JANUARY 5, 1868 - JUNE 24, 1933
An American legend, Anne Wiggins Brown was born in Baltimore into a distinguished family of musicians and scientists. Her obvious talent landed her the prestigious Margaret McGill Scholarship at the Juilliard School in 1928, becoming the first African American to win it. She entered Juilliard at 16. As a historical matter, this honor followed an audition at the Peabody Conservatory where she was turned down because of her race. She had also trained at Morgan State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). While at Juilliard, George Gershwin heard of Brown’s winning the McGill Scholarship and asked to meet her as he was seeking singers for an opera he was composing (then called Porgy). After auditioning with him, he awarded her the small part of Bess. As the opera was in development, Gershwin would invite Anne Brown to sing through various sections of the opera as he composed them. Over time he expanded the role of Bess because of these sing-throughs and his increasing appreciation of her talent. Further, in the last days of rehearsal before the opera went to Boston for tryouts before its Broadway run, Gershwin invited Brown to lunch and made the announcement “I want you to know, Miss Brown, that henceforth and forever after, George Gershwin’s opera will be known as Porgy and Bess. Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway October 10, 1935 and then toured the United States traveling to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago and ending in Washington, D.C. Anne Brown worked mostly as a recitalist and concert singer achieving celebrated performances between 1942 and 1948 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in performances at Carnegie Hall. In 1948 she settled in Oslo, Norway where she spent the rest of her life. She retired from singing in 1953 and remained active as a musician, teaching and directing. You can find audio clips of Anne Brown on YouTube.
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