2024 Commencement Speaker

Helena Brown ’12 will be the guest speaker for Hollins University’s 182nd Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 19, on Front Quadrangle.

Brown graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hollins with a bachelor’s degree in music and also studied arts management and theatre at the university. She went on to complete a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music.

An American dramatic soprano who is distinguishing herself as a force of nature on the international stage, Brown has been praised as having a “stunningly large round sound” and a “steely, velvety” timbre. Recently, she made her role debuts in productions at the Lincoln Center Theater and with the Miami Wagner Institute, New Camerata Opera, and the New York Harlem Theater’s European tour.

Brown appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as an ensemble soloist in Porgy and Bess, which was broadcast on the PBS series Great Performances. Additional appearances include multiple seasons at the Glimmerglass Festival, and with Opera Roanoke, the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. She performed the actor-singer role of Mother in Bellocq’s Ophelia, written by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91, which was presented in festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Among the prestigious awards Brown has received are the Robert Lauch Award from the Wagner Society of New York; the Sergio Franchi Award in the Deborah Voight/Vero Beach Opera Competition; and second place in the Young Patronesses of the Opera/Florida Grand Opera Competition. She has also been honored with awards/grants from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Giulio Gari Foundation, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Jensen Foundation, Cooper-Bing Competition, Opera at Florham, Opera Birmingham, Opera Ebony Benjamin Matthews, and the MetroWest Opera Vocal Competition.

At the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2023, the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones won Best Opera Recording for 2023. Brown was part of the Met Opera Chorus that performed on the recording.