Iris Fordjour-Hankins most recently completed a Doctor of Music Arts degree at the University of Kentucky in voice. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in piano from Oakwood University , a certificate in music education at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and a Master of Arts in music education from Boston University. Currently employed as an assistant professor at Oakwood University, Dr. Fordjour-Hankins teaches individual voice, diction, and opera workshop. Previously, she taught vocal music for the Detroit Public Schools, and believes the 15-year experience has become the bedrock of her skill as a music educator. She welcomes students into her studio and classes believing that every opportunity to work with them is a mutual opportunity for growth. Additionally, Iris served for 15 years, as co-minister of music at the Burns Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Detroit, MI where she founded and directed the “Excelsiors,” a choral group that sang anthems, hymns, spirituals, and contemporary religious music.
Though she has spent her career as a music educator, Iris Fordjour-Hankins has been a lifelong student of the classical singing voice. Her early voice studies were with Dr. Ricky Little, Dorothy Duensing and Dina Winter. And, after winning second place in the 2013 Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition at the University of Kentucky, the full-ride award allowed her to study in the studios of Dr. Everett McCorvey and Dr. Angelique Clay-Everett as a doctoral graduate and teaching assistant. She sang as an ambassador for the University of Kentucky and Alltech in both the U.S. and China with the mission of singing music that encourages rich cultural exchanges amongst classical singers, spreads goodwill and builds pathways of friendship and collaboration in the musical arts, music education and business.
As a classically trained soprano soloist, it Iris’ privilege to sing in various venues. Her most recent chamber recital (May 2021) included Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), Adolphus Hailstork’s Songs of Love and Justice, based on the sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jake Heggies’ contemporary cycle, Faces of Love. Her varied repertoire also include works by European composers, Verdi, Puccini, Handel, Gounod, Mozart, Wagner, Beethoven, and Bellini. In 2020, Dr. Fordjour-Hankins performed “Es gibt ein reich” from Strauss’Ariadne of Naxos, in miniature concert version of the opera performed the Ars Nova School of the Arts in Huntsville, Alabama. In December 2017, she gave a recital of spirituals in Kingston, Jamaica as part of a program where of a Dr. Andrew Marshall’s newly composed patois oratorio based on the Jamaican Bible. In 2016, Dr. Fordjour-Hankins performed the role of the mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors One of her favorite performances was as a featured soloist in Puccini’s Messa di Gloria along with the premier of Eduard Perrone’s new mass entitled Missa-Fountain of Beauty (2013) at the historic Assumption Grotto Catholic Church in Detroit, Michigan. Other solo engagements include the performance of Rossini’s Inflammatus et Accensus and I Will Give Thanks for the 2007 National Baptist Convention held in Detroit. She has been a featured artist for Tuesday Musicale of Detroit, a classical musical society dedicated to performance and arts education. For this group Iris has performed arias and duets from several operas, notably: Aîda, Norma, La Forza Del Destino, Fidelio, Manon Lescaut and Tannhäuser. Additionally, she was a featured soloist in concert with the ensemble Committed, the 2010 Winner of NBC’s show, The Sing Off.
Iris is committed to the study, promotion, and performance of music by African American composers and holds memberships in societies who are dedicated to these goals. She is a member of the International Florence Price Festival whose goal it is to celebrate the life and legacy of African American composer Florence Beatrice Price, the African American Art Song Alliance for scholarly exchanges between those interested art song by African-American composers, and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Her dissertation, Shining a Spotlight on Female African American Composer Evelyn Simpson-Curenton is part of her continuing effort to educate people about the beauty, elegance and high level of craftsmanship poured into Simpson-Curenton’s music for classically trained vocalist. She is married to Ernest Hankins, III. They have two children, Iman Isabella, and Ernest, IV. Iris considers her family to be her greatest accomplishment.