Two-time Grammy Award winner and regional Emmy Award winner, Sylvia McNair lays claim to a three-decade, stellar career in the musical realms of opera, oratorio, cabaret and musical theater. She’s holding out hope for a Tony and an Oscar, but she isn’t getting any younger. Her journey has taken her from the Metropolitan Opera to the Salzburg Festival, from the New York Philharmonic to the Rainbow Room, from the Ravinia Festival to The Plaza, from the pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to the London Times and the cover of Cabaret Scenes. Having appeared as a soloist multiple times with nearly every major opera company and symphony orchestra in the world, this songbird has flown the classical coop. She’s retracing her star route now with Gershwin, Porter, Sondheim and Bernstein.
It would be difficult to top Sylvia’s invitations to sing the Bach B-minor Mass with the Vienna Philharmonic for Pope John Paul II at The Vatican and a recital for The U.S. Supreme Court by special request of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But, her engagements for eight of the last ten summers at Ravinia Festival with Broadway legends John Raitt, George Hearn and Brian Stokes Mitchell are what her dreams are made of. Sylvia continues to reincarnate her musical gifts in the most remarkable ways with the most rewarding results. Her Great American Songbook cabaret shows have been heard in New York at the Rainbow Room, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Savoy Room at Sheldon Hall, The Colony in Palm Beach, Feinstein’s at the Regency, and the famed Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel that made critic Rex Reed swoon, “I could get used to this kind of ecstasy.”
Sylvia has left an indelible audio trail documenting her vocal prowess with over 70 recordings ranging from Mozart arias with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields to the music of Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen with pianist André Previn. In the past season, Sylvia released a Christmas CD, PEACE, and ROMANCE, a disc of Latin American jazz standards. PEACE sold out its first run in a matter of weeks. ROMANCE received a rave review from Fanfare Magazine’s Lynn René Bayley: “…here the record is, and it’s fabulous. In fact, it’s the biggest surprise of its kind I’ve encountered since Diana Ross’s live album of Billie Holiday standards.”
A proud Buckeye from Mansfield, Ohio, Sylvia earned a Masters degree with Distinction from the Indiana University School of Music, received honorary doctorates from Westminster College (1997) and Indiana University (1998), the Ohio Governor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Entertainment (1999), and the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award (2011). She joined the prestigious voice faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in 2006. In 2007, Sylvia received The Gaudium Award from The Breukelein Institute for “extraordinary and distinctive contributions to the arts and public life.”