Opera singer Amanda Van Story Lewis D.C. native Amanda Van Story Lewis will perform in Baltimore in Jan.
D.C.-born, Baltimore-raised soprano opera singer Amanda Van Story Lewis has pushed past racial diversity to reach her big break.
“It’s like breathing pure air and you whole body is invigorated,” Lewis told the AFRO. “What attracted me to opera was the stark contrast to pop music. You can’t just take someone off the street, give them a makeover, background dancers, and use auto-tune in opera. You have to have a good base and intense study.”
Lewis has bachelor and master’s degrees from Howard University in classical voice performance. She performed at the 10th Anniversary of the African American Civil War Memorial in D.C. and the Congressional Black Caucus’s Black Women’s Agenda. In 2010, she performed the National Anthem for the National Walk for Epilepsy.
Despite early success, Lewis admits that opera can be a field difficult for Black Americans. Opera has a history with racism as some concerts still have singers perform in controversial black, yellow, or red face.
For Black women, Lewis said, half the battle is just getting the part. “As a woman of color, the bottom line is if you’re not singing in front of the right person, if you’re only singing for people that have an agenda, or you just don’t know the right person, you’re not going to make it,” she said. “The barrier that African Americans have in any profession is that we tend not to have the connections.”
Lewis has experience with this. “Being at a predominantly White institution in a competitive field, I just was not treated well and Tallahassee was not a friendly place for Black people, at least it wasn’t then.” Lewis said. “It was a great program, but I felt I didn’t have the support I needed. I knew that at least if I went there , I would have support.” She transferred to Howard University for her junior year.
At Howard, Lewis performed at school events, and joined the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She even started performing in pageants. She was Miss Black District of Columbia USA in 2008, Miss District of Columbia International in 2009 and was runner up for Miss Howard.
It was Howard professors that invested in her and helped fund her trip to Italy, she said. “They were really excited that I was working hard and saw this was a good opportunity for me and didn’t want me to miss it.” Lewis said.
Now that she’s has a resume packed with experience, which includes singing in Italian, French, Spanish, and German, she is ready to audition for more concerts and let the world hear the voice she’s been training for years.
On Jan. 30, she will return to Baltimore from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she currently works and lives to perform at the First & Franklin Presbyterian Church, 210 W Madison Street. “With the concerts in fall and in Baltimore, I’m really truly emerging.” Lewis said. “I’ve done performances before but this is a new beginning for me as Amanda Van Story Lewis. This is truly the beginning.”