The Voice


Watch: Kevin Maynor discusses Paul Robeson and the opera about the famed African American performer’s life at

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Starting in church and school choirs in Tuckahoe, New York, Kevin Maynor ’76 created harmonies with a friend’s doo-wop group in the halls of his high school. His voice first attracted international attention during a Bradley Chorale tour of Europe when he was an occasional soloist. Now, he is a leading voice in opera, with performances acclaimed nationally and internationally.

The first Western apprentice at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Maynor also has received a Fulbright Award, a George London Award and a Richard Tucker Career Grant. Before his operatic talents were honed, he sang with the Chorale and formed the group Cadence (“We were like The Temptations”), which performed with the Peoria Symphony.

“Everywhere the Chorale performed [in France], people went crazy,” he noted in his melodious bass voice. “Spain, same thing. We went to England. Same thing. That’s when I realized my voice was important.”

Now a doctoral student at Indiana University, his “big break” came with the Chicago Lyric Opera while earning a master’s degree at Northwestern University in 1978. He also holds a diploma from the Manhattan School of Music, an honorary degree from the Moscow Conservatory and has studied opera in Italy.

In addition to the Chicago Lyric Opera, his performances have included the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, the Spoleto Festival and Carnegie Hall.

In 2004, after years of worldwide operatic performance, Maynor worked with city officials in Newark, New Jersey, where he lives, to form the nonprofit Trilogy: An Opera Company, focusing on the work of African American composers.

“I became interested in commissioning new pieces,” Maynor said, adding Trilogy has performed more than two dozen productions focused on African American figures and events since its founding. Last November, the company premiered Robeson about the famous activist-singer-actor-athlete Paul Robeson, with Maynor in the title role. Recently, the Smithsonian Institution requested DVDs and musical scores of all the operas performed by Trilogy over the years.

Maynor has performed on U.S. State Department-sponsored cultural tours overseas and is scheduled for another to Kenya. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of an opera about early 20th century black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and performances with the Palm Beach Opera.

Maynor cites among his favorite roles Mefistofele and the “small but important” Hunding in Die Walküre. He also sang the title role in the world premiere of Frederick Douglass about the famed orator and writer. “I loved playing Frederick Douglass,” Maynor said. “It’s a fabulous role.”

Along with mentioning several friends from his time at Bradley, including Booker Miles ’76 and Linda Perkins Lopez ’76 MA ’79, Maynor remembered the leadership of the late Dean Howard, Dr. John Davis and Dr. Allen Cannon, emeritus professors in the music department; Ann Davis, assistant professor emerita of music; and Dr. Barbara Penelton, associate professor emerita of education.

“I had a great time. It was a lot of fun,” he said of his years on the Hilltop. He returned for a master class and recital in the late 1980s and again, briefly, during a 2008 U.S. recital tour. “We were close by, and I stopped to see what was happening — and to buy some Avanti’s bread.” 

— By Bob Grimson ’81