Discipline: Interdisciplinary Art

Rawn Spearman

Discipline: Interdisciplinary Art
Region: Nashua, NH
MacDowell Fellowships: 1995

A long-time resident of Nashua, NH, Dr. Rawn Spearman (1920 – 2009) was an educator, writer, and Broadway performer, whose service to the arts community of the Granite State was honored with the Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award by Governor Jeanne Shaheen in 2001. During his 1995 MacDowell residency, where he’s pictured, he was continuing his research into the work of Langston Hughes, to whom he had dedicated much of his professional life as both performer and academic. Among the programming Spearman produced in the region was “Ask Your Mama, 12 Moods for Jazz,” an epic Hughes poem set to music, which he premiered at Concord, NH’s Capital Center for the Arts to a sold-out audience in February 1997. The performance marked not only #BlackHistoryMonth, but capped off a year of celebrations for MacDowell’s 90th birthday. Listen to NHPR's interview with Spearman about Hughes and the production.

Born in Bexar, AL, and raised in Tallahassee, FL, with his eight brothers and sisters, Spearman would graduate from Florida A&M before beginning his award-winning career as a tenor and baritone singer with a concert repertoire that included German lieder, early Renaissance and Baroque music, and the art songs of African American composers. He was a member of the renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers (1946-1947), and would go on to study at the American Theatre Wing (1947-1952). His operatic performances included appearances with the New York and Boston Symphony Orchestras, among others, and he appeared on Broadway in productions of Virgil Thomson (63, 66) and Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts as well as George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, and DuBose Heyward’s (9x 21-38) Porgy and Bess, in which he played the role of Sportin’ Life.

Throughout his career, Spearman received numerous honors for his work in musical theatre and opera, including the Marian Anderson Award, the Roland Hayes Award, the American Theatre Wing Award, the John Hay Whitney Award, the JUGG Award, and the Ville de Fontainebleau Award. The National Opera Association also recognized him as an African American trailblazer in opera and musical theatre.

Prior to his move to New Hampshire, Spearman spent time as educator, working for an anti-poverty program in Harlem before joining the faculty of Hunter College as the director of its Harlem Education Center. Spearman would earn an Ed.D. in Music and Music Education from Columbia's Teachers College, where he met his second wife, Dr. Carlesta Spearman, whom he married in 1982 in New Hampshire.


Delta Omicron

Rawn Spearman worked in the Delta Omicron studio.

Delta Omicron Studio was funded by members of the international musical fraternity in 1927. The building design is somewhat medieval in character, with an unusual cedar shingle pattern, a steeply pitched slate roof, intersecting gables, and small windows. After a 2016 deep-energy renovation, Delta Omicron is now one of the most energy efficient studio on the property…

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