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Celebrating Black Music Month: Audra McDonald

Posted on: June 9, 2023

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June to be Black Music Month. The purpose being to celebrate the undeniable impact that Black musicians have had on the sound of American music. To celebrate this joyous month, we want to celebrate a winner of an Emmy Award, two Grammy Awards and a record-setting six Tony Awards (who happens to be performing here next season), Audra McDonald.  

Audra McDonald is an American actress and singer, widely regarded as one of the most accomplished performers in the world of musical theater. She was born on July 3, 1970, in Berlin, Germany, but was raised in Fresno, California. She got her start in acting with Dan Pessano and Roger Rocka's Good Company Players, beginning in their junior company. She studied classical voice as an undergraduate under Ellen Faull at the Juilliard School, graduating in 1993. 

McDonald's career began in the theater, and she made her Broadway debut in 1994 in the musical The Secret Garden. However, it was her role as Carrie Pipperidge in the 1994 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel that brought her widespread recognition and her first Tony Award. 

McDonald has received critical acclaim for her powerful voice, versatile acting skills, and her ability to bring depth and emotion to her performances. Throughout her career, McDonald has earned an unprecedented six Tony Awards, making her the most decorated performer in Tony history. Her Tony wins span across various categories, including Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Carousel and Ragtime, Best Actress in a Play for Master Class and A Raisin in the Sun, and Best Actress in a Musical for Porgy and Bess and Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. 

In addition to her success on Broadway, McDonald has also showcased her talents in television and film. She has appeared in television shows such as Private Practice, The Gilded Age, The Good Fight as well as films like the 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast. 

In 2006 she made her operatic debut at the Houston Grand Opera, performing Francis Poulenc's La Voix humaine and the world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's one-woman opera Send (who are you? I love you). She appeared on LA Opera’s main stage in 2007 performing the role of Jenny Smith in Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and is set to grace our next season with a not-to-be-missed concert. 

Known for her exceptional vocal range, McDonald's voice is often described as a soprano with a rich, expressive quality. She is highly regarded for her interpretations of both classical and contemporary musical theater repertoire.  

Beyond her talent and awards, Audra McDonald has also used her platform to advocate for social justice issues and to promote diversity and inclusion in the arts. She joined the Covenant House board of Directors in 2014. Covenant House oversees programs for homeless youth in 27 cities in six countries across the United States, Canada, and Latin America. Audra was the recipient of their 2018 Beacon of Hope Award. She has been vocal about the importance of representation and equal opportunities for marginalized communities in the entertainment industry. 

Audra McDonald's contributions to the world of theater and her impact on the cultural landscape have made her a beloved and respected figure. Her extraordinary voice, combined with her exceptional acting abilities and commitment to social causes, continue to inspire and uplift audiences around the world.  

Watch Audra McDonald perform a mesmerizing rendition of  “Sing Happy,” at the 2018 New York Philharmonic Spring Gala performance.