Emorja Roberson:The Musician

Emorja Roberson is a conductor, vocalist, and composer who specializes in classical and gospel music. Roberson graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance, where he studied with Krzysztof Biernacki. He has held lead roles in Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), The Consul, The Mikado and La Bohème with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and performed as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah. 

 In 2016, he debuted his piece, “Let’s Just Praise the Lord”, with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra and was a featured soloist on Robert Kry’s, Paradiso: Transformation and Transfiguration and Mass for the Oppressed by Emerson Eads. He has premiered Evelyn Simpson Curenton’s “Sweet Lil Jesus” and was featured as the soloist for J.J. Wright’s O Emmanuel with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir. In Roberson was Duke Frederick in Roger Steptoe’s world-premiere opera of the Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It”, under the direction of John Apeitos. As a master’s student in the Sacred Music Department at the University of Notre Dame, Roberson was a student of Dr. Stephen Lancaster and worked with world-renowned soprano, Deborah Voight, Carla Rae Cook, and J.J. Penna. Roberson recorded with Grammy Award Winner, Arturo Sandoval, for the Notre Dame Children’s Choir CD, Christmas at Notre Dame, as a soloist on “Frosty, the Snowman” with Matthew Kelly.

Roberson was coined as the first African-American to graduate with a Master of Sacred Music in Vocal Performance (’17) from the University of Notre Dame. In 2019, Roberson continued to make history as the first African-American to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting (’22) with an emphasis in African-American repertoire. As a student of Dr. Mark Doerries, he piloted the Voices of Courage choir at Madison Primary Center. 

The South Bend Symphony Orchestra performed Roberson’s compositions, “I Need Your Presence” and “Lord, I Am Grateful” under the batons of Dr. Marvin Curtis and Dr. Alastair Willis for the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Concert. As the first-place winner for the 2018 American Negro Spirituals competition, Roberson performed at Severance Hall in Cleveland, OH. For the third consecutive year, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra debuted Roberson’s, “God Is My Refuge” and “Trust in The Lord” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.

As a doctoral student, Roberson hosted the University of Notre Dame’s first Black History Month concert, which featured artists in jazz, classical, and gospel, which included Callie Day, Isaac Cates, J.J. Wright, and Alex Mansour. He made his national debut on Season 9 of BET’s Sunday Best competition as a top 20 contestant, and in March 2020, his piece, "Seek Ye First" from The Evening Musicale (2019), was featured on Sirius XM 64 (Kirk Franklin's Praise).  On November 15, 2019, Roberson served as the choir director for Kathleen Battle's The Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey tour with the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame. Roberson is the recipient of the 2020 Song of the Year award and the 2020 People’s Choice Award with Independent Gospel Artist Alliance Award. He is the Director of Voices of Faith Gospel Choir and the Founder/Host for Black@ND.

He was awarded with the 2021 Academic Freedom Award from the Department of Africana Studies and is the recipient of the 2022 Sr. Jean Lenz Award for his leadership that promotes a more diverse, inclusive campus community for all students.

BE-SPOKEN, his most recent oratorio, highlights the experiences of the Black experience through jazz, hip-hop, and gospel. The premiere included artists, such as, Anthony Walker, King Chav, HarRell D. Young, Donishisa Ballard, and Grammy-Award winner, Ledisi.