Audra McDonald, record-breaking winner of six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, and the National Medal of Arts, brought more than her dazzling soprano to the UNCG Auditorium Saturday, March 9.

For UNCG School of Theatre students who attended a brief Q&A before the concert, McDonald shared wisdom borne from a lifetime of hard work in the arts. The Q&A came after a sound check, during which students got a little taste of the music to come.

“To experience her power, even before she was fully warmed up, was incredible,” said Yansa Crosby, a theatre student. “I’ve known Audra’s work since I was a child. A lot of the songs in my rep[ertoire] book are because of her. I’ve modeled a lot of my work after her.”

When the world seems to be telling you ‘no,’ sometimes you have to be the one to tell yourself ‘yes.'”

Given the wide range of McDonald’s talents and accolades, it’s no surprise that questions from students like Crosby ran the gamut, from advice for staying motivated and keeping your voice in shape to how to channel your deepest emotions into a character for the stage or screen.

At the heart of McDonald’s wisdom was a call for students to take care of their bodies, pursue their dreams, and remember the power of the arts.

How to deal with being frustrated with your vocal performance?

At this point in my life, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t expect to sound the same way every day. Your body isn’t the same every day,” McDonald said. “I’ve learned to give myself a break, and try to let myself be where I am in the moment. I’m still learning things about my voice technically. I still take lessons.”

How to overcome discouragement?

When the world seems to be telling you ‘no,’ sometimes you have to be the one to tell yourself ‘yes.'”

After the Q&A, McDonald took a group photo with theatre students like Jalen Walker.

“It was such a great opportunity to meet her and hear her talk about her process and past,” said Walker. “Just to bask in the ambience of being in the presence of someone like Audra McDonald is amazing.”

Audra McDonald speaks with UNCG students during the Q&A session before the concert March 9.

Audra McDonald takes a photo with students after a Q&A session.


Story by Victor Ayala, University Communications

Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, and Mike Micciche