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Episode 19: Georgia: A Grand Mansion of Sound with Jessye Norman

podcast Aug 22, 2021

In this solo episode, Sharon shares the story and career of opera sensation Jessye Norman from Augusta, Georgia. By the end of this episode, you will love and adore the voice of this woman, who was a pioneer in so much more than opera. Jessye was born in the 1940’s South, where Jim Crow Laws were in place - schools, businesses, and her town were still segregated. Her mother was a school teacher and taught all her children to read and play the piano - and that is where her family discovered her ability to sing. Her parents taught her that she is no different than anyone else and deserves to live her dreams. Sharon walks listeners through stories from Jessye's career and how she helped change the opera. 

Link to Full Episode:

 

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • History of Jessye Norman 
  • The pure talent of Jessye 
  • How her mother impacted her views on life 
  • Inequality in the opera landscape 
  • Career highlights 
  • Fight for racial equality 
  • Importance of education 
  • How her parents championed her dreams

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Jessye Norman is an American opera singer who was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1945. During this time, Jim Crow Laws still were in existence, and she grew up in a segregated world. Her mother was a school teacher, taught all her children to read, and championed her children’s talents. When Jessye was four years old, she joined the church choir, and once they discovered Jessye’s talents, her family stood beside her in the pursuit of her dream. 
  • At an early age, Jessye knew she did not want to fit into the box that was given to her at that time. While Jessye was growing up, many women’s roles were small and did not mark the world. Jessye wanted to chase her dreams and do more. Her mother was a role model in this; she fought for the equality and education of the Black community in August. 
  • Jessye’s career is hard to match. She entered a voice competition and received a scholarship to attend Howard University. Because of race relations in the US in 1968, she did not have the opportunities of peers, so she moved to Europe to launch her career. She started her career at the Berlin Opera House and did not receive her first opera role in America until 1982. She sang for Sidney Poitier and Bill Clinton, the funeral for Jackie Kenedy, the Olympics in Atlanta, won five Grammys, and received 30 honorary doctorates from Universities.

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