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Aired Tuesday February 8th, 2011 at 11:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
When I Rise is the uplifting story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted University of Texas music student who finds herself at the epicenter of racial controversy, struggling against the odds and ultimately ascending to the heights of international opera. A lesson on living life with dignity and grace, When I Rise will premiere on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens on Tuesday, February 8 at 11 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
In 1957, Barbara Smith Conrad, who was part of the first racially integrated undergraduate class at the University of Texas, became the central figure in a civil rights storm that changed her life forever. Cast in an opera as the romantic lead opposite a white male student, Conrad became embroiled in a bitter controversy that made its way to the halls of the Texas legislature, where segregationist representatives applied pressure on the university. When Conrad was expelled from the opera, the incident escalated to the national stage, prompting singer Harry Belafonte -- then at the height of his fame -- to offer to underwrite her studies at the institution of her choice. Rather than flee, Conrad chose to stay at the University of Texas and complete her degree, graduating in 1959. This small-town girl, whose voice and spirit stem from her roots, became an internationally celebrated singer on stages around the world.
A mezzo-soprano whose distinguished career has touched the lives of her audiences, Conrad continues to complement a heavy performance schedule with artist residencies and master classes. She has established herself as one of the foremost builders of voice in the U.S. She is the co-director and co-founder of the Wagner Theater Program at the Manhattan School of Music and also maintains a private vocal studio in Manhattan.
Conrad has performed with the Metropolitan Opera and in leading roles with the Vienna State Opera, New York City Opera and many other opera houses throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South America under the direction of some of the world's leading conductors.
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