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Brittney Boykin (B.E. Boykin) is a native of Alexandria, Virginia and comes from a musical family. At the age of seven, she began piano lessons and continued her studies through high school under the tutelage of Alma Sanford. Sanford guided her through various competitions such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition where she placed 1st place for three consecutive years in the local competition. In the spring of 2007, Boykin was awarded The Washington Post's "Music and Dance Award."

Boykin pursued her classical piano studies at Spelman College under the supervision of Dr. Rachel Chung. During her time at Spelman, Boykin was also the Spelman College Glee Club student accompanist for four years. While an active music student in the music department, she also took a few classes in composition. These classes challenged her musical imagination, and she began to compose and arrange a number of choral compositions. These compositions include her arrangement of "Go Down, Moses" and a setting of "Ave Maria," both of which were performed and recorded by the Spelman College Glee Club during her sophomore, junior and senior years.  During her tenure at Spelman College, Boykin also won 1st place at the 2009 James A. Hefner HBCU Piano Competition at Tennessee State University. 

After graduating from Spelman in 2011 with a B.A. in music, Boykin continued her studies at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. She continued to compose music during her time at Westminster and was awarded the R and R Young Composition Prize just a few months shy of graduating. In May of 2013, Boykin graduated from Westminster Choir College with a M.M. in Sacred Music. 

I was privileged with the opportunity to speak with Ms. Boykin about her journey as a Black female composer. Boykin is not blind to misogyny and serves as an inspiration to all women navigating success in a male dominated field such as composition. “Early on in my career, I maneuvered through a lot of sexism as I tried to figure out my place in music. While I was contemplating a variety of career paths, when it came specifically to composition, I was told that I'd be better off being a music teacher because I was a woman and because I didn't have any degrees in composition. I chose to use "B.E." in hopes of people giving me and/or my music a chance before knowing that I was a woman. Post-Covid, I've decided to keep my initials as a reminder that I am still who I am, initials or not. And it's empowering to have seen other women who have used their initials in professional fields as well.” Source: B.E. Boykin “I’m doing my best to connect deeper with each text that is set because composing is normally a very spiritual experience for me. If it doesn’t resonate with me, it doesn’t make it to the paper.”

 

Source: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. B. E. Boykin | Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (aso.org)

Boykin’s first opera, Two Corners, was commissioned by the Finger Lakes Opera following the premiere of Moments in Sonder. The piece tackles the friendship of a black woman and a white woman during the Civil Rights Movement.

Kearstin Piper Brown and Jorell Williams was the world premiere of B.E. Boykin's new song cycle, Moments In Sonder. Finger Lakes Opera November 2021.

Mirror Visions Ensemble premiered “Secret” in 2019 in their “This Land is our Land” concert which honored American compositions. The piece was sung in a set entitled “Harlem Renaissance Women” alongside other pieces set to poems by African American women.

Rosephanye Powell has been hailed as one of America’s premier women composers of solo vocal and choral music.

• Graduate of Alabama State University (Bachelor of Musie Education), Westminster Choir College (Masters in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy), and Florida State University (Doctorate in Vocal Performance)

• Serves as Professor of Voice at Auburn University

   o Previous teaching positions at Philander Smith College, and Georgia Southern University.

• Research focuses on the art of the African American spiritual and voice care concerns for voice professionals, especially music educators, choral directors, and choral singers

• Awards received include:

   o Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award presented by Harvard University Office of the Arts in 2022.

   o Living Legend Award presented by California State University African Diaspora Sacred Music Festival in Los Angeles

• As a vocalist by trade, Powell never officially studied composition. In fact, she claims to have been a poor music theory student, though believes that she was “given a strong sense of the flow” and a deep connection to written word

• Having been brought up in the black Church, Powell is heavily influenced by the very harmonies and musical feelings she heard as a girl. An avid arranger of Spirituals, Powell believes that her arrangements are a product of her experiences. She believes that “the story of the African American slave is the impetus for the arrangement” finding it impossible to “separate the spiritual from the life of the slave.” Having done much research on the origins of spirituals and the life of the slave, Powell challenges herself to take a step back in time, attempting to truly emulate the importance of spirituals.

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