Janice Chandler-Eteme is regarded as one of the world's foremost lyric sopranos. She has appeared as soloist under the baton of leading conductors with major orchestras in North America as well as with international groups, including those in Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Montreal, Vancouver, Geneva, Rome, Japan, Hong Kong, and others.
Chandler-Eteme was a favorite of the distinguished maestro Robert Shaw, a discerning connoisseur of voices, in the last years of his life and his choice as a featured soloist when he guest-directed the Cleveland, Minnesota, Boston, and other orchestras. She was also a featured soloist in his last appearance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1997, when he led the orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
Chandler-Eteme, a native of Maryland, was raised in a strict Seventh-day Adventist home, the daughter of Charles and Mary Chandler. She was educated in Adventist church schools and graduated from Pine Forge Academy. She began singing in her teenage years in the church choir and in a girls' trio, the latter ensemble continuing during her years at PFA.
She attended Oakwood College, now University, where she pursued a music major, a choice that troubled her parents. In a community where singing is a vital part of life, the belief is that one must be truly unusual to declare it as a profession. After hearing her sing on several occasions, they realized that she had a special gift and supported her decision.
Following graduation from Oakwood College in 1988, Chandler-Eteme attended Indiana University, where she completed an M.Mus. in vocal performance in 2001 and was a recipient of the school's prestigious Performance Certificate. While at IU, one of her teachers alerted agents at Columbia Artists Management about a performance of Mozart's Mass in C Minor in which she would be a soloist. They were impressed and immediately offered her a contract that she accepted.
Chandler-Eteme believes in the sacredness of the Sabbath and quickly became troubled by the conflict arising over Sabbath performances and her beliefs. Within a year, her unwillingness to compromise over this issue led Columbia to drop her from its roster of artists, a devastating setback for her.
For a year she tried unsuccessfully to promote herself while working at a couple of odd jobs. In 1993 she began to attract attention when she sang as a member in the Choral Arts Society of Washington and then in the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.
This exposure, along with a recommendation by the music department chair at Morgan State University, where she was teaching part-time, led to an audition with Mirjam Yardumian, artistic manager of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. By coincidence, world-famous conductor Neville Marriner, who was guest conducting the BSO, heard her sing at that time and was also impressed by the quality and versatility of her voice.
In October 1995, Chandler-Eteme was called upon to replace a soloist who had been scheduled to sing in a performance of Mozart's Mass in C Minor by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but had fallen ill. Robert Shaw, who was guest conducting, was taken with her voice and immediately made arrangements for her to sing under him with leading orchestras the following season. A month later, her breathtaking performance as a soloist in Orff's Carmina Burana at the Baltimore Choral Arts Society's opening concert came as a revelation to the audience, most of whom had never heard of her.
With these successes, Chandler-Eteme's career was launched. As the new century started, she has sung with leading orchestras and choral groups, given numerous recitals and chamber music performances, and appeared in radio and television broadcasts across the country and in Europe. She has been invited to sing at many festivals and has toured in Japan, Russia, and the Czech Republic. She is also featured on a number of commercial recordings.
Recent performances have included playing Bess in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess with the Opera de Lyon in France and at the International Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in the 2010-2011 season. In that same season, Chandler-Eteme sang with the San Diego Symphony in Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, presented a program of American songs with the Geneva Symphony in Switzerland, and was a soloist in the Brahms Requiem with the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida.
Chandler-Eteme's repertoire embraces a number of composers and a wide variety of styles. Aside from the writings of composers mentioned earlier and other traditional orchestral works featuring choruses and soloists, she has performed Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts, Hannibal Lakumbe's One Heart Beating (a world premiere), John Williams' Seven for Luck, Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3, Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer 1915, Morton Gould's From Spirituals to Strings Cantata, and other works.
Sources: Glenn McNutt, "True to Her Convictions," The Sun Magazine of the The Baltimore Sun, 31 March 1996; Thea Dispeaker, Inc, Janice Chandler biography, August 1997; Janice Chandler Eteme website biography, www.janicechandlereteme.com (2008); Oakwood University website biography; Morgan State University website biography (2012); DSO, Classical Roots Artists, www.dso.org;