A Dream Opportunity to Explore New Musical Ideas: The Kresge Arts Fellowship Experience

Apr 03, 2019
Kisma Jordan (sitting, second from right) with the 2014 Kresge Artist Fellows in Dance/Music and Film/Theatre

The Kresge Arts Fellowship is for Detroit, Michigan artists who are strongly committed to exemplary artistic achievement. The no-strings-attached $25,000 award also includes professional practice opportunities and access to a large network. The fellowship is open to artists in various fields, including dance, music, film, theatre, literature, and visual arts, in both contemporary or traditional forms. There is no educational background requirement, and fellowships are awarded primarily for creative vision.

We talked to Kisma Jordan, an accomplished Opera singer from Detroit, Michigan, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.

1. What inspired you to apply for the Kresge Arts Fellowship?

I learned about the Kresge Artist Fellowship through a flyer. I decided to visit the website for more information, and after a quick read instantly knew it was for me. At that time, I had just completed my postgraduate studies in Opera at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD, moved back home to Detroit, and was planning my next career move. I wanted something different, and was unsure of what it needed to be. My professional experiences as an Opera singer to that point were rewarding and included many solo orchestral appearances and vocal awards, however, I longed for more control over my creative opportunities.

The Kresge Artist Fellowship inspired me to think about creative and entrepreneurial freedom. So, I applied with the intention to make a platform suited for my gift in music, creating opportunities on my own terms curated by and for me.

Kisma presenting an excerpt of her concert experience, OperaSoul, at TEDxDetroit 2016 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, MI

2. What are the benefits of the fellowship?

The Kresge Artist Fellowship offers a no-strings-attached $25,000 monetary award and loads of professional practice opportunities. Through the fellowship, I was able to establish relationships with organizations across the country, all of whom continue to support me and my endeavors to this day. My network grew tenfold overnight! I discovered a whole community of artists like me and collaborated with many of them. One of the greatest things was the exposure I received from people being excited about the art I wanted to make. Word of mouth served me well. Also, as a fellow, I continue to have access to resources. It’s literally the award that keeps on giving.

With the fellowship, I was able to be mentored and receive insights into how to make a living as an artist. I was also able to establish a stronger online presence with an artist’s website and new photos. I organized a better home office and purchased studio time. The fellowship encouraged me to explore some new musical ideas I had previously only dreamed about doing. For example, I had an idea to create music that innovatively fused Operatic vocals with other genres. These opportunities gave me the confidence to bet on myself and ultimately led to grant support for my work, now entitled OperaSoul, which will premiere next year in 2020.

OperaSoul expands the scope of classical voice and its audience globally, as a concert experience that seamlessly blends operatic vocals with those of multiple genres including, but not limited to, Gospel, R & B, Rock, and Pop. The fusion of operatic vocals with other singing styles is a performance practice implemented organically to create a platform that acknowledges professionally trained singers of color, who are gifted and exhibit a great deal of vocal versatility. OperaSoul is a 2017 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit winner, and with the support of the Knight Foundation and the Miami Foundation, will debut in Detroit.

Kisma performing at the Art x Detroit Kresge Arts Experience in 2015

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Kresge Arts Fellowship?

The best advice I can offer to artists applying to the Kresge Artist Fellowship is to be mindful of how you write and describe your art. Taking the ideas in your mind and forming them into words that ALL people can grasp, not only artists, is half the battle. Writing clearly and passionately is a winning formula. Also, there is only one you, so let your authenticity shine through. Be candid about what makes you and the art you want to create different from what the rest of the world is doing.

Characterized by The New York Times as a “shimmering soprano voice” accomplished singer Kisma Jordan is a voice of immense versatility, highlighted by performances of Opera, Art song, and concert works. In recent seasons, Kisma made appearances with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and the Warren Philharmonic. Inspired by the disproportionate amount of artists of color on the Opera stage, Kisma is invested in pushing the conventions of classical voice through integrating Operatic and soulful vocals. Singing since age four, the Detroit, Michigan native holds degrees in music from Historically Black College Kentucky State University, Bowling Green State University-College of Musical Arts, and Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University. Kisma’s notable honors include top awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation, The National Opera Association, The Cleveland Foundation, and The National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Interested in applying? Bookmark the Kresge Arts Fellowship to your ProFellow account.

© Victoria Johnson 2019, all rights reserved.