Graduating seniors plan to use their unique ‘songs’ to make a difference

Northwestern Now: Summaries

EVANSTON – Opera star Renée Fleming delivered the commencement address to 6,151  Northwestern University graduates this morning (June 22) at Ryan Field. The leading lady of Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera — and even the Super Bowl — fittingly delivered her message with musical accompaniment from composer and alumnus Doug Peck (’03) and students from Northwestern’s gospel choir.“As a singer, any achievement I have comes from my voice,” Fleming said. “So the most valuable gift I can offer you is a voice lesson.”She urged each graduate to shape the world using their unique voice and named examples of Northwestern alumni whose distinctive voices helped change American culture and their communities, including disability rights advocate Shirley Ryan whose generosity helped fund the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the number one rehabilitation hospital in the country. “That’s a Northwestern voice in action,” Fleming said.She also asked the graduates to look around and identify “Who are your backup singers?”Citing loneliness as the number one health risk for youth, Fleming stressed the importance of reaching out for support if fear ever kept them on the sidelines. She shared her experience in persevering against performance anxiety so great that she required the support of a therapist and her voice teacher who “literally pushed me on stage so I wouldn’t stop.”Among the students selected to perform alongside Fleming were School of Communication graduates Robert Cunningham, Mariah Lorraine Copeland, Christopher Flaim, Mary Godby, Chamaya Moody and Allie Woodson, who shared their thoughts about performing with the world-famous soprano, and their desire to use their own voices in the world.On their master class with Renée FlemingChamaya Moody:“Performing with Renée feels like an honor, and the fact that I’m doing it with my friends and that we’re performing on a stage together, for probably the last time, is pretty special.”Robert Cunningham:“Representing …

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