The breath and width of Jessye Norman’s eclectic repertoire share equal richness with that of her innovative programming and scholarship. She brings her passion for singing to all that she surveys on the opera and concert stages of the world, as well as her newest expansion into the world of jazz.
Miss Norman’s collaborations with some of today’s most exciting and creative artists of many different disciplines enliven her own exploration of the arts in all its glorious forms. Most recently, her work with four-time Grammy-winning composer Laura Karpman produced a thrilling new multi-media musical theater piece, Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz, to poetry by Langston Hughes, which had its premiere at Carnegie Hall in March 2009 as a part of the HONOR! Festival held that month: a 52-event celebration of the African-American contribution to the culture of the world, curated and directed by Miss Norman. Ask Your Mama was also presented at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 2009.
The Jessye Norman School for the Arts in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia is a tuition-free arts program for talented middle-school students who would otherwise not be able to enjoy private tutoring in the arts. The school is entering its ninth academic year and is not only a source of great pride for Miss Norman, but a reaction to the need and understanding that students given the opportunity of having the arts as a part of their education, and this positive means of self-expression, perform better academically all round and grow up to be more involved and caring citizens. Please find out more about the school at www.jessyenormanschool.org.
Miss Norman’s latest recording, Roots: My Life, My Song, shares with the listener what she refers to as a part of her personal universe, some of the soundtrack of her life, which offers her the opportunity to pay homage to some of the many who influence and encourage her ceaseless curiosity and what she feels is an obligation to offer musical expression outside the traditional Classical canon, as she wishes to reach as many ears as will hear and as many hearts that are open to taking this often surprising musical journey with her.
In March 2012, she performed songs of John Cage with Meredith Monk and Joan La Barbara under the auspices of the San Francisco Symphony and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. This fully-staged production of Cage’s songs presented yet another opportunity for Miss Norman to scale new heights and broaden her artistic palette while enjoying another wonderful collaboration with artists whom she admires.
Her work with several not-for-profit organizations includes the New York Public Library, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Howard University and Carnegie Hall Boards of Trustees, a graduate fellowship program and master class series in her name at the University of Michigan, and spokesperson for The Partnership for the Homeless, all of which speak to her concern for the larger community and the citizenship she credits her parents for having shown her from early childhood through their own community service.
Miss Norman is an honorary ambassador to the United Nations, a fellow at Jesus and Newham Colleges at Cambridge University, and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres as well as a holder of the Légion D’honneur in France. France has named an orchid for her, and an amphiteater in her hometown, which overlooks the tranquil Savannah River, bears her name.
Further accolades and awards include five Grammys and some 38 honorary doctorates from universities, colleges and conservatories around the world. But it is the sheer joy of singing that keeps her ever searching, ever exploring, ever seeking to honor the ancestors.