Soprano Sonya Headlam embraces classical music's vast landscape, seamlessly exploring Baroque compositions, Classical and Romantic repertoire, and avant-garde contemporary works. As a soprano soloist, she has garnered acclaim on prestigious stages across the United States. Recent highlights include her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Handel's Messiah, her Severance Hall debut with conductor Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo's Fire performing Mozart and Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint Georges, and joining the North Carolina Symphony for Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven's Symphony no. 9. She has collaborated with other esteemed ensembles such as the New World Symphony and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming highlights include her solo debuts with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada.
As the Rohde Family Artist-in-Residence at the 2023 Chelsea Music Festival, Sonya performed Sung Jin Hong's Kennst du das Land in a world premiere string arrangement conducted by Ken-David Masur. She has performed several world premieres of contemporary works, including Kecha Tregulfe at Carnegie Hall, a song composed by Patricio Molina in the Mapudungun language. A few other contemporary pieces she has helped bring to life include Yaz Lancaster's song cycle ouroboros, produced by Beth Morrison Projects; Ellen Reid’s dreams of the new world; Tyshawn Sorey’s Monochromatic Light (afterlight) with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street; and Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer, performed with the Bang on a Can All-Stars at Carnegie Hall.
An avid recitalist, Sonya delights in performing a wide range of art songs, from the cherished standard repertoire to lesser-known gems. Her Jamaican heritage has inspired her to perform the works of celebrated Jamaican composers like Peter Ashbourne and Andrew Marshall, showcasing her cultural roots through music. Beyond recitals, Sonya is equally comfortable on the opera stage, portraying characters like le Feu in Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the title role in Delibes’ Lakmé, and the vivacious Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème.
Sonya's commitment to music extends beyond the stage, as she cherishes her role in her church choir and her passion for teaching voice to students of all ages. Prior to her full-time pursuit of music, she enjoyed a fulfilling career at UNICEF NY Headquarters, contributing to the UN Singers—a group designated by the UN as ambassadors of goodwill who spread the message of peace and understanding through choral music. Moreover, Sonya actively donates her time several times a year, using her voice to make a positive impact in her community. Her regular performances at Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth celebrations not only commemorate important historical events but also aim to inspire and uplift her community through the power of music.
Holding a Doctor of Musical Arts from Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, along with bachelor's and master's degrees in music from Miami University of Ohio, Sonya's journey in music has been marked by dedication and diverse accomplishments. From her critically acclaimed Jamaican debut in 2009, performing under the patronage of distinguished guests, to her recent performance of Lift Every Voice and Sing at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, her performances have resonated with audiences in diverse corners of the globe. Having earned praise from critics for her heartfelt performances, Sonya Headlam strives to illuminate the beauty and richness of music in the human experience. She firmly believes in the transformative power of music, which has the ability to resonate with our innermost emotions, provide profound insights into ourselves and others, and foster connections that deeply enrich our lives.
TENET Vocal Artists
"Other chamber vignettes afforded moments of intimate contemplation amid an otherwise fiery reading—especially for the revelation that was Sonya Headlam. She lent her honeyed soprano, pure and even from top to bottom, to “I know that my Redeemer liveth” ...Headlam brought a genuine tenderness to the aria that made for the evening’s most poignant moment."
– Chicago Classical Review, 2022
"To call [her voice] ‘golden’ would hint at the warmth and luster of her tone, yet there was also something breathy and earthy about it that made her opening ‘Comfort ye’ truly welcoming, and the following ‘Ev’ry valley’ joyous."
– Seen and Heard International, 2022
“Sonya Headlam was an entrancing soloist... Her light timbre, velvety middle voice and on-the-mark coloratura proved a perfect match of singer and score. She scaled the famous concluding Alleluja [of Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate] in a joyous manner, marked by elan and flawless intonation.”
– South Florida Classical Review, 2022
"Sonya He[a]dlam returned for what proved to be the highlight of the concert: the motet Exsultate, jubilate. Exuding confidence and broadcasting smiles, she shaped its lines expressively and sang its melismas both flawlessly and with seeming abandon...
Just before the end, He[a]dlam saw her way to a high C and followed that path, crowning the motet with a glorious conclusion and bringing a delighted audience along for the ride."
– Cleveland Classical, 2022
“Sonya Headlam gave a dramatically engaged performance… beautiful control of pianissimo high notes.”