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Marian Anderson

1897 - 1993

Marian Anderson - singer - a Klos family project

Other famous black operatic singers like Leontyne Price and Kathleen Battle  have attributed their desire to pursue a professional singing career to Marian Anderson, whose contralto voice Norman said, "I listened, thinking, 'This can't be just a voice, so rich and beautiful.'  It was a revelation.  and I wept."  Several other black divas preceded Anderson, but she was the first credited with breaking the glass ceiling of race and become internationally acclaimed.  

Marian was thought to be born in Philadelphia, PA on Feb. 17, 1902 (although her death certificate records her birthdate as Feb. 27, 1897) to her father, a coal salesman, and her mother, a former teacher.  She early showed giftedness in music beginning with the violin and switching to voice.  The black community provided financial help to train her as she came under the tutelage of tenor Roland Hayes.  She first experienced racism when applying for entrance to music school.  She walked away and was later able to obtain free lessons from a teacher.  She studied further with tenor/coach Giuseppe Boghetti, and gained confidence and knowledge as he guided her with public performances. 

 She gave her first recital in 1924 at New York's Town Hall, and showed her dislike of singing foreign languages, almost ending her career.  Unable to get her career going in the States, Anderson traveled to London in 1925.  She visited Germany and Finland, and met composer Jean Sibelius who dedicated his "Solitude" to her.  During the following ten years, she performed extensively in Europe and a noted appearance at the 1935 Mozart Festival in Austria.  The Archbishop of Salzburg requested an encore of "Ave Maria" and Arturo Toscanini exclaimed, "Yours is a voice one hears once in a hundred years."

She returned to the U.S. in 1935 to give a recital at Town Hall which the critics loved.  Under the direction of Sol Hurok, Anderson became the third highest box office draw.  Paralleling her success on stage was continued racial discrimination with accommodations and restaurants.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt asked her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939 and a crowd of 75,000 people along with myriads of radio listeners gave her rave reviews to counter a  previous concert date at Constitution Hall in Washington that the Daughters of the American Revolution prevented her from doing. 

In 1954, when Anderson was 57 yrs. she was asked sing at the Metropolitan Opera.  She has sung for heads of state, received numerous awards from presidents, honorary doctorates from many universities, and at the inauguration of Eisenhower and Kennedy.  She retired in 1965 after singing a farewell concert conducted by her nephew James Priest.  Anderson died of congestive heart failure in April 1993 at 96 yrs. old.  In June, 2000 admirers attended a memorial service at Carnegie Hall in New York City.   

            "I have never been able to analyze the qualities that the audience         contributes to a performance.  The most important  I think, are sympathy, open-mindedness, expectancy, faith, and a certain support to your effort.  I know that my career could not have been what it is without all these things, which have come from many people.  The knowledge of the feelings other people have expended on me has kept me going when times were hard.  That knowledge has been a responsibility, a challenge, and an inspiration. It has been the path to development and growth.  The faith and confidence of others in me have been like shining, guiding stars."   -- Marian Anderson

by Jane Harter

Research Links

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Penn Special Collections - Anderson exhibit
Marian Anderson: A Life in Song. Curated by Nancy M. Shawcross Annenberg Rare
Book & Manuscript Library University of Pennsylvania. ... -Marian Anderson. ...

AFROCENTRIC VOICES--Marian Anderson Biography
... Biographies. Marian Anderson (1897-1993). by Randye L. Jones. ... Anderson's Early
Years. Contralto Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ...

Marian Anderson
MARIAN ANDERSON 1897-1993. Marian Anderson was born on February 27,
1897 in Philadelphia. In the 1930's her music career was hampered ...

Online NewsHour: Remembering Marian Anderson -- February 26, 1997
... TRANSCRIPT. Marian Anderson was one of the greatest voices in opera, but she
was denied a wider audience due to the racism and segregation of her era. ...

Marian Anderson Gallery
... Marian captures the spirit and then sets it free.". Artist Marian Anderson
is nationally acclaimed with numerous awards and achievements. ...
Description: Nationally known artist Marian Anderson paintings reflect her love for life and nature. Her subjects...

Biography of Marian Anderson: singer
Biography of Marian Anderson: singer. Marian Anderson was born on February 27,
1897 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ... biography of marian anderson.

Opera Shop: Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson (1897-1993). Mon ... Saëns. I have met Marian Anderson
twice; one time after a concert and the other after a lecture. ...

Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson. (1897-1993). Marian Anderson, an African-American contralto,
was born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia to John and Anna Anderson. ...

My Lord What a Morning: The Marian Anderson Story
Return to the Home Page ... Students Corner. Lesson:
Marian Anderson - Exploring Voice Ranges. ...

Marian Anderson biography
Marian Anderson Source: American Portraits, Fisher, Dorothy Canfield, Henry Holt
& Company (1946), Artist: Kaufman, Enit © www.arttoday.com ... Marian Anderson ...


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