Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Marian Anderson

Music History Monday: Greatness

On April 9, 1939 – 79 years ago today – the American contralto Marian Anderson performed before an audience of over 75,000 people on the National Mall in Washington D.C. It was one of the most important and inspirational concerts ever to take place on American soil; a concert that to this day has the power to bring us to tears when we consider the circumstances under which it took place. Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia on February 27, 1897, the granddaughter of slaves. Her prodigious talent as a singer revealed itself early, and at the age of six she joined the choir of the Union Baptist Church in South Philly. Even as she developed as a singer, poverty precluded her from attending high school; she didn’t graduate from South Philadelphia High School until 1921, at the age of 24. On graduating – and with financial backing from Philadelphia’s Black American community – she attempted to apply to the Philadelphia Music Academy (today the University of the Arts). But she was rejected out-of-hand because she was black, being told by an admissions officer that “we don’t take colored.” Undeterred, she continued to study privately thanks to the continued support […]

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