Penn Library

Marian Anderson: A Life in Song

A Philadelphia Story

Born 27 February 1897 in Philadelphia, Marian Anderson remains one of the great musical treasures of this city. Her early schooling was completed at the Stanton Elementary School at 17th and Christian Streets near her residence in South Philadelphia. But her education was interrupted by the untimely death of her father in 1910, followed by the death of his father, Marian's grandfather, in 1911. Both Marian and her mother were forced to seek work in an assortment of menial jobs. After a difficult few years at William Penn High, Marian entered South Philadelphia High School for Girls as a sophomore in 1918 and graduated in 1921.

Marian Anderson's musical education and performing experience were the product of personal, familial, and communal determination and faith. Through the financial support of her church--the Union Baptist at Fitzwater and Martin--and her community, she was able to take voice lessons in Philadelphia, first with soprano Mary Saunders Patterson around 1915, then with contralto Agnes Reifsnyder from 1916 to 1918, and finally with Giuseppe Boghetti in 1920. The latter was made possible through a benefit concert held on 14 May 1920 and sponsored by the Union Baptist Church. In the summer of 1919 she studied with Oscar Sanger at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. From 1914 Marian Anderson was performing in public concerts and by 1917 was giving solo performances. She even appeared as soloist in productions of Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Elijah in Philadelphia and Boston.

Early Recital Programs

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