Jessye Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia to Janie King Norman and Silas Norman. She graduated from Augusta’s Lucy C. Laney Senior High School. Following her participation in Philadelphia’s Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in 1960, Norman received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Howard University, where she completed her B.M. degree in 1967. She then earned her M.M. degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1968.
She was one of the world’s most celebrated performing artists, acclaimed for her performances in a wide range of leading roles with the world’s premier opera companies, in solo recitals and in concerts of her cherished classical repertoire with preeminent orchestras all over the globe, as well as her latest artistic expansion with her jazz ensemble and the extensive programming of music from the American musical theater, which she entitled: AMERICAN MASTERS. She was the recipient of many awards and accolades, including forty honorary doctorate degrees from colleges, universities, and conservatories around the world, five Grammy awards including the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, the National Medal of the Arts received at the White House from President Obama in 2010, and was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. In France, an orchid was named for her by the National Museum of Natural History. She was a Commandeur de L’Orde des Arts et des Lettres and was an Officier of the Legion Francaise. Her community service included trustee board memberships at The New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, The Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Lupus Foundation, Paine College, and the New York Botanical Garden. She was called upon often to speak to her passionate involvement and advocacy of arts education. The school for the arts in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia which bears her name, enabled her to support and see first-hand the extraordinary work of an equally dedicated staff of teachers and auxiliary personnel. Students who would otherwise not be able to avail themselves of private tutelage in the arts grew into the fullness of their talents and gifts as they developed their own sense of community and citizenship. She absolutely glowed at any mention of The Jessye Norman School for the Arts and was grateful indeed for this tangible, living opportunity to address the need for education in the arts in the town where her own studies and training began. Her memoir, STAND UP STRAIGHT AND SING!, released in May of 2014 and in France in the summer of 2015, chronicles her childhood in Augusta, Georgia and many experiences of her professional life as it unfolded all over the world over a period of four decades! (provided by The Jessye Norman School of the Arts website at http://www.jessyenormanschool.org/jessye-norman)
Jessye Norman passed away on September 30, 2019.