ArtSmart Welcomes Three New Board Members

Dr. Louise Toppin, Dr. Marvin Curtis, and Ms. Kelly Clarke Join ArtSmart Leadership

January 25, 2024 — ArtSmart welcomes three exceptional new members to its Board of Directors, including two leaders, who have made significant contributions to the acknowledgement and preservation of African American music, and a former ArtSmart teaching-artist inspired by the ArtSmart program to do more: Dr. Louise Toppin (University of Michigan), Dr. Marvin Curtis (South Bend Symphony Orchestra), and Ms. Kelly Clarke (former ArtSmart Mentor). Together with George Shirley (Board Chair), Michael Fabiano (Co-Founder, Executive Director), John Viscardi (Co-Founder, Treasurer), Liz Letak (Secretary), Anthony Fabiano, Latonia Moore, Nadine Sierra, Susan Stauter, and Rosemary Vega, the ArtSmart Board of Directors will lead the organization through an exciting era of expansion.

In a joint statement, Co-Founders Michael Fabiano and John Viscardi said, “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Toppin, Dr. Curtis and Ms. Clarke to the board. All three individuals come to us with deep experience in their field and an even deeper passion for the arts. ArtSmart is fortunate to have them.”

Louise Toppin

Dr. Louise Toppin has received critical acclaim for her operatic, orchestral, oratorio and recital performances world-wide and is a champion of African American music. She has recorded more than eighteen compact disks of primarily American Music songs and has edited and published eight anthologies and collections of songs by African American composers. As a scholar, she has lectured widely on the music of African American composers and hosts the radio series Conversations in African American Music. Toppin is the co-founder and director of the George Shirley Vocal Competition, which focuses exclusively on African American art song, and of Videmus, a non-profit organization that promotes the concert repertoire of African American and women composers. She is also the founder of the African Diaspora Music Project, a research tool for the repertoire of African Diaspora composers. Previously, Dr. Toppin was the Distinguished University Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She currently holds a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professorship and is Professor of Music (Voice) at The University of Michigan. She is a board member for Opera Ebony, the Denyce Graves Foundation Educational committee, and the Hampsong Foundation.

“I am delighted and honored to join the board of ArtSmart. Their mission to provide access to free lessons and mentorship to young people in under-resourced communities is near and dear to my heart as a former K-12 teacher in Baltimore, currently a college professor and singer, and a professional who has advocated for the hidden narratives of African American composers. I am excited to work on behalf of this organization and help connect communities to better the future for others.” – Louise Toppin


Marvin Vernell Curtis

Dr. Marvin Vernell Curtis is an esteemed composer, educator and community leader. He made history as the first and only African-American composer commissioned to write a choral work for a Presidential Inauguration, “City On The Hill,” which was performed during President William Clinton’s Inaugural Ceremony, accompanied by the United States Marine Band. He was also the first African-American Dean of Indiana University South Bend, where he led the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts from 2008-2020. Dr. Curtis holds several prominent positions in the South Bend community. He is the President of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Directors and also chairs its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. He is President of The St. Joseph County Library, UZIMA! Drum and Dance!, and 100 Black Men of Greater South Bend. He serves on the boards of The Morris Performing Arts Center, The Fischoff National Chamber Music Association, and the South Bend Museum of Art. He also serves on the Board of Trustees at North Park University. Dr. Curtis has served as the National Scholarship Chair for The National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. and as a member of the Executive Committee for the Congressional Black Caucus 21st Leadership Institute.

“I am excited to work with ArtSmart to increase opportunities for young people to connect with the power and love of music. Beginning my career as a K-12 teacher in New York and California, I moved to university teaching and administration, while continuing to compose music, conduct, and advocate for the inclusion of African American composers and their works to our musical canon. ArtSmart’s mission to provide access to free lessons and mentorship to young people in under-resourced communities is near and dear to my heart. It is an honor to join the board of ArtSmart.”


Kelly Clarke

Kelly Clarke is a mezzo-soprano and passionate advocate for music education. As an artist, Ms. Clarke was most recently seen on the stages of San Francisco Opera and other major venues across the United States. As an educator, she has served ArtSmart as a mentor in San Francisco and as a teaching-artist for the San Francisco Opera Guild. Ms. Clarke saw the absolute joy and impact music education had on her mentees in the ArtSmart program. She brings this same passion to her position as Board Member, helping secure corporate sponsorship, cultivating donors, and overseeing event management to drive ArtSmart’s mission and expand its impact on students and communities. Clarke holds both a Professional Studies Diploma and Masters Degree in Vocal Performance from Mannes College of Music and a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from SUNY Purchase.

“As someone whose life was completely transformed by a free music program, ArtSmart’s mission holds great significance in my heart and for my life’s work. As a former mentor, I have seen the powerful impact of ArtSmart’s program and I’m excited to contribute further as a board member. I look forward to working with this extraordinary organization to provide even more life-changing opportunities to students who need it most.” –Kelly Clarke


About ArtSmart

Through weekly one-to-one sessions over a full school year, ArtSmart students receive world class instruction and personalized mentorship from professional musicians. Using an evidence-based curriculum, ArtSmart teaching artists, known as the Maria Manetti Shrem Mentors, work with their students to set goals, learn music, develop a healthy self-esteem and ultimately, chart a course for the rest of their lives.

“Having that one guiding light every single week, one mentor that they can relate to and say, ‘this person cares about me,’ provides direct inspiration in all of their other studies. Inspiration leads to personal growth, emotional growth, academic growth. Inspiration is the key to success in school,” said Fabiano.

ArtSmart was co-founded in 2016 by international opera singers Michael Fabiano and John Viscardi after extensive analysis of the United States education system and the economic landscape for artists living and working in the United States. ArtSmart was born out of these central ideas: to offer students in under-resourced communities an opportunity to pursue their dreams and develop holistically, while supporting working artists in accomplishing their own professional goals.

As of January 2024, ArtSmart has provided over 38,000 music mentorship sessions to over 1,665 students nationally in New York City, Newark, Jersey City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle. ArtSmart has paid over $1.4 million in dependable income to teaching-artists.


January 25, 2024

Media Contact:
Erin Alcorn
Manager of Communications

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By Erin Alcorn, ArtSmart Newsletter  |  Published on 05/01/2023