UNF Spinnaker

UNF alumni singer, Emorja Roberson, shares his musical experiences

Darvin Nelson, Features Editor

Featured Image from Emorja Roberson Facebook.

Emorja Roberson is a UNF alumni that graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance. According to his website, “As of May 2017, Roberson was coined as the first African-American to graduate with a Master of Sacred Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Notre Dame,” and “Currently, Roberson is a student of Dr. Mark Doerries and is the first African-American student in the Doctor of Musical Arts program to study Choral Conducting with a focus in African-American repertoire.”

Emorja talks about his musical experiences, and shares some wise words about pursuing your passion:

Spinnaker: What is music to you?

“To me, music is the extension of speech exemplified through rhythm or a melodic tone that tells a story,” said Emorja.

Any recent goals accomplished?

“Some of the recent goals I’ve accomplished was being a top 20 contestant on season 9 of BET’s Sunday Best, releasing my latest music video recording of my single, ‘He’ll Be With You’, which was shared by Tina Lawson (Beyonce’s mom), the recording of my compositions by the Notre Dame Folk Choir, and surviving in America as a black man.” 

What are your future goals?

“I have several goals: 

1.) Work at a university and build a program that appreciates and practices genres originated by black artists. 

2.) Continue working on film and build a voiceover career. 

3.) Become a world-known performer. 

4.) Build a school for the Performing Arts that educates African-American students on the musical contributions inspired by practices of the African diaspora.”

What motivates or inspires you as a musician?

“I am a pretty self motivated guy, but if I ever get in a funk and need a pick-me-up, music by Richard Smallwood, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, P.J. Morton, and John Legend, usually gives me the push I need. Outside of that, my desire to be the best version of myself is what inspires me. Knowing that there is a world out there to experience, I have no reason to become complacent. A young black child needs to see me and realize that they are capable of becoming whatever they desire in life. Nothing is too hard to accomplish, it just takes dedication and consistency.”

Any music coming out? If so, could you describe the feeling of making music?

“The most recent song I wrote was a response to George Floyd’s death called ‘Stop Killin’ Me.’ It is not recorded on an album, but it will be in the near future. However, I do have new music coming out in August. It has a bit of a funk feel to it with a groove that you won’t forget. It’s not gospel, but it’s inspirational.”

What was your musical experience like here at UNF?

“Wow – UNF is where it all started. Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki, and my godfather, Rudolph Cleare, took me under their wing and helped me to unlock my potential as a singer. It wasn’t easy for me because I grew up in a community that did not read music, but instead, we made music of our own- we sang what we felt. When arriving at UNF, I, in a sense, had to reverse my learning strategy. Instead of my learning by ear, I had to learn by reading music. Needless to say, with help from my professors, I was able to gain the knowledge and experience that allowed me to perform in operas and ensembles within the music department. Dr. Cara Tasher taught me how to become a better choral singer, but also a more exceptional musician. Working under her leadership taught me to be ready at all times, because you never knew what she had up her sleeve. One minute you’re tucked away in the choir singing within your section, and before you know it, she has you singing in an octet with 50+ singers watching and waiting to see if you’ve nailed your part. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t steal this method for my choir, because I did. My musical experience at UNF was my foundation for the career that I have today.”

Any words of encouragement for people?

“For many years, I found myself falling into the temptation of being a copycat and attempting to be someone else, and quite frankly, that was not the individual God created me to be. You are uniquely designed and no one else has your fingerprints; therefore, no one else has your gifts. You are responsible for using the talents that have been assigned to your life. Whatever your passion is, pursue it. Focus on your end goal and achieve it. Onward and upward is the path.”

 Emorja is currently a student in the Sacred Music Department at the University of Notre Dame, pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting.


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UNF alumni singer, Emorja Roberson, shares his musical experiences