Acclaimed Opera Singer, Denyce Graves, Celebrates One-Year Anniversary of Foundation

NEW YORK, Feb. 24, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — For its one-year anniversary, the Denyce Graves Foundation (DGF) is excited to announce partnerships with the Smithsonian Institution, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and Conservatories around the country. The DGF has received countless gifts of support and many accolades from community and industry leaders.

Emmy and Grammy award winning mezzo-soprano, Denyce Graves became inspired to develop the DGF when learning about an extraordinary singer and entrepreneur Mary Cardwell Dawson; the all-Black opera company she founded in 1941, and the site of her famed home, previously called the National Negro Opera House (NOH) in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, PA.  Graves learned about the severely dilapidated structure when one of her students created a call to action for the home, last winter. Never having heard the story of Mary Cardwell Dawson or her Opera company, Graves quickly jumped into action and contacted the homeowner, Ms. Jonnet Solomon who had garnered little local or national support within the 20 years of owning the historic structure.

Graves stated, "I believed this site could be restored to its original beauty and serve as a resource for emerging artists as well as a stage for featured performances, just as Madame Dawson had done 80 years ago."

Because of Graves’ efforts, an estimated $2M has been raised towards the $6M goal for the endangered site. The continual research on the NOH and Mary Cardwell Dawson, revealed the unfortunate reality that many classical musicians like Dawson, had been excluded from the American story.

Graves added: "When we were raising the funds to save the house, I never imagined this was something we would lead. I thought we were contributing to a project, I never expected that we would be standing up a foundation."

The DGF is "rooted in the belief that now is the time to increase our nation’s commitment to its artists, both past and present—for America’s future and for the whole world. In paying homage to the achievements of so many who have gone before while serving the real needs of today’s emerging artist singers, the DGF is giving back and paying it forward simultaneously."

"I am thrilled to serve in an advisement capacity for the foundation as well as an industry partner.  Their growth has been inspiring to watch.  I join the many applauding this critical work," remarked Henry Timms President & CEO of Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts.

Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution shared, "this is one of the most exciting things I’ve heard in a long time and it’s important, not just for Black people, but for all Americans. It’s my life’s work; to uncover these hidden gems, like Mary Cardwell Dawson and we plan to support the DGF as much as we can."

Graves is looking forward to a dynamic year with plans to launch programming coupled with special events for artistic stakeholders, and the community nationwide.


DGF is focused on the intersection of social justice, American history, and the arts. Deeply inspired by the achievements of America’s hidden musical figures, the foundation is invested in doing research and educating the public about their remarkable stories of courage and persistence. From enriching our musical heritage to preparing the diverse pool of tomorrow’s vocal stars, DGF will positively impact how artists are valued in this nation, encouraging inclusive opportunity, access, and advocacy for the next generation.


Melinda N. Gainer, (757) 615-2831

SOURCE Denyce Graves Foundation