Youngstown’s Lawrence Brownlee Is Up for a Grammy Award

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Lawrence Brownlee, the opera star who hails from Youngstown, is in the running for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album category for “Rising.”

The album features Brownlee as the soloist and Kevin J. Miller as pianist.

The Grammy ceremony will take place Sunday, Feb. 4, at Arena in Los Angeles. It will be televised live at 8 p.m. on CBS.

The other nominees in the category are:

  • “Because,” Reginald Mobley, soloist; Baptiste Trotignon, pianist.
  • “Broken Branches,” Karim Sulayman, soloist; Sean Shibe, accompanist.
  • “40@40,” Laura Strickling, soloist; Daniel Schlosberg, pianist.
  • “Walking in the Dark,” Julia Bullock, soloist; Christian Reif, conductor (Philharmonia Orchestra).

‍Brownlee, a graduate of East High School, conceived of the “Rising” project during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In creating the album, he commissioned six Black composers – Damien Sneed, Brandon Spencer, Jasmine Barnes, Joel Thompson and Shawn E. Okpebholo – to set poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to song.

The poets include Alice Dunbar Nelson, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson and more.

The songs revolve around themes of joy, empowerment, faith, love and strength in the face of challenge, according to Brownlee’s website.

Brownlee also collaborated with Louise Toppin, soprano and vocal professor at the University of Michigan, to revive select works from composers Margaret Bonds and Robert Owen. He also included works from Jeremiah Evans.

“These past years have been a trial, both for humanity as a whole and the African American population here in the United States,” Brownlee said in a statement. “But through all these many challenges we have faced, I have also seen moments of strength, inspiration, hope and great beauty. It is those themes of uplift, elevation and rebirth that we have tried to focus on with this new project … to create something that speaks not just to our struggles, but to our triumphs.”

Pictured at top: Lawrence Brownlee. (Photo by Shervin Lainez)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.