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MAY 29, 1924 - DECEMBER 6, 2016

Andrew Frierson was born in Columbia, Tennessee, but his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky when he was nine months old. He enrolled in Fisk University as a music major until he was drafted into the U.S. Army before he graduated and served in the South Pacific in the later years of World War II. After the war, he was accepted into the Juilliard school, studying in the same class as Leontyne Price and Billie Lynn Daniel (who he married in 1953). He graduated in 1950. He first sang at Carnegie Hall while a student and performed his first operatic role in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina in 1958 with the New York City Opera. He remained in the company for six seasons, appearing in Porgy and Bess, Aïda, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo. He is most remembered for his interpretation of the roles of Porgy and Joe from Showboat.

In addition to his operatic roles, he was a member of the Belafonte Folk Singers under the leadership of Harry Belafonte and sang at the 1963 March on Washington. He was also an educator, teaching at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA (1950s), directing the Henry Street Settlement music School in Manhattan (1969-1973), and serving on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory of Music and conducting the Oberlin Black Ensemble for two years (1970s). Afterwards he returned to New York City to perform and teach voice.

Mr. Frierson and James Kennon-Wilson co-founded Independent Black Opera Singers (c.1981) to advocate and support Black male performers. In an interview with Wallace Cheatham, he stated “There has not been a ‘real’ black male opera superstar because of the racist and sexist attitudes in American. . . . Audiences, particularly white audiences, may tolerate a black woman being wood and pursued by a white male, but to have a black male wooing and pursuing a white female is totally unacceptable by the powers that be.” He received the Lift Every Voice Legacy Award from the National Opera Association (2000).


Video Credit: WOSU Public Media

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