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Internationally-Acclaimed Opera Singer Denyce Graves Shares Her Story

On Feb. 13 internationally acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves sat down in the Massey Performing Arts Center for a conversation with longtime journalist Harry Chapman, who now serves as Belmont’s director of development and major gifts. Graves, who will be performing at the McAfee Concert Hall with various School of Music ensembles tonight, discussed her personal story.

Graves spoke with Harry Chapman before a crowded MPAC.

Graves described her entire career as being her “mother’s fault.” She explained that each week her mother assigned her and her siblings a new activity. “One week would be sewing, next week would be something else.”

Eventually, her mother realized the potential of her children and formed the Inspirational Children of God, and the musical group would perform at the family’s local church. However, it wasn’t until Denyce’s brother, the lead singer, became ill that she reluctantly took his spot in the group.

“My mother pushed me onto the stage, and at that point, you can’t really say no,” she recalled. From then on, Graves’s passion for music flourished as she continued to sing for the church. She fondly remembers the church as her “first audience” and “nourishing ground.”


Community Invited to Celebration of Unity Concert Feb. 15

Internationally acclaimed Mezzo-Soprano Denyce Graves, known for her portrayal of Carmen, will perform as a soloist and join various School of Music ensembles at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in the McAfee Concert Hall to present a concert celebrating the world’s diversity and bringing an awareness of tolerance, peace and unity.

The Celebration of Unity concert is free, open to the public and part of the inaugural season celebration of the McAfee Concert Hall. Tickets are required because seating is limited and can be reserved at

As a young girl growing up in Washington, D.C., Graves performed in a family singing group called the Inspirational Children of God. Graves also belonged to her church “bus ministry,” visiting neighborhood families to encourage parents to enroll their children in Sunday school. Shortly after undergoing vocal cord surgery, she sang the Lord’s Prayer at the Cathedral service following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Alumnus Russell Terrell Honored with Curtain Call Award

The School of Music honored alumnus Russell Terrell (’87) with the Curtain Call Award on Monday evening. During the ceremony, Terrell performed a few selections and students viewed a Belmont-created documentary on his career.

The Curtain Call  Award is presented annually to a School of Music alumnus in honor of achievement in the field of commercial and popular music.

“We chose Terrell because he records an average of 1,200 songs a year, is first call session singer, has sung on countless albums. Has sung demos since graduation for a variety of song writers and has sung background vocals in countless concerts with some of these artists,” said Commercial Voice Assistant Professor Sandra Dudley, coordinator of the Curtain Call Award Concert.

A Texas native, Terrell began his music career as a studio session and demo singer and background vocalist in Nashville, Tenn. He has sung on albums with Keith Urban, Reba McIntire, Josh Turner, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Ricky Van Shelton and Lionel Richie, among other artists. He also has been recorded on movie soundtracks for “Act Of Valor”, Disney’s “Home On The Range,” “Flicka”, “Joshua” and “Broken Bridges” and as well as jingles for commercials for The Gap, Whirlpool/Habitat for Humanity, Prilosec and theme songs for NASCAR and CMT’s “Trick My Truck” and “Build It Forward” (Canada).  Forty-six singles on which Terrell has performed have become No. 1’s.

Previous Curtain Call Award winners include Tad Wilson, Tim Lauer, Josh Turner, Ginny Owens, Chester Thompson, Jill Phillips, Will Denton, Fleming McWilliams, Melodie Crittenden, Jozef Nuyens, Gordon Mote, Tammy Rogers King, Bernie Herms and Chris Rodriguez.

Belmont University Celebrates Grand Opening of McAfee Concert Hall

Inaugural season offers series of six concerts

Welcoming guests and the campus community with a brass ensemble, Belmont University celebrated today the official grand opening of the new McAfee Concert Hall. Originally built in the 1950s, the building located at 2100 Belmont Blvd. served in recent years as a rehearsal, classroom and practice space for many Belmont music groups as well as the main sanctuary for Belmont Heights Baptist Church. The University purchased the property from the church in 2003, but Belmont Heights continues to meet in the complex. In summer 2011, Belmont began a $9 million renovation of the space in order to provide the campus a new, large concert venue suitable for acoustic performances. The building is now named in honor of the McAfee family, who has supported Belmont University for years and provided the lead gift for the project.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “We are incredibly grateful to the McAfee family for their generous gift to make this venue possible. Their commitment to the university has enabled us to build a concert space that matches the high quality of our music programs, and one that will appropriately showcase the amazing talent of our performing arts students. My hope is that the entire Nashville community will be able to enjoy the inspired concerts that will occur in this beautiful new hall.”

Lead donor Carolyn McAfee has served on Belmont’s Board of Trustees since 2006, and her late husband Jim, president and CEO of Hallmark Systems Inc., served on the board from 2002 until his untimely death in 2004. In addition to their time on the board, the McAfees also support Belmont through an endowed scholarship in their name for School of Music students with a major in organ or classical music. (more…)

School of Music Honors CeCe Winans with Applause Award

CeCe Winans and husband Alvin Love spoke to Belmont students last February at a Christian Faith Development convo.

Tickets still available for Saturday night’s President’s Concert

Belmont University’s School of Music will honor legendary gospel singer CeCe Winans with the Applause Award at Saturday night’s annual President’s Concert. The Applause Award is given each year to a person or organization that has greatly benefited the arts community in Nashville. The President’s Concert honors the leadership of Belmont President Bob Fisher and celebrates the talent and diversity of the School of Music at Belmont. Tickets to the concert, which starts at 8 p.m., will be available for purchase for $15 at the doors of the Massey Performing Arts Center. Seating is general admission.

One of the most recognizable voices in gospel music, CeCe Winans has sold millions of albums during her 25-year music career. The charismatic singer has won numerous awards including eight Grammy Awards and 21 Dove Awards in addition to gold and platinum albums and several number one Gospel and Top Ten R&B hits. Moreover, she has a reputation as one of the friendliest people in the music industry. In addition to singing, Winans has demonstrated her acting skills in TV sitcoms such as “Living Single” and hosted her own TV series, “CeCe’s Place,” for the Odyssey cable channel. She penned an autobiography, On a Positive Note, and co-wrote Throne Room, a worship journal and a devotional book for teenage girls. In 2005, she founded the youth and young adult conference Always Sisters Forever Brothers, an annual event which will be held on the campus of Belmont University this July. Both of Winans’ children graduated from Belmont University, and CeCe Winans is a former Belmont trustee.

The President’s Concert features School of Music student ensembles and groups that highlight the musical diversity of the program. The Applause Award is presented during the concert. All funds raised by the dinner and concert provide scholarships for students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which includes the School of Music as well as the Department of Art and the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Previous Applause Award honorees include Earl Swensson (ESa), the Grand Ole Opry, ASCAP, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, The Beaman Family Foundation, BMI, Patricia Taylor Bullard, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, James Cotham, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Vince Gill and Amy Grant, Donna Hilley, Ronn Huff, Martha Ingram, Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera, Nashville Symphony, Barbara Massey Rogers, SESAC, Steinway & Sons, Kenneth Schermerhorn, Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Jerry Warren and Sam Wilson.

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