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The touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite artistic institutions, as if The Blind Side were set in the world of opera. Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. H The touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite artistic institutions, as if The Blind Side were set in the world of opera. Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive. At the age of twelve, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort. He was placed in solitary confinement. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with little hope for the future. In 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses. SING FOR YOUR LIFE chronicles Ryan's suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to a cast of memorable characters--including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music, and his long-lost father who finally reappears to hear Ryan sing. Bergner illuminates all that it takes--technically, creatively--to find and foster the beauty of the human voice. And Sing for Your Life sheds unique light on the enduring and complex realities of race in America.


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The touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite artistic institutions, as if The Blind Side were set in the world of opera. Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. H The touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite artistic institutions, as if The Blind Side were set in the world of opera. Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in southeastern Virginia: his family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive. At the age of twelve, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort. He was placed in solitary confinement. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with little hope for the future. In 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses. SING FOR YOUR LIFE chronicles Ryan's suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to a cast of memorable characters--including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music, and his long-lost father who finally reappears to hear Ryan sing. Bergner illuminates all that it takes--technically, creatively--to find and foster the beauty of the human voice. And Sing for Your Life sheds unique light on the enduring and complex realities of race in America.

30 review for Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lora

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had a very hard time with the "voice" in this book. I know that author was trying to stay true, but it was often disjointed and hard to follow whose opinion or thoughts were being put forward. I was most confused about the author's voice. He seemed to sometimes pop in and out. Aside from that, though, I don't think I've read a more complex discussion of race. Perfect example of why there is not one "solution" to move us forward in this journey. I ended the book knowing that Ryan Speedo Green is I had a very hard time with the "voice" in this book. I know that author was trying to stay true, but it was often disjointed and hard to follow whose opinion or thoughts were being put forward. I was most confused about the author's voice. He seemed to sometimes pop in and out. Aside from that, though, I don't think I've read a more complex discussion of race. Perfect example of why there is not one "solution" to move us forward in this journey. I ended the book knowing that Ryan Speedo Green is one of the strongest people I've ever read about. His journey from where he started to where he is going is amazing. I wish him every future advantage in life! First I was amazed at how as a young child he could voice his need for structure even through the "bad" behavior and how much his grade school teacher made a difference to him. It really inspired me to want to be that person! His letter to her stating, "I know sorry won't do it. I am asking for you to be more strict because I need to learn to control my attitude," shows his incredible strength of self to want to change his situation. And "Thank you for not giving up on me." (53). I wished that every child could have a Mrs. Hughes who somehow knows how to love the child but also ask them to achieve for him or her own self. I think sometimes that we forget that children are only reacting to what we teach them. When he went after his mom he stated, "I wanted to make her pay, hurt her for making me feel the way I felt. The worst you could possible feel." All that frustration and anger at being helpless comes out in the book. His trying to work through his relationship with his mother and respect her is amazing! It could teach a lot of us about forgiveness and healing. I loved all the discussion about opera and singing. I am familiar with some, but by no means and officianado. ""When a truly gifted singer attains the right technique, his whole boy vibrates with the creation of this profound music." "Singing is the embodiment of inner beauty. There's a completely individual imprint that comes from within each singer." I loved that he was not a savant and that the book shared his many failures and him picking himself up over and over again to get to the next level. "The Devil gets in your head and gives you a false report, tricking you when you're weakest, telling you you're no good." This book touches on so many intense race issues. Social Darwinism, forced sterilization, Racial Integrity Act, Obama's election, affirmative action, diversity for diversity sake, etc., etc. "There's tribalism a social thing and an evolutionary thing; there's the comfort we feel with the kind of people we've been around since we were born, and, going back to the beginning, there's the whole survival aspect: those other people over there are competing for our food, and we've got to get out and hunt before they do, and be on guard because they're coming to steal our stuff...it's in the backs of our brains...it bleeds into every facet of our lives." (122) There's a very raw discussion about trying to improve one's situation and "trying to be white". "...having to prove yourself to be human, to be equal, mentally, physically, socially equal...every other race came here by choice...We are the only race who didn't...There is nothing prouder to me than being African American. There's no race more special in the United States. We persevered...Being African American is the greatest gift God could have given me." (140). At the same time, he's not afraid to call out others. "I resent those people for displaying their inability to fix their problems and do something with their lives. For openly displaying their giving up. They represent every stereotype you can come up with...It's not okay." (280). Only someone of his background has the right to even state something like this. Because of his situation the discussion can be so raw and honest. I really appreciated that. He is an amazing person!! I loved the read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    There is a really fascinating story here, unfortunately this book misses the mark. The narrative style of switching between times is confusing and doesn't add anything to the story. There is a big leap that needs to be colored in quite a bit more than the stark transformation that happens. Also, Ryan Speedo Green's name is not even featured on the cover of this book. Sure could have benefited from some photos as well. All that said, the story of a young man being brought up with neglect and abus There is a really fascinating story here, unfortunately this book misses the mark. The narrative style of switching between times is confusing and doesn't add anything to the story. There is a big leap that needs to be colored in quite a bit more than the stark transformation that happens. Also, Ryan Speedo Green's name is not even featured on the cover of this book. Sure could have benefited from some photos as well. All that said, the story of a young man being brought up with neglect and abuse in poverty stricken areas who becomes a performer at the Met is, as I said before, fascinating - even with my desire to have it fleshed out much more.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caroline-not-getting-updates

    Well done. Clear writing about technique and the artistry of opera. Very good sections on racism in general and how it affects opera singers. The difficult sections about Green's rough childhood seem to strike the right balance between communicating the pain and keeping sufficient journalistic objectivity. A friend recently saw him sing and was very impressed. One can only wish the best for him. Well done. Clear writing about technique and the artistry of opera. Very good sections on racism in general and how it affects opera singers. The difficult sections about Green's rough childhood seem to strike the right balance between communicating the pain and keeping sufficient journalistic objectivity. A friend recently saw him sing and was very impressed. One can only wish the best for him.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karyl

    I was part of a fantastic book club when I still lived in Virginia, and I still get updates for the books they've chosen to discuss. This is one of those books. I read the blurb and knew it was a book that I'd be interested in, and once I realized that Mr Green grew up in southeastern Virginia, close to where I spent a good portion of my childhood and quite a few years of my adult life, I was even more intrigued. Bergner paints a very honest portrait of Green, a young man who was so troubled that I was part of a fantastic book club when I still lived in Virginia, and I still get updates for the books they've chosen to discuss. This is one of those books. I read the blurb and knew it was a book that I'd be interested in, and once I realized that Mr Green grew up in southeastern Virginia, close to where I spent a good portion of my childhood and quite a few years of my adult life, I was even more intrigued. Bergner paints a very honest portrait of Green, a young man who was so troubled that he ended up in juvenile detention, and was frequently put into solitary confinement for his safety and for the safety of those around him. What I found quite interesting is the differing accounts of Green's childhood from both his mother and himself. Having a toxic biological mother, this really resonates with me. But this isn't just the story of a young troubled boy who eventually becomes a resounding success in his adult life, although he achieves great things that are almost unbelievable to the boy he had been. There's also a pretty frank discussion of race and racism, both in general life and in the opera world specifically. Green discusses how he was mocked as a kid for speaking too properly, for even being interested in opera, and how he was called an Oreo as a result. He's very open about the fact that African-Americans who speak "proper" English are looked down on as people who aren't true to their heritage. And even being interested in opera, a very white art form, added more fuel to his tormentors' fire. But he never let it sway him from his ultimate goal. Singing opera is who he is, even though the rudimentary basics of singing and reading music and foreign languages sometimes elude him. Regardless, he tries and tries and tries again -- anything to keep him moving forward. What I wish Bergner had covered in more detail was Green's time in college and grad school. He had pursued degrees in music, and yet, according to this book, had major stumbling blocks with the basics of singing opera when he was invited to audition for the Met. One wonders how that would even be possible. That said, this is definitely a book to read if you enjoy books about people who have come from a terrible place to make something amazing of themselves. It can be difficult to read in places, especially for those who may have had difficult childhoods growing up. I wish Mr Green all the best, and I hope he continues to find success in opera.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Read

    I love this book so much. If Sing for Your Life had been a novel, it would have been dismissed as too unbelievable. If this story had been pitched as an ABC After School Special, it would have been tossed aside as too improbable for even children to believe. Ryan Speedo Green's story is incredible and author Daniel Bergner is masterful in telling it. Ryan managed to survive a tumultuous childhood of abuse and poverty in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He was taken into custody by police, at I love this book so much. If Sing for Your Life had been a novel, it would have been dismissed as too unbelievable. If this story had been pitched as an ABC After School Special, it would have been tossed aside as too improbable for even children to believe. Ryan Speedo Green's story is incredible and author Daniel Bergner is masterful in telling it. Ryan managed to survive a tumultuous childhood of abuse and poverty in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He was taken into custody by police, at his mother's request, when he was 12. He was driven in handcuffs and shackles halfway across Virginia to a juvenile detention center named for a notorious proponent of eugenics, Dr. Joseph DeJarnette. There he was subjected to the use of seclusion that was profoundly traumatizing. The depth of Bergner's research is impressive on so many fronts. And he illuminates so many aspects of racism - historical, institutional, legal, cultural and subconscious. His observations about racism are woven into this story as one among many threads that make up the tapestry of Ryan's life. This is story of resilience, hope, and the kindness of people who believed in him. The first was a classroom teacher who was his first champion in a special education class, and her husband who put in a word when he was being considered for the Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk. Mr. & Mrs. Hughes have stayed connected with him to this day. There were people who took an interest in him like Priscilla Jenkins at the DeJarnette Center. He would later recall that he knew she wasn't afraid of him, that she understood he was a child, and she bestowed small kindnesses. As he landed in middle school, someone took an interest him and suggested the music program at the Governor's School although he had no evident musical ability or even a particular interest in singing. Ryan's story is a story about people who cared. He did the work. He put himself out there. He learned to accept his many disadvantages in entering the world of professional opera and he applied himself to overcoming them. But all along the way there were "helpers" - people who went the extra mile, gave the extra tutoring, paid the fees, provided the transportation, procured appropriate clothes, awarded scholarships, gave the extra coaching. He just kept working at it, never giving up on his dream of a career in opera. This is an example of what it means to provide "equity" - to meet people where they are and provide what they need to be successful. I was sorry when this book ended. Ryan is the same age as my oldest child. I kept thinking about that as his story unfolded. So many things could have gone wrong, but they didn't. He just kept at it. He is a great success and at the age of 33, now a husband to Irene, he is a celebrated Bass Baritone with a long career ahead of him. On my bucket list, I have now added "Hear Ryan Speedo Green Sing in an Opera."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anja Sheppard

    There are multiple layers to this book, the first being Daniel Bergner's exquisite way of writing about music. He uses the most apt descriptors to help those unacquainted with the opera world understand the nuance in the art of the singer. I feel so privileged to have had this look into the world of opera singers! Secondly, this is definitely a story about race. Microaggressions plague Ryan Speedo Green's life on the surface, and systemic racism is a necessary context when understanding the circu There are multiple layers to this book, the first being Daniel Bergner's exquisite way of writing about music. He uses the most apt descriptors to help those unacquainted with the opera world understand the nuance in the art of the singer. I feel so privileged to have had this look into the world of opera singers! Secondly, this is definitely a story about race. Microaggressions plague Ryan Speedo Green's life on the surface, and systemic racism is a necessary context when understanding the circumstances of his childhood. Even once Ryan has proven himself to be a singer of extraordinary talent, he has to contend with the fact that the operatic sphere is inhabited by rich white people. He will never escape being typecasted into roles, or being asked to perform caricature songs at parties. The third layer of this book transcends race. It reminds me of a line from Cornel West's book Race Matters where he describes three states of scholars: "race-distancing elitists, race-embracing rebels, and race-transcending prophets" (42). Bergner hits that last category squarely on the nose with this book. When I opened Sing For Your Life, I thought this would be a story of a black man overcoming the barriers imposed by our racism society to achieve the American Dream through grit, hard work, and a little bit of luck. Instead, we get a story of how easy it is for incredibly talented people to fall through the cracks. We get a story of the importance of having someone believe in you, even if you don't believe in yourself. Without the dedicated support of his school teacher, friend's parents, and opera instructor, Ryan would never have reached stardom. So if there's one lesson to learn from this book, it is to do your very best to help prop other people up. If I can stop one heart from breaking I shall not live in vain If I can ease on life the aching Or cool one pain Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again I shall not live in vain --Emily Dickinson

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Okano

    He had never killed anyone, but if his life continued to deteriorate, it wasn't out of the question. He was just 12. He was incarcerated, some of it in solitary confinement, for threatening his mother with a knife. Today, 18 years later, in an art form traditionally the province of white Europeans and Americans, this 6'5" black man is winning rave reviews for his Colline in the Met's La Boheme. Before that, he wowed the crowds and the critics in Vienna. This book, authored by a contributor to th He had never killed anyone, but if his life continued to deteriorate, it wasn't out of the question. He was just 12. He was incarcerated, some of it in solitary confinement, for threatening his mother with a knife. Today, 18 years later, in an art form traditionally the province of white Europeans and Americans, this 6'5" black man is winning rave reviews for his Colline in the Met's La Boheme. Before that, he wowed the crowds and the critics in Vienna. This book, authored by a contributor to the NY Times, chronicles his difficult (an understatement) youth, his decision to avoid where he was heading, including stories about the people who helped him along the way, and the sheer hard work it took to make him a budding world class opera singer, particularly since he hadn't even known he had any talent for singing until high school. It's a riveting and thought-provoking book, well worth reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Loved this story of how Ryan Speedo Green overcame poverty and a dysfunctional family life to become an accomplished bass-baritone at the Met. Inspiring message on how specific individuals can impact on a person's life. In case you didn't think it takes a lot of work to become an opera singer consider this; "(The) job is to figure out how to sing 36 pitches on...20 vowels, so six hundred combinations." As one who cannot sing a note I marvel at Ryan's mastering of the linguistic, musical, vocal a Loved this story of how Ryan Speedo Green overcame poverty and a dysfunctional family life to become an accomplished bass-baritone at the Met. Inspiring message on how specific individuals can impact on a person's life. In case you didn't think it takes a lot of work to become an opera singer consider this; "(The) job is to figure out how to sing 36 pitches on...20 vowels, so six hundred combinations." As one who cannot sing a note I marvel at Ryan's mastering of the linguistic, musical, vocal and psychological challenges of operatic performance. I am also impressed by how he dealt with the implicit stereotypes among "liberal and enlightened" opera lovers. Hoping the next time he sings 'Old Man River' it will be on his terms. Lastly, if you don't support musical education in our public schools, this book may cause you to revisit that position.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Swong

    Ryan Speedo Green was not destined to sing opera. Unlike most classical musicians, he is African American, and grew up in poverty. But even more unusually, he had no obvious musical talent for a long time. His voice was unremarkable in middle school. After getting into the Governors School of the Arts on a fluke, he nearly fails out of school because he cannot sing and cannot read music. He attends "mid-tier" conservatories. At the Met Competition, he struggles with basic technique: he cannot pr Ryan Speedo Green was not destined to sing opera. Unlike most classical musicians, he is African American, and grew up in poverty. But even more unusually, he had no obvious musical talent for a long time. His voice was unremarkable in middle school. After getting into the Governors School of the Arts on a fluke, he nearly fails out of school because he cannot sing and cannot read music. He attends "mid-tier" conservatories. At the Met Competition, he struggles with basic technique: he cannot pronounce anything in Italian. If most biographies of musicians focus on innate genius and artistic destiny, SING FOR YOUR LIFE—an astonishing, moving chronicle of the Ryan’s life written by New York Times Magazine writer Daniel Bergner—offers a refreshingly new story of how artists might be made, not born; how talent might be cultivated as often as it is discovered; and most importantly, at a time when music is seen as an insignificant pastime, or at best a homeopathic remedy, how music might actually save a person’s life. Raised in southeastern Virginia, Ryan grew up in a volatile, often violent household. His mother, Valerie, is an imposing, beautiful, and often violent woman; his father, Cecil, is mostly absent throughout his childhood. Though Ryan vows with his brother, Adrian, never to turn out like their parents and never to hit a woman, their relentless exposure to violence as a means of conflict resolution and self-expression becomes too much to overcome. Ryan, too, becomes enraged, fearful, violent, disruptive, and uncontrollable as a child. Throughout the book, Ryan perceptively describes the way that violence can so easily become a toxic, destructive form of communication for deeply hurt people like himself and his mother. When Ryan takes a knife and stares down Valerie, he says he wanted to “make her pay, hurt her for making me feel the way I felt.. I wanted her to fear me as much as I feared her, as much as I felt her wrath.” As an adult, Ryan visits the juvenile facility where once stayed, and explains to the kids: "[At this facility,] I felt so alone. I was the kid who fought everyone around me. I was the kid who cursed everyone. Whenever I got upset, I wanted to harm somebody. Somebody needed to feel how angry I was. Everybody needed to feel it." Ryan is barely aware of music at the juvenile facility. Though he listens to the radio during solitary confinement, his life is dominated by his violent rages and an intense fear of his mother. Upon release, he vows never to return to the institution and searches for alternative paths. He latches onto what seems to be the opposite of juvenile hall—white kids. Then, a fluke. He is accepted to the Governor’s School of the Arts through a serendipitous connection. But he is unable to read or sing music, and nearly fails in his first year. Only in late high school, largely due to the voluntary, tireless extracurricular work of a teacher named Mr. Brown, does Green begin to develop a passion for music and a singer’s voice. He attends the Hartt School and the University of Florida, “mid-tier” conservatories, for his undergraduate and masters’ degrees. These are extraordinary accomplishments in a short span of time, but his later success still isn't inevitable. What happens? "He is singing for his life," says Ken Noda, one of Ryan's beloved mentors at the Met Opera. Ryan has a rare, life-or-death sense of purpose and vision that most performers lack. How he evolves musically at conservatory is not discussed in the book, but Ryan makes it to the finals of the Metropolitan Opera’s national voice competition at age twenty-four. Despite his shortcomings (pronouncing Italian), his undeniable talent and presence as a performer, both musically and theatrically, wins him the competition, which launches his international career. What is special about Ryan is, first of all, that he is loved, as a person and as a musician, by his mentors. His mentors, Ken Noda and Brian Zeger, take him under his wing and excavate the superstar within him. They love him for the love he radiates towards all the people in his life, and for his extraordinary lack of entitlement to success. As a musician, Ryan has undeniable presence, power, and artistic originality that is very much embodied--he is a six-foot-five, three-hundred-pound African American man with a range, from bass to tenor. This unusual vocal range endows him with a wider coloristic palette; it serves as a metaphor, too, for the extraordinary range of life experiences that he brings to his expressive arsenal. The point is that these achievements were far from preordained. What is miraculous about Ryan's story is that he was mostly a normal kid with average musical abilities. What is miraculous is that the world of classical music heard Ryan's voice, and responded with care and mentorship to his dogged will to survive and express himself. As a result he became not only a professional singer, but one of the best of his generation. His story is a truly inspiring rebuke to the unimaginative thinking that permeates the classical music world, which can often cling to essentialist ideas about musical greatness that prize inborn "genius" over the possibilities of greater art born of struggle, hard work, and pedagogical risk-taking. SING FOR YOUR LIFE also makes it clear that it is lonely, and often painful to be a black man in opera. Ryan has disliked the song “Ol’ Man River” since college, when he realized how much white people loved it. In a scene of Jordan Peele-level horror, Ryan sings “Ol’ Man River” in a production of Show Boat, and he is shocked to see white audiences giving him the longest applause of his life. He is disturbed that the white crowds are cheering and crying in response to a song about white people putting black people down. The incident is a disturbing example of how white people can thoughtlessly use black people to assuage their guilt and, in doing so, think of themselves as being better than their ancestors; “Ol’ Man River” is nominally supposed to remind us of the horrors of slavery, but outsized white joy turns it into a humiliating historical reenactment for black men that fetishizes the history of slavery. In one of the last scenes in the book, Ryan is asked again to sing the song, and unintentionally delivers a garbled, enraged interpretation that feels truer to his understanding of it. “Here was a room packed with well-meaning people who did not see him, who perhaps were incapable of seeing him, who possibly refused to see him, and who were eager to have him inhabit an object of pity,” Bergner writes. Even his mentors at the Met—who adore Ryan and transform him into the world-class performer he has become—occasionally struggle to talk about race in a sophisticated way. Dr. Kwak, the Met’s resident ENT doctor, veers close to craniometry in his denial that race can say something significant about a singer’s facial physiology and sound production. His teachers, and Ryan himself, say the solution to bias is to be twice as good as white peers—which may be useful on a person-by-person basis, but does little to make the classical music industry painfully aware of its whiteness. In other words, these remarks are less indicative of individual wrongdoing than systemic inexperience and clumsiness in talking about issues of race across the classical music industry. Ryan has inured himself to being a rarity in the professional world; what remains profoundly unresolved is how he defines himself as a musician in relation to his family and his past. This is what makes the book profoundly moving--Ryan's struggle to square his past and present selves. For most of his adolescence and young adulthood, Ryan used music as a way to escape his chaotic family life and steer himself on a path towards redemption. Ryan saw music as a matter of life and death, a passion that keeps the toxic forces of his past at bay. Now he longs to share his love for music with his family, but it's not without deeply human complications. Valerie visits him at the Met for the competition and for later performances, but Ryan finds her presence stifling; Cecil is proud and supportive but the father-son reunion is suffused with bittersweetness over so much lost time; he reconnects with his older brother but they occupy vastly different worlds. Watching Ryan attempt to unite his present and future (music) with his past (family), which for so long could not coexist, makes Bergner’s book compelling on a universal level.

  10. 4 out of 5

    J Beckett

    Beautifully penned story about the trials and triumph of opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. This is a tale of how Green overcame childhood hardships, including placement in a juvenile facility, a broken family, and poverty, to develop into a sought after opera star. Bergner included the expected bells and whistles, but was careful in crafting Green's journey, so not to overly emphasize elements that were socially predictable such as racism (note the emphasis on his singing "Old Man River at the req Beautifully penned story about the trials and triumph of opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. This is a tale of how Green overcame childhood hardships, including placement in a juvenile facility, a broken family, and poverty, to develop into a sought after opera star. Bergner included the expected bells and whistles, but was careful in crafting Green's journey, so not to overly emphasize elements that were socially predictable such as racism (note the emphasis on his singing "Old Man River at the requests of audiences that ); a constant wall in stories of African-Americans or POC who gain or strive for notoriety . The jumping from story line to story line, and the building or erecting of the tale within a frame, was often distracting, coming together in the finale, like an Opera Semiseria. This, essentially, is the story of hope and belief, the overcoming of one's own destructive self and taking a chance at fate. Students, of every caliber, should be required to read this work, to delve deeper into the closeted dreams they'd never share but should pursue. Adult should read Sing... for the inspirational value it imparts and the importance of their support for those who have dreams but are only able to follow a wayward path, lost on a road of their own self-defeat. Both 'groups' would greatly benefit, I believe, from the complex simplicity of it's contents. Sing for Your Life remains a little known tale (despite a one-pager about Ryan Green in People magazine several years ago), and as book that deserves a read and, eventually, a feature film. Page after page and event after event, the story invites the reader into the challenging world of competitive opera, resulting in the forcing, almost urging, of victory for the protagonist. We suffer when Green suffers and we applaud aloud when he is victorious. We learn to like him, as if we always knew him, and clap on the back, with great enthusiasm, those who walked with and encouraged him through fields of thorns and thicket. Great story about an unsung giant whose voice thunders and trembles from heaven to earth.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna Schaeffer

    Narrative that covers opera, juvenile detention, childhood trauma and a timeline of family dynamics, identity, and personal redemption most of all. At times, the writing felt blunt or insensitive, maybe because of the author's separation from the subject matter. But an excellent memoir! Narrative that covers opera, juvenile detention, childhood trauma and a timeline of family dynamics, identity, and personal redemption most of all. At times, the writing felt blunt or insensitive, maybe because of the author's separation from the subject matter. But an excellent memoir!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Pollock

    The basic story of this man’s life is great, uplifting, inspiring, makes me want to hear him sing. But the book itself is just weird. Why is this author writing it? Is he a friend, colleague, fan...who knows? And race is a big theme, yet the author never addresses or even acknowledges his own white man’s perspective in narrating the story, despite the frequently discomfiting white-gaze lens through which he’s observing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Enid

    This was a very disjointed book- some bits were fascinating, and some bits really dragged. It was confusing in parts- the author would be discussing one incident, and then there would be a flashback to several years before, and then within the flashback there would be another flashback to another time, and then it would move back to the original flashback, and so on. I also wish the author had explained how Ryan could have arrived at the Met competition without being able to read music, after at This was a very disjointed book- some bits were fascinating, and some bits really dragged. It was confusing in parts- the author would be discussing one incident, and then there would be a flashback to several years before, and then within the flashback there would be another flashback to another time, and then it would move back to the original flashback, and so on. I also wish the author had explained how Ryan could have arrived at the Met competition without being able to read music, after attending a high school where half the time he focused on opera, then college and graduate school- the conductor at the Met realized he couldn't read music within minutes of interacting with him- hard to believe no other teacher in those 10+ years noticed this flaw in his music education. In fact, his college and grad school years are not covered in this book- odd to ignore those 6 years after focusing in almost mind-numbing detail about some of the earlier years.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Minetta Smith

    I wanted to love this book so much and I did love the underlying story. The journey of Ryan Speedo Green from a life of poverty and a dysfunctional family to singing at the Met is amazing. Unfortunately the writing of the story is disjointed and confusing. The author jumps from time frame to time frame and from character to character in each chapter. I found myself searching for a thread to cling to as I read. Wait! Who is that? Did this happen before the time in juvie or after? Now who was this I wanted to love this book so much and I did love the underlying story. The journey of Ryan Speedo Green from a life of poverty and a dysfunctional family to singing at the Met is amazing. Unfortunately the writing of the story is disjointed and confusing. The author jumps from time frame to time frame and from character to character in each chapter. I found myself searching for a thread to cling to as I read. Wait! Who is that? Did this happen before the time in juvie or after? Now who was this person and how are they connected? Also, I think that having some photographs in the book would have been a great addition. I did google Ryan and was able to hear some of his singing on youtube. I'm happy that he made it!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    It took me a while to get into the way this story was told -- the shifting multiple points of view funneled through the white reporter collating the stories -- but once I bought in, I was sold. This is an amazing and remarkable story with many things to say about race, domestic violence, and trying to fit in where 99% of the people doing the job you're doing don't look like you. The section that educated me on Dr. Joseph DeJarnette was a heart breaker, as were the pages recounting Green's experi It took me a while to get into the way this story was told -- the shifting multiple points of view funneled through the white reporter collating the stories -- but once I bought in, I was sold. This is an amazing and remarkable story with many things to say about race, domestic violence, and trying to fit in where 99% of the people doing the job you're doing don't look like you. The section that educated me on Dr. Joseph DeJarnette was a heart breaker, as were the pages recounting Green's experience in juvenile lock up. This book also deals with a son's relationship with his family, his mother in particular, and how you find the grace and will to go on after terrible emotional and physical abuse. I loved this realization Green has after severe criticism from one of his opera mentors: "Fear was what he felt walking the two blocks from his house to the corner store for a carton of milk." His perilous life before opera obviously prepared him to face many obstacles on stage. The feelings Green has about singing "Ol' Man River" opened up, for me, further understanding about subjects fraught with racial struggle in our country. Well done, Green and Bergner.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is an inspiring, thought-provoking, and beautifully told story of a young, Black man from a tough background who manages to climb his way out of his state's worst juvenile detention center and keep going all the way into the very white, very elite, very exclusive world of opera. Ryan Speedo Green's story shows how such things as internal strength and perseverance, supportive mentors who don't give up, and even just the desire to rise above your family's circumstances can be powerful motivat This is an inspiring, thought-provoking, and beautifully told story of a young, Black man from a tough background who manages to climb his way out of his state's worst juvenile detention center and keep going all the way into the very white, very elite, very exclusive world of opera. Ryan Speedo Green's story shows how such things as internal strength and perseverance, supportive mentors who don't give up, and even just the desire to rise above your family's circumstances can be powerful motivators in finding success, no matter how low you've fallen. Plus, this book also gives an interesting glimpse into the intricacies of training to be an opera singer. Apparently, success in opera is not just about having a good voice -- it's also about being well-educated and from a higher social class. Green did not have those benefits in the beginning, but he worked past them -- and worked and worked and worked -- until finally gaining the title of rising star. Daniel Bergner captures his story with a depth and sensitivity that keeps you hooked until the end.

  17. 4 out of 5

    NancySingelBaker

    Sing for Your Life, A Story of Race, Music & Family is a timely read. Ryan Speedo Green pulls himself out of poverty and abuse with the help of music and dedicated teachers. It really should be subtitled A Story of Race, Music & Education.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Max André

    Beside the timeline back and fourth jump, I extremely enjoyed and can relate to certain aspect to Ryan's story. Its was deep and touching reading his story. To Mrs. Jefferson, my Mrs. Hughes! Thank you!! Beside the timeline back and fourth jump, I extremely enjoyed and can relate to certain aspect to Ryan's story. Its was deep and touching reading his story. To Mrs. Jefferson, my Mrs. Hughes! Thank you!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Berman

    Singing for your life What an amazing story coming from such grinding poverty and abuse and achieving success on the Opera stage. Along the way we hear about racism, the magic and hard work needed to learn to sing. Go listen to Ryan Speedo Green on YouTube and then read this book!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    A rich biography relating the journey of Ryan Speedo Green from a volatile, uncertain future onto the stages of the Metropolitan and Vienna opera houses. His story reminded me somewhat of that of Dan-el Peralta as recounted in his memoir, Undocumented. Both were fortunate in catching the attention of people who could make a difference in their lives and were willing and able to spend their time and influence to motivate the success of these two remarkable young men. Green's struggle against the A rich biography relating the journey of Ryan Speedo Green from a volatile, uncertain future onto the stages of the Metropolitan and Vienna opera houses. His story reminded me somewhat of that of Dan-el Peralta as recounted in his memoir, Undocumented. Both were fortunate in catching the attention of people who could make a difference in their lives and were willing and able to spend their time and influence to motivate the success of these two remarkable young men. Green's struggle against the demons of his past and against race issues make for riveting reading. I don't know if the print edition contained pictures, but reading this remarkable book online allowed me to look up pictures and videos and have a more intimate knowledge of Mr. Green -- a charismatic, towering presence, with the most infectious smile.

  21. 5 out of 5

    SibylM

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway and the favor of an honest review was requested. I was so delighted to read this book! Ryan Speedo Green has an absolutely amazing story -- with still much to come, I am sure -- and Daniel Bergner does an absolutely wonderful job of telling the story. The book is truly suspenseful and really plunges you into each time and place it takes you to. Most of all you get to see the true tenacity and brilliance of Green, as I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway and the favor of an honest review was requested. I was so delighted to read this book! Ryan Speedo Green has an absolutely amazing story -- with still much to come, I am sure -- and Daniel Bergner does an absolutely wonderful job of telling the story. The book is truly suspenseful and really plunges you into each time and place it takes you to. Most of all you get to see the true tenacity and brilliance of Green, as well as the luck he had in finding some dedicated and caring teachers along the way. This book made me think about some old issues in new perspectives as well. Definitely recommended for anyone who loves opera -- though opera knowledge is *not* required to love this book!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    3.5 stars Ryan Speedo Green has done amazing things in his life and with music. Passages on race and the skill and artistry of opera are noteworthy. However, so much attention in the book is paid to the physical and mental skill and physiology of opera singing but it would have also been interesting to know the emotional response and connection to music that Ryan and other singers have. Ryan's childhood experiences and his evolution as an opera singer (from the Met forward) are introspective and 3.5 stars Ryan Speedo Green has done amazing things in his life and with music. Passages on race and the skill and artistry of opera are noteworthy. However, so much attention in the book is paid to the physical and mental skill and physiology of opera singing but it would have also been interesting to know the emotional response and connection to music that Ryan and other singers have. Ryan's childhood experiences and his evolution as an opera singer (from the Met forward) are introspective and detailed. The period of time between high school and the Met contest is left to the imagination and is a little disappointing. I found myself really rooting for Ryan Speedo Green in both his music and life.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I received this book at BEA in Chicago. I was so impressed by the author's ability to tell this story honestly. It would be tempting to skip certain events so that the reader would embrace Ryan with no hesitation. Instead, we hear the heartbreaking truth. Anyone who reads this story and the violence that is the basis of much of Ryan's life, will be shocked that a person can achieve success in his professional and personal life. I appreciate that Bergner describes in detail the constant struggle I received this book at BEA in Chicago. I was so impressed by the author's ability to tell this story honestly. It would be tempting to skip certain events so that the reader would embrace Ryan with no hesitation. Instead, we hear the heartbreaking truth. Anyone who reads this story and the violence that is the basis of much of Ryan's life, will be shocked that a person can achieve success in his professional and personal life. I appreciate that Bergner describes in detail the constant struggle of an opera singer's life, especially when one is not backed by parents' support and a foundation of training from an early age. Bravo!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I'd been dying to read this book since hearing Ryan Speedo Green, the subject of this book, interviewed on Fresh Air last fall. Here is a story not just about overcoming improbable odds to become one of the rising stars of the opera world, but what it means to fight for one's very life. Mr. Bergner is an excellent storyteller, and I found myself riveted time and again as I briskly read this beautiful biography. I'd been dying to read this book since hearing Ryan Speedo Green, the subject of this book, interviewed on Fresh Air last fall. Here is a story not just about overcoming improbable odds to become one of the rising stars of the opera world, but what it means to fight for one's very life. Mr. Bergner is an excellent storyteller, and I found myself riveted time and again as I briskly read this beautiful biography.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Latham

    3.5 stars. The book jumped around so much that I sometimes found it difficult to follow, and I wanted to know how Ryan would overcome the mammoth obstacles he faced. He's an exceptional young man, and I loved hearing of his triumphant career. I hope he continues to do well. 3.5 stars. The book jumped around so much that I sometimes found it difficult to follow, and I wanted to know how Ryan would overcome the mammoth obstacles he faced. He's an exceptional young man, and I loved hearing of his triumphant career. I hope he continues to do well.

  26. 4 out of 5

    DW

    I had heard part of the Fresh Air interview about this book, so when I saw it on the new books shelf at the library I picked it up. It was very well researched (what biographer talks to his subject's elementary school principal?), though the writing style was a little choppy. I thought it somewhat unusual that it was clearly written by Bergner, because I've read an awful lot of celebrity biographies that are ghostwritten, or "written with" a ghostwriter, and are written as a first-person account I had heard part of the Fresh Air interview about this book, so when I saw it on the new books shelf at the library I picked it up. It was very well researched (what biographer talks to his subject's elementary school principal?), though the writing style was a little choppy. I thought it somewhat unusual that it was clearly written by Bergner, because I've read an awful lot of celebrity biographies that are ghostwritten, or "written with" a ghostwriter, and are written as a first-person account. After reading the book, though, I see why writing it this way is a much better idea, because Bergner is able to say things that Ryan would not. The stories of the anger and violence in Ryan's family reminded me of Eddie Huang's autobiography Fresh Off the Boat. The account of his time at the center was also eye-opening. It was interesting that the one staff member who gave him hope was the one who cut him a break on points. Love - and effective treatment - is not about holding to strict rules. I can't imagine how a person could move on from a childhood like that (indeed, it seems like Ryan still struggles with it, in his reluctance to spend time with his mother). It's just mind-boggling that he came from there and then joined the Latin club at school. Odd that there was nothing about what his friend Jared thought about him, just Jared's parents (Ryan's relationship with the Poulters is similar to Evan's relationship with the Murphy's in Dear Evan Hansen). It was also interesting that he clearly got into the Governor's school because of affirmative action, and he needed so much help and coaching when he was there, but he now has a opera career that is more successful than those of many people who had a better start in life. I didn't realize how exacting singing is until I read this book. I had some inkling about vowel sounds and resonant spaces, but the syllable-by-syllable, note-by-note training sounds unbelievable. I guess that's the difference between an opera singer at the Met and an amateur dabbler. I wonder how much musical theater training is like opera training. I found it incredible that Ryan had been to conservatory and graduate school, and still managed to have grotesquely inadequate pronunciation and understanding of musical nuance ... can't help wondering if any of his teachers in Hartford or Florida read this book and what they thought of it. That section of his life was conspicuously absent from this book. Other interesting ideas: "deep voices take longer to cook," so people can keep trying to make it for too long. Noda, the prodigy concert pianist who hated the piano and preferred to teach voice, and his mother thinks he is wasting his time. And that Green's coaches at the Met gave him conflicting advice about how to sing - why can't there be just one, correct way? (Human bodies are so confounding, this is why I do robots.) And about looks in casting - because of the heavy-on-closeups Live at the Met broadcast series, they want more attractive, thinner, younger people, even though older, larger people can sing opera better. It does really seem that the average TV/movie actor is more attractive than the average theater actor, though maybe that has more to do with makeup and careful camera angles. It is a shame that people have such a narrow definition of beauty. Terry Gross had brought up the Ol' Man River dilemma in her interview, but I didn't understand it. I saw Show Boat a long time ago, don't really remember it, but I do remember that Ol' Man River was the best song. For me, it's just a crowd-pleasing number, and if I were at that party, I would prefer to hear him sing it because I don't really like opera and Ol' Man River is more accessible. I think for white people, it's not a song of black people being oppressed by white people, it's just a song about life being hard. Who doesn't think their life is hard? After reading the book, though, and learning about his experiences (including having the guardians of a girl he was close to abruptly cut off contact after months of phone conversations, when they met him and saw he was black), and about how Ryan was compared to another black singer whose sign of failure was that he was doing Show Boat instead of singing opera, I can see why he would refuse to sing the song. Anyway, I'm glad he's doing well. The story of him visiting the center as a successful adult, and trying to connect with the kids there, was touching. This book is definitely worth reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    ReadingMama

    Since I have been watching operas from MET online, I have become obsessed with music, enchanting human drama and getting to know many singers. When an African American Bass Baritone, Ryan Speedo Green was interviewed backstage and there was a mention of his memoir. I checked out the book and how inspiring it has been, a black boy who overcame all kinds of hardship, and eventually became a world renowned opera singer! But this story offered me so much more of the opera world, kinda behind the sce Since I have been watching operas from MET online, I have become obsessed with music, enchanting human drama and getting to know many singers. When an African American Bass Baritone, Ryan Speedo Green was interviewed backstage and there was a mention of his memoir. I checked out the book and how inspiring it has been, a black boy who overcame all kinds of hardship, and eventually became a world renowned opera singer! But this story offered me so much more of the opera world, kinda behind the scene tour!. There have been many interesting stories. Deborah Voight who often hosted MET production and a familiar face, had to deal with her weight against getting the role she wanted. She ended up getting her stomach stapled… After 100 lbs lighter, her fans mourned a loss of vocal shades and warmth that they blamed on the shedding of fat. (not sure if weight and voice have any correlation though…) Eric Owens: Black singers have a hard time. Yes, things are a lot better than 60 years ago, and some of it is just marketing. It’s what your ticket buyers are going to feel comfortable with unconsciously. In a sense “Everyone's a little bit racist.” It does not mean that everyone is closed minded. But there is tribalism, a social thing and an evolutionary thing. Ken Noda: Japanese American who was a piano prodigy later became MET’s voice coach and a mentor to many Lindemann trainees. He became enchanted with OPERA, instead of pursuing the career as concert pianist that his mom wanted him to be. The interaction between music and libretto enthralled him. The suppleness, the living vibration of the voice, galvanized him. The collaboration between coach and performer consumed him~ As a voice coach and teacher, you are becoming their psychologist, because it goes more than just voice, you are learning about the language, enunciation and pronunciation of Italian, French, German and even Russian! Finding and refining the hidden potentials and discovering the talents are not easy tasks. Coaches are the hidden heroes behind the successful singers! Denyce Grace: When Ryan was only 15 years old, he saw Denyce Grace playing “Carmen”. Her voice dipped seductively, elevated coyly turned every man on stage into a mesmerizing phase. Ryan declared “I am going to sing at the MET.”, and growing his own impossible dream! Mr Brown: The teacher who pushed Ryan, and cared for him. Growing up in such a dysfunctional family, dad not in sight and mom volatile and violent, Ryan needed someone that he could look up to. He had Mr. Brown.. He also had other wonderful role model teachers who cared for him, Mr and Mrs Hughes when he was young. See the influence of teachers!!! (I love teachers who inspire students because they literally save kids lives and change the course of their projection forever!!) Education without practical application is useless information, Mr. Brown said. Race: Being African American is so convoluted. It is 250 years of slavery. Having to prove yourself to be human, to be equal, mentally, physically, socially equal, being African American is overcoming. It is a will power. Wagner: There are Wagner junkies who travelled the glove for his opera (Why do I feel the kinship with them, LOL) Daniel Bergner: When he heard of Ryan’s story, he pursued him persistently and for 5 years, he researched Ryan’s background, and talked to his mom, dad, brother and coaches… he invested his time and effort …. Now the product is this inspiring story. (I can see this comes out as a MOVIE!) Ryan Speedo Green: After all, this is HIS STORY…. and How he overcame all the difficulties, lack of stable home, physically abusive mom, locked up at the Juvenile facility at the age of 12 years old. He could have easily been yet another casualty and statistic of modern tragedy. Yet, instead, he worked hard and “Follow his dream” as Dr. Martin LUther King’s speech inspired him. He is extremely handsome, talented and charismatic. I love the fact that he visited a juvenile facility where he used to be locked up, and encouraged them to have a dream! I even saw an one hour interview. He is funny, honest and engaging~!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mich

    I was reading the playbill just before Verdi’s Requiem was to be performed at Tanglewood and came across the description of the singers, including that of Ryan Speedo Green, the Met’s bass-baritone, an African-American who was 6’6” and weighed 300 pounds. It described a book written by Daniel Bergner, Sing For Your Life. The performance was magnificent, and so is the book. It is difficult to distinguish the writing from the character. What made this to be a great biography- the subject or the wri I was reading the playbill just before Verdi’s Requiem was to be performed at Tanglewood and came across the description of the singers, including that of Ryan Speedo Green, the Met’s bass-baritone, an African-American who was 6’6” and weighed 300 pounds. It described a book written by Daniel Bergner, Sing For Your Life. The performance was magnificent, and so is the book. It is difficult to distinguish the writing from the character. What made this to be a great biography- the subject or the writing? In the end, it is both. The book describes the horrendously abusive upbringing in Virginia of Ryan by his mother who beat him and sent him to a juvenile correction facility where at 12 he was placed in solitary confinement. This was in part due to his writing and illustrating his desire to kill her. His father was completely absent and he only had his older brother, Adrian to look up to, though he also was in constant trouble with the law. Ryan’s uncontrollable rage gave little hope for redemption. It isn’t clear what motivated one of his teachers, Mrs. Hughes, to work with him in a special small class when he was ten and to give him direction and somehow provide him with some stability. He had never sung, couldn’t read music, or even listened to it. In the facility he was given a small radio and began listening. When he was eventually released, rather than go back to his mother, he stayed with a family who gave him the love and attention he craved. In school, he was steered to a chorus class for an easy credit and was encouraged to audition for a selective program that trained in voice, the Governor’s School. He then came under the influence of Alan Fisher, the head of the music department and Robert Brown, an accompanist. The book alternates rapidly between his tryouts at the Met and other places ,those who helped him, and his harsh upbringing. The insight that it provides into what opera singers have to go through to shape their voices is spellbinding. One of the best parts of the book is when Ryan goes back to his former juvenile detention facility and meets with the current inmates. Ryan is an amazing person and Bergner does an incredible job in getting behind his story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Cosin

    Sing for Your Life is the story of Ryan Speedo Green's path from a childhood of violent poverty to the world of opera. The secondary title, "A Story of Race, Music, and Family", sums it up nicely. The first half is well-structured with sections alternating between Green's family history - including the worst of his experiences as a large black teenager locked in a juvenile detention facility - to, 12 years later, competing in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. The second half jum Sing for Your Life is the story of Ryan Speedo Green's path from a childhood of violent poverty to the world of opera. The secondary title, "A Story of Race, Music, and Family", sums it up nicely. The first half is well-structured with sections alternating between Green's family history - including the worst of his experiences as a large black teenager locked in a juvenile detention facility - to, 12 years later, competing in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. The second half jumps around more, describing experiences before and after the competition, including people whose special attention tutoring Green made all the difference. The author's focus in the second half is not as sharp and it is a bit muddled, with some key information missing. The author, Daniel Bergner originally wrote an article about the Met competition, linked below, which he then expanded into the biography of Green, following him during subsequent training in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and other auditions and performances. I was interested in technical details about voice, as well as background about African Americans in opera and issues regarding size and race in opera casting. His story is incredible, especially given that he made it to the competition without understanding foreign languages and despite only listening to one of his competition songs on YouTube and practicing with a piano, not an orchestra. At the end of the book, Green has been cast in La Bohème, two years in the future. It was a pleasure to listen to it on YouTube and I hope to see him sometime in person or on screen at a Met Live in HD opera. EXTRAS Fresh Air interview: http://www.npr.org/2016/09/20/4947194... Original NTY article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/mag... -for-opera.html

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lonna Pierce

    The action opens by alternating between his anxiety-ridden Metropolitan Opera Audition at 24 in 2011, where he seemed ill-suited to the high-stakes competition, and his committal in sixth grade to the DeJarnette Center, a hellish juvenile detention center for mentally & criminally disturbed children after threatening his violent mother with a knife. (Dr. Joseph DeJarnette advocated for Virginia's Racial Integrity Act and Sterilization Act of 1924, and was a prominent devotee of eugenics, white s The action opens by alternating between his anxiety-ridden Metropolitan Opera Audition at 24 in 2011, where he seemed ill-suited to the high-stakes competition, and his committal in sixth grade to the DeJarnette Center, a hellish juvenile detention center for mentally & criminally disturbed children after threatening his violent mother with a knife. (Dr. Joseph DeJarnette advocated for Virginia's Racial Integrity Act and Sterilization Act of 1924, and was a prominent devotee of eugenics, white supremacy, and Hitler.) After an awful childhood and the torture of the DeJarnette Center, he was fortunate to find his voice and encouragement with skilled teachers and mentors, going on to improbably win the Met Audition. Afterwards, he received even more in-depth coaching at the Met's Lindemann Training Program, finding work and stardom at the Vienna Staatsoper. He outperformed every expectation, knowing that very few black females became opera stars (Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Denyce Graves) and even fewer men. As Eric Owens said, when asked where he had been, replied: "Well, I've been right here, incognegro!" Married and blessed with a successful career, the trajectory of this star from abject misery and abuse to worldwide operatic stage supernova status is more than remarkable. Singers and opera fans will revel in the details, made all the more relevant in today's struggles to assert that Black Lives Matter.

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