Dramatic soprano was influenced by Marian Anderson at a young age

Posted on May 14th, 2014 by

Beloved American opera singer Jessye Norman recently released her memoir, Stand Up Straight and Sing!, which tells of her amazing life story and the people who inspired her to greatness.

Born in 1945, in Augusta, Georgia, she became interested in singing after listening to recordings of Rosenwald fellow Marian Anderson. As a teenager she took part in a Philadelphia vocal competition named after Anderson (a Philadelphia native) where Norman received an offer for a full scholarship to Howard University in Washington D.C. Like Marian Anderson, she began her singing career in Europe but went on to achieve international fame.

I had the pleasure of hearing a lovely discussion with Ms. Norman and briefly meeting her at a book signing hosted by Darren Walker, head of the Ford Foundation during my recent trip to New York. Here’s a photo of us together:


Jessye Norman and Aviva Kempner
Photo credit: The Ciesla Foundation, May 2013

Last month, Ms. Norman performed as part of a Marian Anderson tribute concert at Washington D.C.’s Constitution Hall, the very venue that Anderson was barred from appearing in back in 1939.