Opera League News & Articles

BRAVO Live! Episode 10

African Americans for LA Opera

By Tom Lady

As it celebrates its 30th birthday in 2024, African Americans for LA Opera (AALAO), the chapter of the Opera League dedicated to increasing awareness of opera while providing a community for African American opera lovers, is this year’s Peter Hemmings Award honoree presented by the Opera League.

When the Music Center of Los Angeles opened its doors in December 1964, founder Dorothy Buffum “Buffy” Chandler wanted to ensure those doors were open to all Angelenos. Among her many allies was a young woman named Delores Kerr, a former fashion model, nurse and educator with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

In no time flat, Delores signed up to join Reach Out, the original volunteer Music Center support, organized and led by Buffy Chandler. Delores, who became co-president of Reach Out, recalls: “When the Music Center was built, Buffy said, ‘I can build this building. But I can’t be sure all the people of Los Angeles County know it belongs to them. The Music Center belongs to ALL of the people.’”

Fast-forward to 1981, when the Opera League of Los Angeles was born after a group of savvy, passionate opera lovers channeled and paired that passion with a determination to create a permanent home for world-class opera in Los Angeles, eventually leading to the League partnering with the Music Center to found LA Opera in 1986. Delores was there, among the first members of the fledgling League’s board of directors.

She was also there in the autumn of 1994, when she and two of her friends, fellow opera lovers and extraordinary women in their own right—Eva Grant and Gwendolyn Wyatt—founded a new chapter of the Opera League called African Americans for LA Opera (AALAO). Its mission: Increase awareness of opera throughout Los Angeles County, and provide a community for African American opera lovers. Now under the leadership of Beverley Clarkson, AALAO strives to bring opera into the community while bringing the community to the Music Center to experience opera onstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, thereby fulfilling Delores’ commitment to Mrs. Chandler.

In this episode of BRAVO Live!, AALAO leaders including Dolores and President Beverley Clarkson, as well as members and affiliated artists of AALAO, reflect on the chapter's origins, founding principles and ongoing mission to provide a foundation to support African American artists; to bring those artists' contributions to the community; and to provide a safe space where African American operagoers and performers alike feel they belong, make a difference and progress as performers and connoisseurs of the operatic art form.

So kick back and spend a few inspiring minutes with a few of the awesome, passionate people of African Americans for LA Opera.
 

About BRAVO Live!
BRAVO Live! is a series the Opera League launched in March 2021. Inspired by the League's flagship print publication, BRAVO (check out recent issues here and here), BRAVO Live!'s charter is to adapt BRAVO's interview format for the virtual space to spotlight today's brightest stars of the musical firmament, both in front of and behind the curtain.

By the way, if you missed previous episodes of BRAVO Live!, check them out on the Opera League's YouTube channel.
 

Without further ado, please enjoy episode ten of BRAVO Live! We hope you are entertained and enlightened.
 

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Author: Thomas Lady
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