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Jessye Mae Norman (born September 15, 1945) is an American Grammy award-winning contemporary opera singer and recitalist, and is a successful performer of classical music. A dramatic soprano, Norman is associated in particular with the Wagnerian repertoire, and with the roles of Sieglinde, Ariadne, Alceste, and Leonore. Among other honors, Norman has been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and is a Spingarn Medalist.


Norman was born in Augusta, Georgia, to Silas Norman, an insurance salesman, and Janie King-Norman, a school teacher. She was one of five children in a family of amateur musicians; her mother and grandmother were both pianists, and her father sang in a local choir. Norman's mother insisted that she start piano lessons at an early age. Norman attended Charles T. Walker Elementary School, A.R. Johnson Junior High School, and Lucy C. Laney Senior High School, all in downtown Augusta.
Norman proved to be a talented singer as a young child, singing gospel songs at Mount Calvary Baptist Church at the age of four. When she was nine she heard opera for the first time on the radio and was immediately a fan. Norman started listening to recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price whom Norman credits as being inspiring figures in her career. At the age of 16, Norman entered the Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in Philadelphia which, although she did not win, led to an offer of a full scholarship at Howard University, in Washington, D.C. While at Howard, Norman sang in the university chorus and as a professional soloist at the Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ, while studying voice with Carolyn Grant. In 1964, she became a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma. In 1965, along with 32 other female students and 4 female faculty, she became a founding member of the Delta Nu Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota. In 1966 she won the National Society of Arts and Letters singing competition. After graduating in 1967 with a degree in music, she began graduat

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Review: Revisiting a Luxuriously Gonzo Side of John Cage

The conductor Michael Tilson Thomas convened an elite ensemble — including Jessye Norman, Meredith Monk and Joan La Barbara — for an interpretation at Carnegie Hall in 2012. But at that performance, I spent more time listening for those vocal icons ...
Posted: December 6, 2017, 7:56 pm

Jessye Norman: Dress size has nothing to do with opera singing

Never let it be said that the Royal Opera House doesn’t offer value for money. Not only am I sitting across a table from the fabled operatic soprano Jessye Norman in the house’s Royal Retiring Room but, as an added bonus, the strains of Donizetti’s ...
Posted: July 1, 2014, 11:39 pm

The Artside: Unbroken exhibit injects art into STEM

The mandalas hanging at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts tell the stories of educators on a journey – a journey of integrating the arts into traditional science, technology, engineering and math. There was a packed house at the Jessye Norman School ...
Posted: December 6, 2017, 7:14 am
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