When tenor Johnnie Felder finished his bachelor’s in music at Benedict College in
2011, he went straight into the master’s program in vocal performance at the University
of South Carolina. But when he finished the master’s two years later, he had no intention
of staying on for a doctoral degree.
He liked teaching voice, but he didn’t necessarily need to be a professor. And he
loved performing, even if that meant spending as much time on the road as he spent
on stage or in the classroom. He was a working performer, and he was more or less
happy with that lifestyle — until a mentor and friend gave him a nudge.
“I was teaching at a small private arts academy, and I was still gigging and performing
— it was an interesting and busy time,” he says. “But then one of my mentors, Donald
Holland, who also went to USC, just asked me one day, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m like,