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Out of the Box Opera Teams With J.D. Steele on “Opera/Gospel” Show Feb. 9th

Article by Merle Minda

Artistic Director David LefkowichOut of the Box Opera and the Weisman Art Museum will present a program of opera and gospel music created by Out of The Box artistic director David Lefkowich and Minnesota music legend J.D. Steele on Saturday, February 9 at 7pm, at the Weisman Museum on the University of Minnesota campus. Steele will also perform an original piece he has composed for the event that incorporates both opera and gospel styles. The program is part of Out of The Box’s “Fusion Series” combining opera with other musical genres.

Renowned gospel musician J.D. SteeleLefkowich explains, “Our goal is to take what is best in both genres and combine them into something new that will appeal not just to fans of opera and gospel but to music lovers across all disciplines.” He adds, “Breaking down boundaries is what Out of The Box is all about.” Steele’s career has also reached across musical boundaries, covering everything from singing and arranging commercial jingles for Target and other national brands, to composing and performing gospel, musical theater, R&B, jazz and opera across the US and around the world with collaborators including Prince, Donald Fagan, George Clinton and Mavis Staples.

With their similar category-defying approaches, Steele says “it seemed a natural fit for us to create a program incorporating both opera and gospel music.” Lefkowich notes that this production is actually the second “Fusion” event presented by Out of The Box. The first was a melding of opera with jazz that was presented in cooperation with the Weisman in February of 2018 and also performed in New York City in November 2018 at the 75 Club at Bogardus Mansion.

Material will be drawn from opera favorites by Verdi and Puccini as well as gospel songs from Edwin Hawkins, Quincy Jones and Curtis Mayfield. The program will feature accompaniment by J.D.’s brother Fred Steele, and two groups that Steele directs, the Mill City Singers and MacPhail Community Youth Choir. The evening will end with all the performers joining with the audience in a grand finale that Steele guarantees “will get people moving around” and Lefkowich says “the Weisman will rock with music of gospel and opera like never before.”

Tickets ($55 reserved rows and $40 general admission) are available at or Doors will open at 6:00pm, with the audience invited to explore the Weisman galleries before the performance, which begins at 7:00pm. The Weisman is located at 333 East River Parkway on the University of Minnesota Campus, and there is paid parking available on site.

In addition to J.D. Steele, the following artists will be performing:

Tenor Dom Wooten

Soprano Alexandra Razskazoff (Alexandra won the 2017 Diva Cage Match)

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About Merle Minda

Journalist and free-lance writer Merle Minda writes about travel, business, people profiles and other subjects for a number of national and regional publications, including Delta SKY, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business, Star Tribune, Twin Cities Statement, Minnesota Monthly, and now Mill City Times. She can be reached at or on the web.

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