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Famed Soprano Jessye Norman to Receive Honorary Degree

April 2, 2013
Jessye NormanJessye Norman

The University of Rochester will present an honorary Doctor of Music degree to Jessye Norman, one of the world’s leading classical sopranos, at Norman’s benefit concert for Action for a Better Community Inc. (ABC) on Sunday, April 14.

The recipient of numerous honors both for her artistry and her humanitarian contributions, Norman has performed to critical and popular acclaim in major opera houses and concert halls around the world for more than 40 years. Of her rich and powerful voice, which encompasses female registers from contralto to high dramatic soprano, The New York Times stated, “This is an amazing voice, a catalogue of all that is virtuous in singing.” Norman has recorded extensively on major labels and won acclaim for her innovative programming, her collaborations with artists on the cutting-edge in their fields such as Robert Wilson, Andre Heller, and Bill T. Jones, and her support of emerging talent.

“Jessye Norman is an artist of highest distinction in American music,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. “She has enriched the lives of people through her performances and has had an extraordinary impact on American music and culture.”

Since winning the Munich Competition in 1968, Norman developed an operatic and recital career across Europe, the United States, Asia, and South America. Her repertoire expanded to include jazz with her American Masters program tours of music by Bernstein, Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Ellington.

Norman is the recipient of the French government’s Legion d’Honneur, holds the title of Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, received the Radcliff Institute Medal, and was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal in recognition of her humanitarian and civic contributions, which include the tuition-free Jessye Norman School of the Arts in her hometown of Augusta, Ga., for talented middle school students in music performance, writing, drama, dance, and graphic art.

The recipient of five Grammys, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Norman has also been awarded theGrand Prix National du Disque, a Gramophone Award, the Edison Prize, and other honors in Belgium, Spain, and Germany for her recordings. In 1997, she became the youngest artist to be awarded the Kennedy Center Honor, and at a 2010 White House ceremony she was presented with the highest award in the arts, the National Medal of Arts. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Norman’s many other prestigious distinctions include honorary doctorates at some 40 colleges, universities, and conservatories around the world.

In addition to her performance schedule, Norman serves on the board of directors for The New York Public Library, the board of governors for the New York Botanical Garden, and on the boards of Carnegie Hall, The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Howard University, the Lupus Foundation, and Paine College.

Norman’s April 14 benefit concert for ABC, which also features Garth Fagan Dance, starts at 5 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre; additional information is available from ABC at 585-325-5116 or

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