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Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman (b. September 15, 1945) is a recitalist as well as a Grammy-award winning opera singer. Norman is known for her powerful voice as well as for being an opera singer. As a child Norman recalls cleaning her room and listening to the radio; she had always been fond of music and credits Leontyne Price and Marian Anderson for being the starring influences in her life.

At the age of 16, Norman entered the Marian Anderson vocal competition and even though she did not win an award, her soulful voice captured the imagination of many, even at this juncture in time and she was awarded a scholarship at Howard University. In 1965, along with other members of her university, Norman became a part of the Delta Nu Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iote. After having won the National Society of Arts Award in 1966, Norman went on to graduate in 1967, with a degree in music and began her graduate level studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.

So far as Jessye Norman’s career was concerned, it began soon after her graduation in 1967. Like other classical singers of her time, Norman felt that it would be better to establish herself in Europe before returning to America; hence she won the International Music Competition in Munich and managed to win herself a three year contract with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, a opera house in Berlin as a result of her former success.  Fortune favored Norman and she landed a role in Wagnelis Tannhauser as Elizabeth. In 1975, she decided that it was time for a change of scenery and moved to London where she soon became a stage favorite, appearing as she did over the next five years, till 1981. During this time, Norman became a legend where music was concerned; she starred in Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Buoyant with her success in Europe, Norman decided to head back to America where she initially tried and subsequently failed to make the same breakthrough as she had before.

However, luck was with her yet again and she began to frequently appear in the US operas and as she led festivals and opera

28 Unknown Facts: Black History