Performing Arts Coalition Works to Support Black Artists

Prince George’s County

by: Akira Kyles Special to the AFRO
/ (Photo by Debra Johnson) /
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An organization based out of Prince George’s County is trying to change the way millennials view classical music.

The Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA) is a nonprofit arts organization that provides support to Black classical musicians and artists.

CAAPA Co-Founder and Board Chair Pamela Simonson and her mother Executive Director Terri Allen. (Photo by Debra Johnson)

CAAPA was created in 2003 by Terri Allen and her children, Victor and Pamela Simonson. Both Victor and Pamela decided they wanted to give back to their community that allowed them to have opportunities in careers with classical music.

“The organization is something that spawned out of my experiences as a child and the opportunities that I was given, the family and the community that I was raised in and the encouragement I got from my school and all of that,” Pamela told the AFRO. “I realized that I was privileged enough to have that kind of upbringing and have those kind of things afforded to me. From that, I realized I wanted to make sure I gave back because I got the opportunity.”

Victor has taken a backseat to the organization, while Allen serves as the executive director and Pamela as the chairwoman of the board.

“In partnership, we try to help bring color to the classics and support Black classical musicians and it’s just such an encouragement to see them. We want to be able to birth enthusiasm and love for the classical music arts within our African Diaspora,” said Allen.

According to Allen, CAAPA presents an average of two to four presentations per month at schools, camps and community programs. The organization also provides $1,000 college scholarships to graduating high school music students. The number of students who receives the scholarships varies based on the amount of applications received. The  scholarship application deadline is March 31.

CAAPA averages about 40-50 performances and events during the year, including the national Master Class Series, Opera for Fun Youth Outreach Program, Sing for Seniors Recitals and The Performance Series programs.

“For the first 10 years, we were just doing two or three programs a year. And we were helping other musicians hone their craft and helping them present them in individual concerts, getting out in the community in a very low-key kind of a way…” said Allen. “Before we were about to hit our 10th anniversary, it occurred to us, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve been doing this for 10 years.’ So, we went ahead and did our 501 C3 four years ago and from that, it has just catapulted us into another level.”

CAAPA receives funding from a variety of sources, including the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council, Maryland State Arts Council, City of Bowie, Prince George’s County Council, private donors and supporters.

Now, the word is out there about the organization, they have an advisory committee, hold an annual gala and offer nearly thirty community programs including, Opera for Fun Youth Outreach Program, sing for seniors, master class series and Arias at Sea cruises.

For the master class, CAAPA has worked with HBCUs such as Morgan State University in Baltimore, Morehouse College in Atlanta and Howard University in D.C.

CAAPA is also now an international organization. They have partnered with a few embassies such as Ghana and Angola.

“It’s our baby and we’ve been able to grow into an adult and just really make sure that the community is given as many opportunities as possible, especially in areas that they don’t usually get the chance to be exposed to,” said Pamela. “Classical music is very different in that way.”

This winter, upcoming events for CAAPA include a Sopranos Slay concert on Jan. 13 that is slated to feature eight sopranos singing a variety of songs. The event is scheduled to take place at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts.

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