Classical 91.5

Jessye Norman

It was the early 1980's and I had just begun my work at WXXI as the radio secretary (WXXI had only one radio station at the time).  Our news team had scheduled an interview with the legendary opera soprano Jessye Norman while she was in town. She came through the door near my desk in a full length fur coat, head held majestically and floated past my desk in a way that left a lasting impression on this 20-something voice major, just a few years out of college. The scene is as vivid in my mind today, as the day it happened.

Soprano Jessye Norman grew up in a family of amateur musicians who strongly believed in the importance of education. Like many African American musicians, she had to start her career in Europe before breaking through in America; her debut at the Metropolitan Opera wasn’t until 1983. Norman is a master interpreter of spirituals and a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts.

Read about her memoir "Stand Up Straight and Sing"

Jessye Norman passed away on September 30, 2019  Read a Personal Reflection on an American Icon.

This post is part WXXI Classical 91.5’s celebration of Women’s History Month. For more of these stories and other resources, check out Celebrating the Contributions of Women to Classical Music.


Famed Soprano Jessye Norman will be giving up her country home "White Gates" and auctioning off some of the contents this week.