Opera singer J’nai Bridges is on a mission to make the prestigious art form more accessible to Black youth.
Bridges got her start in music as a young girl singing in her church choir. She continued to pursue music growing up, eventually singing her first opera as a junior in college. Because of the versatility of the genre and all it encompasses from orchestra to acting and costumes, Bridges believes opera to be the most beautiful art form.
She’s come a long way from her humble beginnings. She is now slated as one of the next big stars, performing several high profile roles over the last few years around the world. She’s been featured as “Delilah” in the French opera “Samson and Delilah” at the Washington National Opera, the title role in “Carmen,” at the San Francisco Opera, which she called a “dream role,” and her most recent part as “Nefertiti” in Philip Glass’ 1983 opera, “Akhnaten” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this past fall.
“Opera is for all. It’s a way to feel, and now more than ever, we need to be feeling more. But the opera house has to look more like America,” Bridges told The New York Times before her Met debut.
Now she is on a journey to make opera easily accessible for Black youth and children of color. The mezzo-soprano singer has been making sure to visit local schools before her shows to invite these youth to experience opera, many for the first time. Bridges also spends her free time teaching master classes at colleges and universities to help budding opera singers improve their techniques, she wants to let them know that anything is possible.
“When most people look at me, they don’t think that I’m an opera singer. I would say that simply by singing opera and being who I am is breaking ground. It’s been kind of characterized as an art form for the elite. Most people don’t actually feel welcome. I’m doing everything in my power to break down that barrier and make it more accessible. I consider it a great honor and privilege to be an opera singer, especially a Black female opera singer. Many Black children are not exposed to opera and classical music…I see how important it is to just break down all of the stereotypes that people have. I walk in a room or on a stage wanting to change minds and heal hearts and make music,” Bridges told Great Big Story.
Thank you for all you’re doing, J’nai! You truly deserve a brava for your work!