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If you look at the listings of the major orchestras in America you will see two things in common; very few of them are programming major pieces by women composers, and almost none have a woman on the podium. Despite the abundance of wonderful compositions by women, the world of classical music has been, for centuries, a man’s world.

Jessye Norman from Girl Scout to the Metropolitan Opera


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.