"I wasn’t a person, and I’m not to this day, a real great fighter for anything. There are people who will, if they want something, they fight, fight, fight; they don’t mind–with their feet and their hands and everything–and those people are very, very necessary, but there are some who hope that if they’re doing something worthwhile, that it will speak for them." - Marian Anderson
Celebrated contralto and unlikely activist, Marian Anderson grew up singing in her church choir. Her family did not have enough money to pay for voice lessons but, recognizing her extraordinary gift, her fellow choir members all pitched in to fund her training with a vocal coach.
Like many of her contemporary African American performers, Anderson left the United States to perform in the more hospitable concert halls of Europe, ultimately earning acclaim in America as well as Europe.
When Anderson's request to play an Easter concert at Constitution Hall was denied by the DAR, who cited "local customs" in their refusal, an angered Eleanor Roosevelt worked with Interior Secretary Harold Ikes to open up the Lincoln Memorial to some 75,000 audience members.
"When God gave us this wonderful outdoors and the sun, the moon, and the stars, he made no distinction of race, creed, or color." -Harold Ikes, in his speech preceding Anderson's performance at Lincoln Memorial, 1939.
Opening with, "My Country, Tis of Thee," accompanied by only a piano, Anderson's performance was broadcast live over the radio to millions of homes across the country. She altered the lyrics slightly, from "of thee I sing" to "to thee we sing." Anderson would later explain that the shift was made because, "We cannot live alone," she said. "And the thing that made this moment possible for you and for me, has been brought about by many people whom we will never know."
Anderson would go on to become the first African American soloist ever to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, perform and John F. Kennedy's inauguration, and become the most celebrated singer of her generation. A forgiving and gracious woman, Marian Anderson also accepted a number of invitations from the DAR, who had since reformed their policies, to perform at Constitution Hall.
"I chose Marian Anderson because I am inspired by how she used her voice (literally and figuratively) to stand up to discrimination, despite being a personally quiet and reserved person. I think that it’s important for artists to know that our craft can make a resounding impact on society if we work hard and keep putting our work out there." -Katie Perez
The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation keeps music alive in our schools by providing durable, high-quality musical instruments to deserving, under-funded music programs nationwide. By increasing the school’s inventory of quality, playable instruments, music teachers are given the tools they need to deliver a quality music education to students who want to learn, re-energize their program, attract new students and instill a sense of pride and worth for the students and the entire school. In collaboration with committed school districts, the Foundation’s investments are strategically placed as part of a K–12 district-wide plan to achieve positive and lasting results.