Composer Information

Birth - January 20, 1895 | Coffeyville, KS

Death - February 21, 1992 | Ann Arbor, MI

Nationality - American

Era - Modern

Composer Biography

Eva Jessye was the first black woman to receive international distinction as a professional choral conductor. She is notable as a choral conductor during the Harlem Renaissance, who created her own choral group featured widely in performance. Her professional influence extended for decades through her teaching as well. Her accomplishments in this field were historic for any woman. She collaborated in productions of groundbreaking works, directing her choir and working with Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein on Four Saints in Three Acts (1933), and serving as musical director with George Gershwin on his innovative opera Porgy and Bess (1935).  – Wikipedia

A special collection of Jessye’s manuscripts and papers are housed at Pittsburg State University in Kansas.  Here is a beautiful little excerpt from their website:

In a 1984 interview by Jacob U. Gordon, Jessye was asked what she considered some of the drawbacks of being black and elderly in Kansas? Her reply was, “I often think if I had been white, where would I have been? Perhaps not anywhere. Because I think I had it made, you know. Who’s that who said he took the path less traveled by? Robert Frost? I took the color less desirable and it made all the difference.”


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