland native Leslie Adams at her junior recital on March 19. 

To fulfill the voice performance curriculum, Washington sang songs in English, German, French, and Italian. For her English set, Washington chose to honor a Black composer and went with Adams, performing three songs from his work Nightsongs, adapted from a collection of Black poems. 

J.R. Fralick, chair of the vocal studies department, suggested Adams to Washington when she approached him for ideas for her junior recital.  

“When she expressed interest in performing music from an African American composer, Adams was the first name that came to mind,” he said. Fralick handed her Adams’ song cycle Nightsongs, and she picked the songs she wanted to perform on her own. 

Although she was not aware of Adams before studying his music, Washington quickly became intrigued and inspired by his work. She spent tremendous amounts of time researching his repertoire and his life achievements.  

“It made me aware of my responsibility as an African American artist to put out music for my people,” Washington said. 

Washington said that she does not want only to compose music for just Black people. Still, she does make it her job to create positive, uplifting music for her people.  

“Adam’s music does such a good job of it that all I have to do is sing,” she said. 

Born 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio, Adams spent many years as an educator, choral conductor, and show musical director before becoming a full-time composer in 1979. Adams’s compositional technique is known for tone, excitement, and poetry.  

Adams’ style mixes contemporary, African American folksong, and Jazz. He earned the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2015 and has had his work performed by renowned ensembles across the globe, including The Cleveland Orchestra.  

Washington said that since there are very few students of color in her major, covering Adams is instrumental in bringing Black culture to light. According to Washington, Adams’ music broke down barriers and allowed Black people to showcase their music aloud without being judged for their skin color.