The Black Brilliance Competition was created in 2021 by Jhané Perdue, Artistic Projects Coordinator at The Pleiades Project, to celebrate Black artists, especially musicians, composers, poets and other creators. While The Pleiades Project is primarily focused on creating performance opportunities for women in the arts, this competition is open to all, with the stipulation that submissions must be written by Black Women. The 2021 competition was generously supported by Black Opera Alliance’s Derrell Acon, baritone and Arts Activist.

On June 18, 2022, Toledo Opera celebrates Juneteenth all over the city, and are working with NYC based organization The Pleiades Project to highlight the contributions and genius of Black Women Composers. Winners Amber Cierra Merritt and Ikpemesi O of the 2022 Black Brilliance Competition will perform live at the Juneteenth Community Health & Wellness Fair at 12:15 pm at Smith Park, and at the BlackNIQ Festival at 2:45 pm at Uptown Green.

The Pleiades Project & Toledo Opera Present the winners of the 2022

Black Brilliance Competition

First Place Winner

Daniel Rich, Baritone, has appeared in various roles with Morgan Opera Workshop, MSM Opera Theater, Trilogy Opera, The Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, Opera Delaware, Maryland Opera, The Spoleto Festival and Opera Ithaca. Daniel is also a recitalist & an emerging concert artist, performing Concert & Oratorio work with organizations such as Opera Ebony, Three on 3, CAAPA, NANM, Harlem Opera Theater, amongst others. In addition to being a full time performer, he works as a vocal music educator and adjunct professor of voice at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is a graduate of Morgan State University (BA ’17) and Manhattan School of Music (MM ’19).

Second Place Winner

Metropolitan Opera Soprano, Angeli Ferrette, is known for her bell-like tones and passionate delivery. She puts her all into her craft to ensure that every performance is a genuine and unforgettable experience. Her abilities span from opera, oratorio, spirituals, sacred songs, and jazz-Angeli’s genius and mastery is undeniable. To experience Angeli’s voice is to experience true artistry!

Third Place Winner

Amber Cierra Merritt is a first-year Specialist student at the University of Michigan where she studies with Dr. Louise Toppin. During her time at Michigan, Merritt starred as Edmonia in the workshop of the opera Edmonia by William Banfield and as the Sparrow in Nkeiru Okoye’s Bre’r Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

Merritt also starred as Frau Herz in Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor. Merritt placed first in the Great Lakes Region’s National Student Auditions in the Advanced Category and first in the regional and national level in the Hall Johnson Spirituals category in 2020. This season, Merritt has starred in two PBS specials with the American Pops Orchestra entitled “One Voice: American Roots” and “United in Song: Celebration of American Roots”.

Honorable Mention

Ikpemesi O (she/her/hers) is a Nigerian-American musician, artist and performer. She loves exploring the world through vocal music, poetry and spoken word. A community builder to the core, her art explores the human experience through the lens of finding joy in the little things while critically examining the world around her towards the goal of creating empathy and highlighting our shared human experience. She has a BA in Voice Performance from Albion College. Currently, she is working as a freelance singer and artist since wrapping up a Master of Music Performance in Voice at Bowling Green State University in April. For performance inquiries please reach out to her on Instagram  @IkpemesiO.