The Robert S. Duncanson Society of the Taft Museum of Art presented La-Vaune Henry, a graduate student in voice at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), as the 2001 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence November 1-15. Named for Robert S. Duncanson (1821-1872), the African American painter of the murals at the Taft Museum of Art, the Artist-in-Residence program seeks to recognize outstanding African Americans in all fields of artistic endeavor.
Henry was born on the island of St. Maarten, where as a young child, she was encouraged by her parents to join two choirs to gain knowledge and confidence. She won many song festivals on St. Maarten and around the Caribbean region. After completing her secondary education, Henry received a scholarship from the Island Government of St. Maarten to study abroad. In 1991 she went to the Netherlands to study voice performance with Trudi Koeleman at the Conservatory of Rotterdam. She studied with many professional voice teachers in Germany, Switzerland and England and sang roles in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Bizet’s Carmen.
Following her studies in Holland, Henry returned to St. Maarten, where she gave concerts and voice lessons for children and adults. In 1999 she received an Ambassadorial Scholarship from the Rotary-Delfshaven Holland and the Rotary International. Henry wanted to study in the United States, but she had only one contact there— a couple she had met 10 years earlier, Paul and Carolyn Flory of Cincinnati. The Florys were on a Caribbean cruise when their ship stopped at Philipsburg, St. Maarten. They came upon a church and hearing music, went inside. “Then we heard a young soprano singing. Her voice reminded me of a young Leontyne Price,” Mrs. Flory recalls. “It was uplifting. I was so taken by this young girl’s voice, it was like finding a rose in a desert.” They waited to meet Henry, and Mrs. Flory commented to her that there was a fine conservatory of music in Cincinnati. They exchanged names and numbers and did not speak again until Henry contacted the Florys 10 years later about her scholarship. Henry auditioned and was accepted to CCM.
Henry is currently studying voice with Mary Henderson-Stucky. “She could easily sing in European opera houses. She has a lot of drama and a lot of expressiveness in her singing,” Henderson-Stucky says. “It’s an exciting timbre and quality. She has a great deal of tenacity.” Henry has performed at various recitals at CCM as well as at the Cincinnati Art Museum and Rotary galas and conferences in Mason, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky. She will be spending a few weeks in Paris this summer working with French vocal teachers as well as Henderson-Stucky. Henry is delighted to be selected as the 2001 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence. “I am still so astonished about receiving such an award; it was the last thing I had on my mind. I can’t thank the Robert S. Duncanson Society enough for giving me another exciting experience in my life and the opportunity to work with young people as well as other audiences.”