Robert L. Jefferson

Baritone, Robert L. Jefferson, has performed throughout the United States, Japan, Korea, and Australia. Dr. Jefferson’s operatic roles include Count Almaviva and Figaro in Mozart’s, Le nozze di Figaro, Schaunard in Puccini’s, La bohème, Baron Mirko Zeta in Lehár’s, The Merry Widow, King Balthazar in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, scenes from Porgy and Bess, Les Misérables, South Pacific and others. He has appeared in such productions as La Calisto, Peter Grimes, and Simon Boccanegra. Dr. Jefferson has also performed as soloist in oratorio and other choral works, such as Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, and Ernest Bloch’s, Sacred Service. In addition to the classical repertoire, Jefferson is an outstanding interpreter of American Patriotic as well as traditional music from the rich African-American heritage.

Jefferson has performed with such notable organizations as the Houston Grand Opera, the United States Air Force Pacific Air Command Ensemble in Tokyo, Japan as well as the Soldiers’ Chorus of The United States Army Field Band, Washington, DC. He has also performed with major symphonic orchestras and in concert halls including Strathmore, Meyerhoff, Boston Symphony and Carnegie Hall, and has taught at the elementary through college levels. Dr. Jefferson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona, a Master of Music degree from the University of Houston, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Maryland. A vocal student of Elena Nikolaidi and François Loup.

Being an accomplished pianist and composer, Jefferson is also skilled in jazz and gospel. Dr. Jefferson is the author of the most popular and comprehensive books on the study of Gospel Music Performance Practice and Technique. His text book, Spirituals and Gospel Music Performance Practice: A Dual Curriculum that Bridges the Cultural Divide, is used by educators as a guide in developing a curriculum in the study of Gospel Music and Spirituals in the classroom environment. Dr. Jefferson is published by Oxford University Press, Theodore Presser, Carl Fischer, as well as other publishers.

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Jefferson at Workshop

About Dr. Jefferson’s Background and Philosophy

Jefferson´s first piano teacher, Mary O. Lewis along with his numerous mentors, including Alma Androzzo, the composer of one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s most favorite songs; “If I Can Help Somebody,” instilled in him at an early age the importance of writing down and sharing what he had learned with others.

During his childhood, Jefferson was developing his leadership and entrepreneurial skills under the guidance of his parents and elders. As a young child, his mother would take him to churches throughout Arizona to play for events throughout the Arizona National Baptist Convention. He lovingly jokes with his mother, “You took me on a circuit when I was a kid.” He eventually started teaching private piano at age 14.

Jefferson continues to have an insatiable curiosity about numerous topics, from music, to investing, to human relationships. Motivated by God´s love for him through Jesus Christ, Jefferson feels that because of God’s mercy and grace toward him, he will always remain indebted to his Savior, Jesus Christ.

Because of his broad interests, Jefferson did not feel that he had to limit himself to one particular style of music. His early training began with Gospel Music through the church, playing by ear; and learning Classical Music through his private piano lessons. He sometimes says, “It was like learning two different languages simultaneously. At church, there was very little written musical notation, while at school, however, there was only written musical notation. As a result, both idioms were of equal importance.”

He naively thought that everyone had this same experience, but was surprised to find out that there were groups of musicians who play wonderfully by ear but the written score was like reading ancient Greek to them, and on the other hand, there were groups of musicians who could play almost any musical score you placed in front of them, but when it came to playing by ear, they were completely dumbfounded.

Jefferson goes on to say, “Being able to read musical notation and play by ear has allowed me to have the best of both worlds.” This philosophy is what he basis his books and teaching materials on. I Cor 9:22b I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

“Although I realize that it is not everyone´s desire to be able to play all styles of music, or play for all styles of worship services, I personally believe that the ability to play both by music and by ear has literally opened up the world to me. Some say that it is not good to be a ´Jack of all trades and a master of none,´ but I feel that you can be a ´master of many trades.´

Jefferson´s knowledge and ability to perform various styles of music has opened many doors outside of music and has helped to shape him into becoming the individual that he is today. He is now able to co-mingle with those in the Jazz arena, or the classical arena, or in the broad Christian Music arena, between the various musical styles of the Christian Church.

This has opened up doors for one of Jefferson´s other passions; “Cross Cultural Communication Within the Body of Christ.” In the church today, particularly the church in America, there are broad divisions within the Body of Christ. These divisions are based upon worship styles, tradition, language barriers, but most of all, upon RACE. Sunday, the “Lord´s Day,” remains the most segregated day in America. This is unfortunate and also morally wrong, especially considering the fact that the early Christian Church and almost the entire book of Acts, speaks of racial unity within the Church.
God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has used music as a means of preparing Jefferson for God´s purpose, the “unity of the faith.”

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unit of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Unity and diversity within the Body of Christ was not something that Jefferson desired as a life long dream or passion, but God in His mercy has seen fit that He use Jefferson for this purpose. “I would not choose this mission on my own, actually, I would rather be doing something that was less controversial, but may God´s will be done in my life.”

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Robert L. Jefferson