Bronx, NY – Actor and Singer Damon Evans, who played the roles of Sportin’ Life in the famous Glyndebourne Festival Operas Production of “Porgy and Bess” which was presented at the Royal Opera House in London and later broadcast on the U.S. Public Broadcasting System; Lionel, son of George and Louise Jefferson on the TV sitcom, “The Jeffersons”; and young Alex Haley in Alex Haley’s “Roots II – The Next Generation”; enthusiastically told Bronx Community College students that BCC has helped expand his vistas from the often unreal lights and glitz of show business life. The second year student says the time at BCC has given him the opportunity to explore new subjects.
Damon, whose name appears in Google 365,000 times because of his acting and opera career, is seeking to turn his life towards a new path. A believer that it is never too late to seek a college education, he hopes to one day teach African American history, possibly at a historically black college. While he may one day act or sing again, right now, he explains, he’s seeking to advance his career in higher education.
Damon spoke during BCC’s annual Center for Teaching Excellence Week in November during which faculty at BCC explored new opportunities to perfect their teaching in order to enhance student learning. “One of the great joys that I have appreciated at Bronx Community College has been maintaining my anonymity. Nobody has questioned me about my TV, theater or opera career,” he said.
“Being here at BCC has been wonderful,” says the psychology major who plans to graduate in June 2007. “I have enjoyed talking to and working with professors, tutoring at the Writing Center, teaching a summer English course, and being assistant editor of BC”s newspaper, The COMMUNICATOR. I never thought that college would turn out to be the warm and nurturing experience that I’ve had.”
Speaking to some 200 students in Schwendler Auditorium in Meister Hall, Damon shared his autobiographical stories from his career at the Writing Center’s annual presentation of an exemplary student’s life to fellow students.
In a speaking style that indicated his command of public speaking techniques, Damon utilized clear enunciation and timing to deliver details about his career before coming to BCC. His delivery kept his audience attentively listening in his hour long presentation. As he related certain sections in his performance life, he screened video snippets from his TV appearances and acting career in George Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess”, “Roots II” and “The Jeffersons.” Damon’s underlying advice to students who gathered to hear him was: “Don’t ever think that when you go on to a four-year college that you’ll find your next academic experience to be as supportive as the environment that I’ve found at BCC.”
Damon told students that he had come to BCC at the invitation of Dr. Carolyn G. Williams, president of Bronx Community College. He had attended a college recruitment seminar where he was advised to write a letter to President Williams. He did and she responded with a warm letter inviting Damon to enroll. Three years ago, he did and that’s when Damon’s transforming college experience began, he says.
Born in Baltimore, Damon told students that he credits his mother, a single parent, as one of the people who most influenced him in life. Damon and two of his best friends declared their career goals at the age of 11-years-old. One of the friends, Larry Wilson, said he wanted to be a disc jockey. Another friend, Kurt Schmoke, expressed his hope to be Mayor of Baltimore. Wilson became a disc jockey and Schmoke went on to become the first African-American mayor of the city of Baltimore. Damon Evans declared that he wanted to be an actor and singer. And that’s what he became.
“To have a clear idea, to be focused about what we wanted to be so early in life was important for each of us,” said Damon. “I stayed with my goal.”
His mother enrolled him in the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory Division in Baltimore when he was 13 years old. From learning basic music concepts and theory, he developed his voice into a galvanizing tenor. He took roles in plays and operas to begin honing his performance skills.
He also attended Frederick Douglass High School, the same high school from which U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall graduated. Then he won a Reader’s Digest Foundation scholarship for his senior year. The scholarship was sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs to attend the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan from which he graduated high school. His talent and abilities sparkled, attracting attention in the worlds of theater and music. He played on Broadway in the play, “The Me Nobody Knows,” an appearance which captured the attention of Producer Norman Lear who hired him in Los Angeles to play Lionel on “The Jeffersons.”
According to Damon, his attraction to education goes back to his Grandmother who was a teacher in the Baltimore public school system and to his great Uncle George Redd, who was Dean of Students at Fisk University. When asked by people why doesn’t he want to continue acting and singing, Damon’s response is, I’ve always enjoyed teaching. I have always thought of my performances in “The Jeffersons,” “Roots II -The Next Generation,” and “Porgy & Bess” as a means of educating the public about aspects of African-American life at a time when there hardly were any opportunities to tell stories about African-Americans.
“In life, there is always the inevitability of change in us as human beings. I don’t consider the teaching profession all that different from what I had been doing as an actor and a singer. Now, there is part of me that doesn’t need the spotlight of the acting and singing world. The background I carry with me lends itself to my new interest in teaching African-American history. I have performed as a classical singer and as an actor in theater and on TV experiences that few African-Americans have ever had,” said BCC Student Damon Evans who believes it is never too late to get a college education.
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