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MAY 29, 1924 - DECEMBER 6, 2018

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 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. He conducted 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 wooed 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).


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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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