Marti Newland’s belief that self-presentation is a serious arena of enacting and resisting complex racialized, gendered and classed identity formations informs her discourse and performances. She regularly presents her research at national conferences including the Society for American Music, the American Anthropological Association, and the Society for Ethnomusicology. By invitation, she has offered presentations at the following institutions:

Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Marti Newland, Farah Jasmine Griffin
Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Marti Newland, Farah Jasmine Griffin

Bard College, Music Program

Bryn Mawr College, Department of Anthropology

Harvard University, Lyrica Dialogues

Oberlin College, African American Studies Department

New York University, Steinhardt School

Reed College, Music Department

University of California Berkeley, Department of Music Graduate Student VoxTAP

University of Chicago, Department of Music

As a soprano, she participates in the expressive culture of African American art music and calls for listeners to examine the interrelationships between blackness and power. She is a frequent lecture-recitalist, having offered programs at Bard College, Brooklyn College, Bryn Mawr College, Columbia University, Reed College and the Society for American Music. Newland has performed in operas, recitals and oratorios throughout the United States and Europe. A chorister in New York City Opera’s production of Anna Nicole the Opera Orchestra of New York’s Roberto Devereux, she has also been a guest soloist with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Opera Noire of New York, and Harlem Opera Theater.  She is a charter member of Melodeon, the chamber ensemble founded by Artis Wodehouse. In music theater, Newland has performed Glenda (The Wiz) and Mama Euralie (Once on This Island). She has worked with teachers and directors including W. Steven Smith, Lorraine Manz, Richard Jones, and Edward Berkeley. Newland is a choral adjudicator and clinician for Worldstrides Heritage Festivals, where she has encouraged over three hundred choirs and choral conductors from throughout North America to remain accountable to the cultural context of their repertoire when performing. She has sung in music festivals including three seasons with the Aspen Music Festival Opera Theater Center and Centro Studi Italiani in Urbania, Italy. Newland continues to draw from her musical foundation: singing in choirs of the First Baptist Church of Cumminsville, New Jerusalem Baptist Church, the University of Cincinnati CCM Children’s Choir and the Cincinnati May Festival Youth Chorus. She holds degrees from Oberlin College (BA) and Oberlin Conservatory of Music (BM) and Columbia University (MA, PhD).


Selected Presentation and Performance


Concert Spirituals, Black Sopranos and the Politics of Racial Inequality

Bard College



Concert Spirituals and the Black Soprano


Concert Spirituals and the Black Soprano reconsidered the role of singing concert spirituals among black sopranos in relation to political resistance, musical virtuosity, gender and the sacred. While performed in many forms, the performances and recordings of black sopranos’ concert spiritual singing signifies the labor of the feminine and the role of the black sacred experience in the enduring legacy of concert spirituals. The event opened with a performance of selected concert spiritual repertoire popularized among twentieth century black sopranos like Kathleen Battle, Barbara Hendricks, Jessye Norman, and Leontyne Price. The performance was immediately followed by a panel discussion including Professor Farah Jasmine Griffin and Dr. Paul T. Kwami.


From the Diary of Sally Hemings


In From the Diary of Sally Hemings (2001), composer William Bolcom and playwright Sandra Seaton realize the voice Sally Hemings (1773-1835), the enslaved mistress of president Thomas Jefferson, with whom she had six children. The Jefferson-Hemings relationship encompassed thirty-seven years. In the era of DNA discovery, mezzo soprano Florence Quivar commissioned Bolcom and Seaton to create a fictional diary that draws listeners into Hemings’ complicated life. Based on archival research and in collaboration with historians, the song cycle foregrounds Hemings’ subjectivity through her transcontinental journey and life at Monticello.


Triptych from Margaret Garner



Though written as a role for mezzo-soprano, Newland performs three of Margaret’s arias from the American opera Margaret Garner (2005) written by Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison. The triptych offers a glimpse into Garner’s motherhood, political savvy, and spirituality. Margaret Garner’s impact has long been special to Newland, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio—the site where Garner courageously challenged the Fugitive Slave Law in 1856. In 2016, Newland and Wodehouse performed Triptych for Toni Morrison in honor of her 85th birthday, by invitation of The Toni Morrison Society.

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