Born in Detroit, Florence Cole-Talbert graduated with honors from Chicago Musical College in 1916, after having lived and studied in Los Angeles and at the College of Music of the University of Southern California. She made her New York recital debut at Aeolian Hall in New York in April 1918, and recording for the Broome Special Phonograph label (1919).
She built her career completely on the operatic stage. She was the daughter of a Fisk Jubilee Singer, and she was mentored by Emma Azalia Hackley who heard one of her early performances in Detroit. After studying at the University of Southern California and the Chicago Musical College, she studied from 1925 to 1927 in Rome with Delia Valeri and Vito Carnevale. She also studied in Milan. She had the distinction of being the first back singer to perform the role of Aïda with a European opera company: the Teatro Comunale in Cosenza, Italy (1927)
Upon her return to the U.S., she became the first Black classical artist to record for Harry Pace’s Black Swan Records. She then settled in the United States and joined the faculty of Bishop College in Marshall, Texas (an HBCU) and served as head of the music department at Tuskegee Institute. She also taught privately; among her students was La Julia Rhea, who also built her career singing the role of Aïda. She wrote the words to the official hymn of Delta Sigma Theta.
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DGF is focused on the intersection of social justice, American history, and the arts. Deeply inspired by the achievements of America’s hidden musical figures, the foundation is invested in doing research and educating the public about their remarkable stories of courage and persistence. From enriching our musical heritage to preparing the diverse pool of tomorrow’s vocal stars, DGF will positively impact how artists are valued in this nation, encouraging inclusive opportunity, access, and advocacy for the next generation. Join our change-making efforts by supporting DGF with a donation today.
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