The world premiere of   
26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man   
a new song cycle by B.E. Boykin

26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man, a new song cycle by B.E. Boykin, set to the poetry of Raymond Patterson, and commissioned by the Merola Opera Program, will have its world premiere on May 31 at the Oakland School for the Arts and on June 2 at the Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre. Baritone Sidney Outlaw (Merola '10) and pianist Warren Jones, longtime collaborators, will perform the new work.

Outlaw and Jones will premiere the song cycle on May 31, 2023, for students at the Oakland School of the Arts, with students in graphic design providing projected images to accompany the songs. Following the performance, the artists and composer will discuss the creative process with students at the school.

Sidney Outlaw
Baritone Sidney Outlaw (Merola '08)

On June 2, 2023, Outlaw and Jones will perform 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man again at the Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. In addition to the premiere, the recital will include works by Gabriel Fauré, Johannes Brahms, and William Grant Still. The performance will conclude with Deep Rivers by Mohammed Fairouz, a work for Wind Quintet and Baritone voice set to the poetry of Langston Hughes, the Black Civil War Soldier's Chant, and the traditional American spiritual Deep River with a new melody by Fairouz. Deep Rivers premiered in 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. Members of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra will collaborate with Outlaw for the Fairouz work. The full recital, which will begin at 7:00 pm, runs approximately 90 minutes with intermission. Tickets will be offered at a discounted price to community members and free to students.

Warren Jones
Pianist Warren Jones

 Before the June 2 recital, Boykin, Outlaw, and Jones will meet with students from the Bayview Opera House youth enrichment programs for an interactive discussion of the poetry of 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and how the artists worked together in creating and premiering the song cycle.

When they began discussing a song cycle, both Boykin and Outlaw were drawn to Raymond Patterson's poetry collection 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and the many different ways the poems talk about the Black male experience. Patterson, an American poet, opera librettist, and educator, was a professor at City University of New York and founded the Langston Hughes Festival. Boykin has set his poetry in 7 distinct sections, Journey, Mystical Prowess, Sacrifice, Magic of Love, Harvest, Legacy, and Connection. Outlaw calls the work "a modern-day Winterreise," the song cycle by Franz Schubert. Boykin, he says, "took elements of Western classical music styles, dipped them in Black culture, and merged those two styles."


The world premiere of this powerful new work is part of Merola’s commitment to promote works by women and people of color and to collaborate with diverse communities in the Bay Area. The commission and performances are generously supported by the Ces Butner Horizon Beverage Charitable Fund and Michael Colbruno. Musicians sponsored by the Port of Oakland Foundation. Community Access tickets sponsored by TogetherSF. Piano courtesy of Music Exchange

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B.E. Boykin
Composer B.E. Boykin

B.E. (Brittney Elizabeth) Boykin, composer, is a native of Alexandria, Virginia and pursued her classical piano studies at Spelman College. After graduating with a B.A. in Music, Ms. Boykin continued her studies at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. During her time at Westminster, she was awarded the R and R Young Composition Prize just a few months shy of graduating with her M.M. in Sacred Music with a concentration in choral studies.

Ms. Boykin’s choral piece, “We Sing as One,” was commissioned to celebrate Spelman College’s 133rd Anniversary of its founding at the 2014 Founders Day Convocation. She has also been featured as the conductor/composer-in-residence for the 2017 Harry T. Burleigh Commemorative Spiritual Festival at Tennessee State University. Ms. Boykin has been commissioned and collaborated with several organizations, including a number of ACDA divisions, the Minnesota Opera, and the Kennedy Center. She obtained her PhD from Georgia State University with an emphasis in Music Education and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

For further information, please contact Jean Kellogg at (415) 936-2321 or

B.E. Boykin -

Sidney Outlaw -

Warren Jones -