Tomb of the Unknown @ 100

100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is commemorated by new music

November 11: Online premiere of “UNKNOWN”, a dramatic song cycle, filmed on location

UrbanArias commissioned acclaimed composer Shawn Okpebholo and poet laureate Marcus Amaker

Arts organizations across the country are co-commissioners: Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado, The Dallas Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Opera Birmingham

A new set of dramatic songs commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.On November 11, 2021 – the date of the Tomb’s centennial – a cinematic treatment of the premiere performance of UNKNOWN with dramatic and historical scenes will be available online for a (newly extended) run of one month.UrbanArias, an opera company based in Arlington, Virginia, commissioned the composer Shawn Okpebholo and the poet Marcus Amaker to write a song cycle for this occasion. The two had previously collaborated on an acclaimed work, Two Black Churches.UNKNOWN explores the ideas of war, honor, and memory through the eyes of soldiers, family members, and Tomb Guards who are connected to each other and the Tomb through their mutual service and sacrifice. The Tomb Guards’ motto, “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten. Tomb Guards never forget,” captures the solemn and profound significance of their duty.Featured performers are baritones Michael Mayes and Schyler Vargas and mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven, accompanied by members of the Inscape Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Robert Wood, the Founder and Artistic Director of UrbanArias and directed by Kristine McIntyre.The online premiere of the film of UNKNOWN is on Thursday, November 11, 2021, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.Register now for free on-demand streaming on UrbanArias website.Co-commissioning companies include Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado, The Dallas Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Opera Birmingham. Major support for the commission is also provided by Stephen E. and Dorothy P. Bird of Denver, CO.

Calendar Listing

UrbanArias presents the world premiere of
a dramatic song cycle commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

November 11, 2021

streaming video premiere
Register at for free on-demand streaming

music by Shawn Okpebholo
poetry by Marcus Amaker
Michael Mayes, baritone
Schyler Vargas, baritone
Taylor Raven, mezzo-soprano
Inscape Chamber Orchestra
Robert Wood, Conductor
Kristine McIntyre, director


A widely sought-after and award-winning composer, Shawn E. Okpebholo (oh-PEB-oh-low) Okpebholo creates music that is diverse, dynamic, and genuine. He has been described by Augusta Read Thomas as “…a beautiful artist …who has enormous grace in his music, and fantasy and color.” His artistry has resulted in numerous prizes and honors, including The American Academy of Arts and Letters Walter Hinrichsen Award in Music, First Place Winner of the 2020 American Prize in Composition (professional/wind band division), the Inaugural Awardee of the Leslie Adams-Robert Owens Composition Award, and many others. He is Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music in Illinois.

Marcus Amaker (AM-uh-ker) was named Charleston, SC’s first Poet Laureate in 2016. In 2021, he became an Academy of American Poets fellow. He’s also the award-winning graphic designer of a national music journal (No Depression), an electronic musician, the creator of a poetry festival, and a mentor. In 2019, he won a Governor’s Arts award in South Carolina, and was named the artist-in-residence of the Gaillard Center, a world-renowned performance and education venue. Marcus has recorded three albums with Grammy Award winning drummer and producer Quentin E. Baxter. His ninth book is Black Music Is, from Free Verse Press.

UrbanArias is dedicated to comissioning and producing short, contemporary operas – works that are up to 90 minutes long, and written within the last 25 years. UrbanArias brings engaging, accessible, and entertaining operas to audiences in the Washington, DC area and around the globe.