Tag Archives: classical music

Arts organizations strive to stay alive amid COVID-19 pandemic

Image of New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performing individually but together via Zoom

During the turbulent 1960s, four churches founded The Ark to provide a safe place for young people who were striving to peacefully transform the world.

Ironically now, even as people of all ages demonstrate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the 55-year-old music venue in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is shuttered. Why? Because of COVID-19, a new and highly contagious virus that within weeks spread worldwide.

“We have always been a place where people could come together and be galvanized by music,” said Marianne James, executive director of the listening room for folk, roots and ethnic music. “It’s painful to not be able to do what we have always done, to not be able to do our part.”

White female, shoulder-length, wavy brown hair, frame-less eye glasses, white knit jacket over dark T-shirt standing with microphone in her right hand

Marianne James, executive director of The Ark

The Ark is one of thousands of arts and cultural institutions nationwide that COVID-19 shut down, costing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue and wages. Moreover, it prohibited more than 130 million Americans from attending the artistic and cultural activities they rely on for entertainment, education and comfort

At the same time, the pandemic is inspiring new creativity in the sector, keeping these organizations alive virtually and helping them preserve their missions.

“Arts and cultural institutions provide necessary social services beyond the joy and inspiration we all enjoy,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). The 114-year-old Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit represents 35,000 museums, zoos, science centers, arboretums, aquariums, archives, libraries and related organizations.

White female, shoulder-length blonde hair, dark dress and jacket, strand of pearls

Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums

“If there’s any sort of silver lining to this,” Lott said, “it might be the increased recognition of their roles as educational entities that serve kids’ needs outside the school building and school day.”

Costs of closing

“The arts, large and small, are part of our daily lives—from the book you’re reading and the music you’re listening to, to the design of cars and buildings,” said Victoria Hutter, assistant director of public relations for the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Hutter said arts and cultural institutions in the United States contributed nearly $878 billion, or 4.5%, to the gross domestic product and employed more than 5 million salaried and wage workers, according to the latest figures.

But experts expect the pandemic to slash those figures by nearly $7 billion in 2020 and leave many organizations unable to ever reopen.

2020 COVID-19 Impact on Nonprofit Arts and Culture Sector Survey

    • 95% canceled events
    • 67% expect crisis to have a “severe” impact on their organization
    • 30% reduced their artistic workforce
    • 24% reduced staff
    • 40% are “likely” to reduce staff
    • 10% are “not confident” they will survive the pandemic

Source: Americans for the Arts

Bald, black male wearing white button-down dress shirt with dark pinstripes two-toned purple striped tie and black smock

Christian Greer,  president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center

About 45% of museum revenue comes from gate ticket sales and related services, such as gift shops and cafes. “Now, everyone is suffering,” Lott said. “Museums, collectively, are losing about $33 million a day and have been since March.”

The Michigan Science Center is feeling the pain. MiSci, located in Detroit’s cultural center downtown, had limited cash reserves and a little over $1 million in its endowment before the pandemic.

“It’s not even close to what we will need to finish out the year,” MiSci President and CEO Christian Greer said. “There was barely enough money to pay unemployment.”

Because of COVID-19 fears and school group cancelations, earned revenue stopped even before the nonprofit closed its doors to visitors. Accordingly, MiSci furloughed staff on March 27, just 14 days after shutting down.

Museums Help Drive the Economy

    • Museums support more than 726,000 U.S. jobs.
    • Museums contribute $50 billion to the U.S. economy each year.
    • 76% of U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities such as visiting museums.
    • Museums generate more than $12 billion in tax revenue, one-third of it going to state and local governments.
    • Each job created by the museum sector results in $16,495 in additional tax revenue.

Source: American Alliance of Museums

 

The Ark also has furloughed and reduced staff. Before the virus, about 70% of its revenue came from ticket sales and concessions and the balance from a membership program and individual, corporate and foundation donations.

“The goal is to try to stretch funds as far as we can and fundraise until we can not only reopen but also as we ramp back up beyond this unknown period of closure,” James said.

Virus-related concert cancellations are also troubling the $1.8 billion-a-year classical music industry, which generates about 35% of its revenue from ticket sales, said Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras.

“Orchestras are the opposite of social distancing. We’re social intimacy, ” Rosen said. “We put numerous people in enclosed spaces.”

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra was close to eliminating its deficit before the pandemic, said President and CEO Gabriel van Aalst. But after canceling more than 40 concerts, the orchestra’s finances are “devastated,” he said.

NJSO leadership quickly renegotiated the musicians’ contract to stave off layoffs during cancelations. Still, van Aalst said, the musicians are still struggling.”It’s tough. The orchestra is not full-time,” he said, adding that the musicians often play with other orchestras, lecture at universities or work on Broadway for additional income. “While we have continued to pay musicians, many other industries haven’t. Broadway, for instance, is 100% reliant on ticketing income.”

Van Aalst also worries about declining donations, which typically comprise about 65% of orchestras’ budgets.

“How do you demonstrate impact to funders now?” he said. “How do you continue to do mission work so there’s a demonstrable outcome and people want to continue giving?”

Maintaining missions

Amid the financial devastation, Hutter said, the arts community has become especially creative about connecting with audiences and stakeholders and meeting their missions.

For instance, maintaining the NJSO’s mission meant going virtual with “Couch Concerts” and events such as its world premiere of Gratis Tibi to thank essential workers, van Aalst said.

Split screed display of white male standing playing violin and Asian male seated playing cello. Both in tuxedos.

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Assistant Concertmaster David Southorn (left) and NJSO cellist Philo Lee perform the first movement of Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello from their respective homes. Photo courtesy NJSO

Similarly, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta is offering virtual-learning puppet shows and has made its puppet-making instructions available online. And the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York developed new virtual content by instructing each dancer to perform a certain task and record it. Then the dance company knitted the tasks together to make one film it could share, Hutter said.

While digital-only programming isn’t ideal, it does allow organizations to attract new patrons.

The Ark is using Facebook to live-stream its Family Room Series, a curated program featuring familiar performers. Anywhere from 75 to 200 people watch live, while thousands view the recorded shows later.

“It’s important that we stay in front of people and let them know we’re here. That we could deliver our mission in a virtual community setting has been a real discovery,” James said. “There’s a different kind of live community that comes together virtually. People post comments and talk to each other during the show, allowing us to fulfill our mission on multiple levels.”

Sustaining programs, supporting artists through partnerships

The Michigan Science Center may not currently be accepting visitors, but the need for science, technology, engineering and math programs doesn’t stop.

“This is not the time to stop funding, supporting and preparing our future scientists,” Greer said. “We count on a lot of organizations, like the Ford Fund, to keep us alive. It’s important that people of all ages, backgrounds, colors and creeds have access to STEM.

“If we don’t get kids active in STEM at early ages, they will miss out on the opportunity to be a part of this economy.”

With support from the Ford Fund, the Science Center launched a weekly distance-learning program called ECHO Live, accessible through Facebook and YouTube. Since the shutdown, ECHO Live educators have presented more than 50 shows, which include online science demonstrations and experiments they do with young people participating from home.

The remote-learning laptops and tablets that the Detroit Public Schools Community District has been distributing to students include links to ECHO Live. The first program attracted 500 people from around the state, Greer said, and now thousands from all over the country participate.

The Ford Fund and Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford are also matching $500,000 in donations to organizations fighting COVID-19 and some arts organizations struggling because of the pandemic.

Reopening with safety in mind

While each state is in a different phase of reopening, individual arts and cultural organizations are weighing what timing and safety protocols would work best for each of them.

Reopening is a big source of anxiety, said Lott of the museum alliance. Fall exhibit schedules are still uncertain, as some museums were just opening exhibits when they had to close. On top of that, she said, art museums in particular must consider how curators would travel, how to lend and retrieve art and whether they need to close some spaces to manage social distancing.

Individual wearing head-to-toe protective white suit with gloves and booties and backpack, holding a spray nozzle while walking through the museum.

Sanitizing procedures at the Michigan Science Center, which reopened July 10. Photo courtesy Michigan Science Center

To help, the AAM is providing members procedures that include Centers for Disease Control guidelines and staff training—particularly given the politicization of mask wearing.

For performance-driven organizations like The Ark and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, reopening comes down to seating economics.

Following CDC guidelines of six feet of space between each person means The Ark could only accommodate 40 people in its 400-seat venue. The NJSO, for its part, performs at six venues, some of which have upward of 3,000 seats. Social distancing would mean filling only 10% of the halls, for about 300 people.

Both The Ark’s James and NJSO’s van Aalst question the efficacy of reopening under those guidelines.

“The business model of that makes it difficult for The Ark to reopen,” James said. The nonprofit is reviewing options, such as allowing a limited number of patrons in the building and live-streaming the concerts for those who want to buy tickets and view the show online.

However, reopening may not happen this year, James said, because The Ark is part of Michigan’s last phase of reopening. “And that could be when there’s a cure or a vaccine,” she said.

The NJSO’s van Aalst isn’t sure the orchestra will return to the stage this year or even next winter.

“Because of the work we’re doing, our audiences skew older,” he said. “So, they are in the high-risk categories. Until there’s wide availability of a vaccine, people may not feel comfortable coming into the halls.”

Reopening considerations also include how to line people up outside, how to avoid clusters during intermissions and after performances, and how to keep staff and musicians safe.

“The science isn’t clear,” said Rosen of the League of American Orchestras. “We get contradictory signals from different agencies, which can be kind of daunting.”

When the NJSO does reopen, it might begin with fewer musicians on stage. “The Houston Symphony is partnering with Rice [University] on a study about COVID and musical instruments—like wind instruments, which produce more droplets,” van Aalst said. “We need to know the results. We don’t want to put our musicians at risk.”

The Michigan Science Center, which offers high-touch experiences, is working to go beyond CDC guidelines to ensure exhibits are safe. MiSci hired NSF International, an Ann Arbor-based sanitation company, with support from Midtown Detroit Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the region that includes Detroit’s cultural center.

Before COVID, Midtown Detroit was working with the Detroit Institute of Arts, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, Scarab Club and others on ways to make the community more collaborative.

“It’s interesting that something like COVID comes along and tests those relationships,” said Annemarie Borucki, director of arts and culture for Midtown Detroit. “Once COVID came, we knew we needed to become even tighter.”

After MiSci introduced Midtown Detroit to NSF, the group created a reopening program and toolkit for cultural center institutions.

“It’s a monumental task; it’s expensive, and there are different levels of complexity,” Borucki said. “At the same time, you’re losing revenue like crazy by not being open.”

This story was originally published by the Ford Motor Company Fund.

2020 Classical Roots Honoree Chacona Baugh: A fierce advocate of African American’s classical musicians

Chacona Baugh

Baugh was in her mid-20s when she began gaining an appreciation for — which later became a love of — classical music. That’s when she began accompanying her then-boyfriend Arthur Johnson, a fierce lover of classical music, to Detroit Symphony Orchestra performances.

In 1978 Johnson took Baugh to the inaugural Classical Roots concert, a festive affair at Detroit’s Bethel A.M.E. church. Johnson, along with DSO assistant general manager Wayne Brown, chorus leader Brazeal Dennard, and several other African-American arts and cultural leaders imagined a new type of orchestra event: one that feted African-American conductors and the work of African-American composers.

“Bethel was packed. It was standing room only,” Baugh remembers. So Classical Roots became an annual affair, first at Bethel A.M.E. and later at the much larger Orchestra Hall. “I looked forward to it every year,” Baugh says. “You would see a range of conductors, and it was a great celebration of contributions of African-Americans.”

Baugh later married Johnson, who served on the DSO board for more than 30 years and made Classical Roots his biggest priority. He wanted to do more than just hold performances he wanted to raise money that supports the work of African-American musicians and composers, evolving Classical Roots from a concert to a mission. Johnson passed away in 2011, but Baugh is continuing her late husband’s legacy as an avid DSO supporter and Classical Roots champion. She was thrilled when the annual event was renamed the Arthur L. JohnsonHonorable Damon Jerome Keith Classical Roots Celebration in 2019 (thanks to Honoree Dr. William F. Pickard, who doubled his support and asked that it be named in honor of two of his greatest mentors).

Baugh works closely with the Classical Roots Steering Committee and chaired it in 2011 and 2012. She also served on the DSO’s Board of Directors. Something she’s especially proud of is the work she’s done to expand the Classical Roots mission beyond the confines of Orchestra Hall by developing initiatives that take artists to area schools and churches. She has also worked to encourage younger people to take an interest in Classical Roots and the world of orchestral music.

“It’s exciting to see how the committee has grown and how future generations are learning about classical music and working to sustain the work of classical musicians who happen to be African American,” Baugh says. “It’s important that our young people are exposed to the arts. I didn’t have that growing up.”

She also points to the DSO’s honoree African-American Orchestra Fellowship as a meaningful initiative supported by Classical Roots. “Getting into a major orchestra is difficult,” she says, and young African-American musicians don’t always have the resources necessary to pursue music as a career. The Fellowship aims to address the underrepresentation of African-American musicians in orchestras by selecting young musicians to perform with the DSO and receive audition and career mentorship. “It gives them an opportunity to play classical music with our world-renowned symphony,” Baugh explains – and that opportunity can be a gamechanger.

Classical music isn’t Baugh’s only passion, though it did connect her with violinist Harold Baugh, whom she married in 2016. She loves the arts in general. Baugh has also served on the boards of the Detroit Institute of Arts, CultureSource, the Arts League of Michigan, and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. “The arts are important to me, and they make a difference to our well-being and to our community,” she says.

Baugh is also enthusiastic about higher education. As a longtime fundraising lead at the University of Michigan, she worked with every department and school. “I always liked being on campus where learning was going on,” she says. “I wasn’t an expert in any of the areas, but I got to see people who were passionate, and I got to learn about the extraordinary work going on. It was almost magical — whether dealing with people or a corporation or a foundation — to see their money doing good, whether it was a providing a scholarship or funding groundbreaking research to help a medical condition.”

She loved the work so much that after retiring from the University of Michigan in 2009 she helped kick off and then run the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

Then, in 2014, Wayne State University named Baugh president of its foundation and vice president for Development and Alumni Affairs, where she led a successful fundraising campaign before her retirement in 2016.

(This story was originally published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.)

Renowned classical pianist Andre Watts on discovering himself through music

Andre Watts, classical pianist2020 Classical Roots Honoree 

André Watts was just 10 years old when he played his first concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra. He realized then that he wanted to make being a pianist into a career.

In 1963, Philadelphia and New York-based instructor Genia Robinor helped bring Watts’s vision to fruition. Robinor astounded a then-16-year-old Watts by arranging for him to audition for a televised Young People’s Concert with Leonard Bernstein, the renowned composer, conductor, and pianist. Watts won a spot.

“The broadcast was especially successful for me because Bernstein made this huge proclamation — on national television — that he, himself, was going to take the pleasure of conducting me in the Liszt Concerto [#1 in E-flat],” remembers Watts, “while the three other performers would share a Mozart Concerto conducted by his assistants. This was, actually, the beginning of my professional career.”

A few weeks later, celebrated pianist Glenn Gould canceled his appearance with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. But someone suggested that Watts fill in. “Bernstein immediately loved the idea, and I was called on a Tuesday morning to play that same week,” Watts says.

Though he was nervous, he trusted that all he needed to do was continue to play as well as Bernstein believed he could: “The truth is that I didn’t truly realize the externals of the situation; I wanted to please my mother and my teacher! I also wanted Bernstein and the orchestra members to think I was really good, and that the performance on the Young People’s broadcast hadn’t been a fluke. I wanted them to know I was capable of playing well in the real concert world.”

Since then, Watts has become a superstar; he has performed globally, making appearances with virtually every major symphony and in recital at top venues and festivals.

Watts made his DSO debut with conductor Sixten Ehrling in 1969. In 1972, he became the youngest person to receive an Honorary Doctorate from Yale University. In 1976, he performed the first full-length recital aired on national television. And in 2011, he earned the National Medal of Arts.

Despite the good fortune he had early in his career, life wasn’t simple for Watts. Being biracial meant that he encountered prejudice from both whites and blacks. Still, his mother never allowed him to use bigotry as an excuse for not working toward his goals, and there were enough people who seemed to welcome the idea of a young man of color succeeding in the classical music arena that his obstacles were not insurmountable.

Watts credits the nurturing and instruction of his first manager, Bill Judd, and his last official teacher, Leon Fleisher, for their help; as well as Bernstein, his mother, and others. At the same time, he praises the many incredible musicians whose recordings he heard for their impact.

Grateful and flattered by his Classical Roots honor, Watts said the most significant aspect of the recognition is that it reminds him to be “a good example of always striving.”

“African-American students wanting to enter the classical music world still have the racial component to contend with,” he says. But he posits that the best advice he has transcends race, gender, and profession:

“I would say that searching for and discovering the real you is vital. The process of living and growing as a human being while trying to have compassion for all other human beings will help in making you the best musician or any career you choose — you can be.”

(This story was originally published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.)

A Tribute: Jessye Norman and Dr. Silas Norman

Author note: I had the treasured opportunity to interview unrivaled opera singer Jessye Norman in March 2016 in advance of her performance at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s annual Classical Roots gala. The soprano wowed me with her approachability and sweet disposition.

Jessye Norman
September 15, 1945 – September 30, 2019

If, as the saying goes, a life worth living is one lived for others, then Jessye Norman and her brother Dr. Silas Norman Jr. lived indeed.

Silas, the singer, physician and activist, and Jessye, an oft-awarded, legendary soprano, enhanced the lives of friends and strangers alike through performance, activism and philanthropy.

Two of six children, Silas and Jessye Norman began singing as young children in their hometown of Augusta, Ga. Their parents, Silas Norman Sr. and Janie King Norman, instilled in the family a love of music and learning, a respect for hard work and the importance of civil rights.

It was 1968; and the world was on fire with rallies, marches, sit-ins and riots. Educated in the importance of the Civil Rights movement, Jessye Norman engaged herself in the fight.

“I had participated in mass meetings and protest marches, carrying signs, exhorting NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE, and lending my voice to the song concluding almost every gathering, Pete Seeger’s ‘We Shall Overcome,’” Ms. Norman writes in her biography “Stand Up Straight and Sing!”

Shortly after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Ms. Norman—a multi-award-winning operatic soprano known not for arias, oratorios and spirituals—discovered her calling.

She competed in the Bavarian Radio International Music Competition and to her surprise, she won. “It wasn’t really until I won the contest in Munich, where I was competing with people I did not know and who did not know me, that I thought there was a possibility of making a living doing this,” she explained.

“Making a living” is an understatement. The five-time Grammy Award winner, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, has been a force in the music world since her operatic debut in 1969 in Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Ms. Norman responds to her many honors with humility.

Regarding the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, she said: “It was a lovely experience. When you have not wished for these experiences, and they simply come to your life unbidden, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s very humbling to think there are people considering you and your work when you are doing your dishes or picking up the dry cleaning.”

The disciplined, dedicated artist studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore; and at U-M, where she was attending when the U.S. State Department chose her for the Bavarian Radio competition.

She has performed for at least two presidential inaugurations and has received more than 40 honorary doctorates and a plethora of international honors, including London’s Gramophone Award for her interpretation of Strauss’ Four Last Songs, New York City’s Handel Medallion, the Frederick Douglas Medal by the New York Urban League, an honorary professorship at the Central Music Conservatory of Beijing, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal in recognition of her humanitarian and civic contributions and the 2010 National Medal of Arts. She was the youngest performer at age 50 to receive Kennedy Center Honors.

“That was an unusual thing for them to do,” she said. “I had been a participant of them honoring other people such as Sidney Poitier. When I received this information in the summer of ’97, I thought it was general information about the event itself. I had to read the letter two or three times to make sure I understood that I was being honored myself.”

At the Kennedy Center Honors reception, former President Bill Clinton captured Ms. Norman’s spirit well, saying: “The first song she ever performed in public was God Will Take Care of You.

Her voice has been called the greatest instrument in the world. Her greatness, however, lies not just in her sound, but in her soul.

—PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON

Well, God was taking care of all us when he gave us Jessye Norman’s wondrous voice. From a church choir in Georgia to center stage at the Met, Jessye Norman has brought joy to music lovers and critics to their feet. Her voice has been called the greatest instrument in the world. Her greatness, however, lies not just in her sound, but in her soul.

“She has that rare gift for capturing in music truths of the human experience —truths that can never be fully expressed in words alone. Having brought new meaning to Mozart and Wagner, to Berlioz and Stravinsky, Jessye Norman remains an American diva. Indeed, when she sang The Star Spangled Banner at my inauguration earlier this year, I thought the flag was buoyed by the waves of her voice. I must say, Jessye, you were a tough act to follow.”

Jessye Norman chronicles her life in her elegantly written, 2014 book “Stand Up Straight and Sing!” In it, she goes beyond list making and richly details her experiences growing up in the Jim Crow south along memorable performances and lyrics of her favorite songs.

“Her mastery of language goes handin-glove with her mastery of music and singing…,” conductor James Levine wrote in his introduction.

Indeed, Jessye Norman has a love not only of the English language but of multiple languages. In addition to singing in German, Italian, Spanish and French, Ms. Norman fluently speaks each language. She did so, she said, by working hard and studying.

Asked how she pulled off two very different roles in Les Troyens at the Met, she had a similar response: “We do that with a great deal of preparation, a great deal of energy and a great deal of stamina. For anything that is challenging vocally and physically you have to be ready for it, and I was. So I was looking forward to it. There was Cassandra knowing Troy was going to fall and the queen wanting to bring her country back to its former glory. To have the opportunity was thrilling.”

Whether singing spirituals, church songs or arias, the vocalist said she gives herself thoroughly to whatever she is doing. That includes work with numerous nonprofits. Ms. Norman serves on the board of directors for The New York Public Library, is a member of the board of governors for the New York Botanical Garden, and serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Howard University, the Lupus Foundation and Paine College. She is national spokesperson for The Lupus

Foundation and The Partnership for the Homeless and is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America.

Her utmost source of “great pride and joy,” however, is the Jessye Norman School of the Arts in her hometown of Augusta.

“It’s disgraceful that arts are falling away from the public schools,” she said. “Arts are still looked on as elitist rather than a necessary part of development.”

Now in its 13 th year, the school offers underprivileged, gifted children ages 11-15 private tutoring in dance, drama, music, photography, visual arts, freestyle writing and costume design. “Educators tell us this period of maturation is crucial. This understanding of relationships with others and with the world is something they will look for in the rest of their lives if they don’t get it in this period.”

Amazingly, Jessye Norman’s large heart has room for more outreach. “Our social ills are at such a fever pitch that I feel drawn to be able to work in that sphere, not only in arts education. Considering things in New York state and New York City, we have more than 50 percent of young men of color that do not finish high schools. These are troubling things to know.

“I feel that this idea and sense of community is somehow being lost. It is important for all of us to be a part of something, and it is better to be a part of something good.” She added, “Rodney King said with poignancy, ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ Whatever I might help us to do to help us get along, that is my goal.”

___________

At the time of his death in July 2015, at age 74, Dr. Silas Norman Jr. was associate dean of Admissions, Diversity and Inclusion for Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. His efforts to increase the numbers of African Americans in the medical industry, work in securing medical care for residents of urban communities and prisons and pursuits for social justice earned the humble, dedicated family man numerous accolades. At the same time, Dr. Norman served faithfully at church and used his talent as a singer for the benefit of many.

Dr. Norman took up the mantle of civil rights activism as a student at Paine College in Augusta. As a sophomore in 1960, he chaired the Paine College Steering Committee, an affiliate of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and served as vice president of Georgia’s Colleges and Youth Chapter of the NAACP. While there, he and 10 other students were arrested for refusing to give up their seats on a bus. Later, he courageously testified in court against the segregated seating rules.

As a student at the University of Wisconsin where he had a fellowship in medical microbiology, Norman chaired the cam pus civil rights group and managed the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). While there, he was asked to work with the Selma Literacy Project, where participants taught local African-American residents the skills they needed to pass the voter registration tests.

“To have made that decision to go and work in Selma with John Lewis and Dick Gregory and other people so prominent was something I thought was incredible,” said Jessye Norman. “Our parents were as proud for him as they were worried for him. Unlike other parents who might have protested, they did not let their worry deter him.”

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, he and three other men sat at a Selma lunch counter where the waiter refused to serve them. Police arrived, shocked him with cattle prods and arrested him; however, his harsh treatment only encouraged more sit-ins.

“It is a very interesting thing that he never wanted to write a book about it,” said Ms. Norman of her brother. “He never wanted to exploit the experience in any way. Until he sat and quieted himself and really wanted to talk about the horror of it, it took a lot for him to want to speak about the details.” She considered including some of her brother’s story in her biography “Stand Up Straight and Sing!” but said she decided against it. “It was Junior’s story,” she said. “We had to respect that.”

Dr. Norman’s participation in multiple music groups was his “celebration of the uplifting power of music and a reminder of the beauty of which people are capable.”

Not long after becoming director SNCC, Dr. Norman was drafted. He received orders to go to Vietnam and then, finally, his application as conscientious objector was approved. Instead of war, he went north to WSU medical school where he found other ways to serve.

“His work as a physician and civil rights leader stemmed from this dedication,” said Dr. Silas P. Norman (III), associate professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan and one of Silas Norman Jr.’s three sons. “He was also a man of strong faith and dedication to his church and the work of the church to help those in need. He had a strong focus on uplifting those in society that are often marginalized including African-Americans, the poor and the HIV positive. He lived his faith as exemplified by his participation and leadership in multiple medical and community associations.”

In serving the underserved, Dr. Norman was active with the Detroit Health Care for the Homeless project and the Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion, which sought care for the uninsured; the Community Health Awareness Group Inc., which supports those affected by HIV and AIDS; and Doctors for Detroit. Dr. Norman had also been medical director at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, chief medical officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections and medical director for the Wayne County Jails.

As a member of the board at Paine College, Dr. Norman consistently contributed funds toward students’ tuition. And when Algea Harrison, Ph.D., a longtime friend and fellow congregant at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, decided to start a scholarship for members of the music and dance department at U-M, she asked Dr. Norman for assistance. “He joined me immediately and gave every year for 12 years in the name of his parents.”

In addition, Dr. Norman was a passionate choir member, participating in three adult choirs at church and a gospel quartet. “Silas had a unique voice, a very deep voice that stood out no matter what group he was singing with,” said Dr. Harrison.

Most notably, he performed with the Brazeal Dennard Chorale, one of the oldest African-American choirs in the nation. “He was an example of unselfish service, who did most of his service at the Chorale under the radar. We wouldn’t consider taking a trip without Silas blessing the trip. He was our spiritual leader,” said Donald Robinson, vice chair of the Brazeal Dennard board of directors.

“The first time I heard Handel’s Messiah, my brother was singing the bass part,” recalled Jessye Norman. “I have heard a lot of performances of Handel’s Messiah over the years, and I still like that one the best.”

In light of all he had seen and endured, his son said, Dr. Norman’s participation in multiple music groups was his “celebration of the uplifting power of music and a reminder of the beauty of which people are capable.”

When asked about her brother’s greatest accomplishment, Ms. Norman did not cite Dr. Norman’s music, activism, Alumni Achievement Award from the United Negro College Fund or his WSU School of Medicine’s Trailblazer award. She simply said: “I would have to say his three boys. They are wonderful, talented, concerned men. My brother gave a great deal to the outside world, but he was devoted to his family. I don’t

Dr. Silas P. Norman recalled fondly the day his son (also named Silas) was born. “Dad got to the hospital to see him faster than I thought anyone could,” he said. “His holding my son, the fourth generation of Silas’, and seeing his smile… There were few things that filled dad with more pride than his grandchildren.”