* Acclaimed and world-renowned Gospel and classical singer Dr. Karla Scott ’s recent dissertation, “The Impact of Gospel Music Training and Performance Practice on Leadership Development and Performed Nationalism Within a Collegiate, Military Community” was presented for defense on March 25th, 2016 at the University of Maryland College Park.
In it, she discusses correlations between Gospel music training, authoritative leadership and technical leadership development within a military setting.
Best-known as a classical singer, Scott has performed throughout the United States, several times at the Kennedy Center, as well as in Zimbabwe, Africa, Rome, Italy (where she made her operatic debut) and Beijing, China.
She has sung with various orchestras including the Annapolis Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, National Orchestral Institute Orchestra and the University of Maryland Summer Chorus Orchestra.
In addition to performing at the funeral of Rosa Parks and in concert at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Scott has performed for Nelson Mandela, President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama. Scott possesses a voice of uncommon clarity and beauty and has been described by the Washington Post as “a vividly expressive soprano.” Scott is equally comfortable performing classical, jazz, contemporary worship and Gospel music.
Since 2006 she has directed the United States Naval Academy Gospel Choir completing 27 successful tours throughout the United States and a Goodwill tour to South Korea.
Under her direction, the Naval Academy Gospel Choir performed at the 2009 Inaugural Concert for President Barack Obama on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, providing backing vocals for Beyoncé and opera star, René Fleming. They also performed at the nationally televised 2014 Kennedy Center Honors.
Scott focused her doctoral studies in Vocal Pedagogy (the art and science of training singers). Her unique perspective as a classical singer who has also directed the Gospel choir at the U.S. Naval Academy for the past decade, led her to write a dissertation that is interdisciplinary and groundbreaking in its content.
In it, Scott discusses the unexpected intersections between Gospel music, military leadership and American nationalism (how we define ourselves as Americans).
For most of its 170-year history, the US Naval Academy’s core population has been white and male. In 1949, Wesley Brown became its first black graduate, a turn of events that would encourage a small, but steady stream of black graduates thereafter. By the mid 1980s, a Gospel choir was formed at the Academy and its presence served as an overt demonstration of Black culture at a majority institution. Within the first decade of the choir’s existence, Naval Academy leadership began to promote the choir as a way to recruit minority applicants.
Leadership development is central to all student activities at the Naval Academy. Based on this understanding, Scott’s dissertation examines the ways that the Gospel choir and specifically the training and performance mechanics of Gospel music directly benefit two aspects of leadership.
First, she examines Gospel music training’s impact on ‘Command Presence,’ the ability of a military officer to communicate orders authoritatively especially in times of crisis. Scott also discusses how the training mechanics of Gospel music positively impact spatial reasoning, a type of brain function required to master the technical engineering training required of all students at the Naval Academy.
Professor Carmen Balthrop, whose operatic career has included performances at the New York Metropolitan, Houston, San Francisco, Berlin and Venice opera houses, as well as concert appearances and recordings with most major American orchestras, served as chairperson for Scott’s dissertation committee and said,
“Karla is an exceptional classical performer and her singing in jazz and contemporary Christian music is equally gorgeous, so I knew her project would be musically inclusive in its scope. As Karla read her findings to me, particularly the history of the Gospel music at the Naval Academy, I could feel myself gaining respect for Gospel music and realizing that it deserves its place in American music.
Karla has met the quintessential requirement of a doctoral student, to discover something new, to edify her committee in hopes that they will then edify those they teach. I felt a great sense of pride to be associated with her and the courage it took to choose a topic that isn’t always taken seriously in classical settings. I encourage her to take this message around the world, in the hopes that Gospel music will gain the respect it deserves.”
Visual artist Patrick Delaney, whose 30-year corporate career included roles in international banking and as a senior executive at a Fortune 500 corporation, was equally impressed with her findings.
After reviewing Scott’s dissertation, Delaney said, “On the surface, this project is about music, but her teaching method and its results have important implications outside of the musical world. Scott’s approach would be an effective training tool in the corporate world as it relates to team-building, leadership development and diversity training.”
As a worship leader, she had the distinct honor of leading President Obama and the First family in worship during Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday services in Washington, DC. She recorded a worship hymns project with Damien Sneed and has shared worship settings with Bishop TD Jakes, Twinkie Clark, Smokie Norful, Alvin Slaughter, Ron Kenoly, Vicki Yohe and many others.
As a professor and teacher, Scott partnered with Wynton Marsalis, Damien Sneed and Jazz at Lincoln Center to teach multi-city workshops during the world premiere tour of the Abyssinian Mass, conducted by Sneed.
“I have known Karla Scott for over 20 years now and I’ve had the pleasure of working with her in several different capacities and musical genres,” says Sneed.
“When I first met her she was in the studio of the well-known operatic soprano, Carmen Balthrop, at the University of Maryland College Park while working on her Masters degree. Karla has performed with some of the greatest symphony orchestras, conductors and opera houses in the world.
Karla’s arrangements and compositions are extremely versatile and diverse. Karla served as the educational coordinator going ahead of the tour group (Abyssinian Mass) in each city to work with local area schools, universities and community choral groups to prepare them for our performances. It’s just a matter of time before the world will be heralding her name across the globe for her excellence in music.”
Scott also served as Instructor of Music at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she taught vocal literature, French, German and Italian Diction, as well as private voice.
She also directed Bennett’s touring choir, which performed 40 concerts annually. While pursuing her doctorate at the University of Maryland, Karla Scott served as Graduate Teaching Assistant and was responsible for teaching private voice, Vocal Pedagogy, Vocal Literature, as well as English, French, German and Italian diction.
Since 1998, Karla Scott has successfully conducted workshops in churches, schools and universities across the country through her company, The Vocal Spa. She remains passionate about providing comprehensive vocal training (body, soul and spirit) to singers, worship leaders and choir directors in the Body of Christ. She combines scientific knowledge of the voice and body with her God-given ability to encourage, re-align and refresh those called to music ministry.