“Black Lives” and classical music: Carl DuPont is bringing Black history to the genre through higher education

The UNC Charlotte professor offers insight on music education, inclusion and “Black Lives: music from the operas of Anthony Davis.”

Carl DuPont

Carl DuPont is a decorated bass-baritone and an assistant professor of voice at UNC Charlotte. His admiration for music and education is attributed to his background as a graduate of both the prestigious Eastman School of Music and Indiana University.

While DuPont has performed in highly touted plays such as Dennis Rodman in North Korea and Why Peace is Always a Good Idea at Carnegie Hall, his current focus is geared toward transforming how music is taught, particularly in regard to the African-American community.

He spoke two words that were so simple yet carried so much weight: Representation matters.

“It’s important for our students at UNC Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area to see Black performers on stage, to see Black professors in the academy, to see pieces of art written by Black Americans,” said DuPont, who was recognized as one of Diverse Magazine’s class of 2018 Emerging Scholars. “To see someone who looks like them achieving what they might want to achieve could be the difference between ‘I can do that’ and ‘that’s too much for me.’”

Black Lives, showcasing history through opera

DuPont’s appreciation for Black composers and musicians led to the program Black Lives – A Lecture-Recital Program from the Operas of Anthony Davis, which was recently held at Rowe Recital Hall on UNC Charlotte’s campus.

Vocalists Christine Jobson (left) and UNC Charlotte professor Carl DuPont during the “Black Lives – A Lecture-Recital Program from the Operas of Anthony Davis” on March 26, 2019. Photo credit: Jonathan Limehouse for Qcitymetro.com

“I think the most important thing is to be introduced to a very important American composer and some very important American operas,” DuPont said.

One of those important composers is Anthony Davis. Davis is an African-American composer who has written works based on famous events in Black history. His most notable was his first opera, 1986’s staged production, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. It followed Malcolm X’s journey and transformation from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

The UNC Charlotte recital included pieces from several of Davis’ operas, including Amistad, Tania and The Central Park Five.

“These operas are very significant to our history, musically and historically, but they’re not often produced on stage. This is an opportunity to see some pieces that one would not get to see,” DuPont said.

A shift in the way we learn about classical music

African-Americans have had a profound effect on music and DuPont’s inclusion of African-Americans in the curriculum is a testament to their contribution to the classical music genre.

Related: She was the first opera singer to perform at the Soul Train Awards, now she’s starring in Opera Carolina’s ‘Carmen’

“The way music is taught is still focused on Bach, Brahms and Beethoven; it’s a very Eurocentric approach. We have to recognize the contributions of Americans, and in particular, Black Americans,” he said. “If we’re going to achieve the beautiful city where everyone is represented, we have to build it. We can’t expect inclusion and integration to happen on its own.”

Carl-DuPont-Porgy-Bess-production

UNC Charlotte professor Carl DuPont (seated center), in a production of “Porgy and Bess.” Photo credit: Karli Cadel

Current operas from Black composers and musicians are predominantly set in the past and deal with issues of oppression and other problems that have hindered the Black community. DuPont foresees a shift in African-American operatic works in which imagination takes center stage.

“I want to see us dreaming ourselves into new landscapes,” Dupont said. “I want to see opera as a part of that so that we are having stories about us as kings and queens. We’re having stories about us as scientists. And then, stories about us as lovers: us loving ourselves, caring for each other [and] caring for ourselves. Just running the whole gamut of human expression.”


Jonathan Limehouse is a journalist whose passion is to find good and impactful stories. He’s an avid sports fan who can be found at numerous sporting events around Charlotte.

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