MaKayla McDonald | Brooklyn, New York

Soprano MaKayla McDonald is an active performer of opera, art song, and new works. Currently, she is in Iowa premiering the role of Ida B. Wells in THE SUFFRAGIST, a new musical by Nancy Hill Cobb and Cavan Hallman.

This July she will join Calliope’s Call for their virtual song festival I, Too, Sing America. In celebration of the Black experience in America and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, this festival features new works, alongside well-known works by beloved Black creators in the art song canon.

A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, where she was the recipient of two graduate assistantships, MaKayla holds both a Master of Music and Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance.

MaKayla currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. She is an adjunct Lecturer for the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and an avid park goer and food eater.

Black Water

As an emerging artist, I have found it easy to focus solely on outcomes. While goal-oriented movement is an aspect of my process that will remain unchanged, I’ve been hungry for a project that demands my full artistic and organizational focus; a project that doesn’t demand a specific outcome but is fluid in its genesis and execution. Jeremy Beck’s monodrama for soprano and piano, Black Water, is a story adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’ novella, Black Water (1992). This work illustrates the death of a young woman, as she downs in a sinking car.

We see her final moments through flashbacks, flashforwards, and hallucinations. It is a work that I spent many semesters of college studying. I was drawn to its composition, leitmotifs, and character development. Throughout my time in this program, I have found a fresh interest in telling this story.

It is my hope to workshop Black Water in Brooklyn in August, with potential full performances in the near future. I envision this piece with both singer and dancer sharing the venture of telling this story from two perspectives: from the mind and mouth of the young woman, and her body and physical presence. In this, the young woman’s plight can be thoroughly realized. In collaboration with Ella Marchment, it is my hope to support and explore an artistic and career endeavor that will stretch my performance abilities, provide an opportunity to deeply engage in “the process,” as well as bring exciting art to my Brooklyn community.

Not only do I feel like I have found a deeper and more meaningful connection to a diverse artist community... I feel empowered to be who I want as an artist. I'm experiencing an artistic autonomy that was only budding before. I've found myself making bigger choices and harder asks, all with a heart on fire. I'm grateful for the guidance and teachings of the faculty, the resources of Banff Centre, and the uplifting and love from the other participants. I feel like we've created something really special in such a murky time. What a joy art as an act of community can be!

MaKayla McDonald

See more of MaKayla McDonald's work on Instagram


MaKayla McDonald's residency was generously supported by the David Spencer Endowment Encouragement Fund.