Choirs and Other Orchestras

Who was Eva Jessye?

Eva Jessye (1895–1992), composer, musician, choral director, educator, writer, and actress, became the first black woman to achieve acclaim as director of a professional choral group, in 1926. The Eva Jessye Choir performed regularly at New York City’s Capitol Theatre from 1926 until 1929. Jessye directed the choir in Hollywood’s first black musical, Hallelujah, in 1929. She was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, graduated from Western University (Quindaro, Kansas), and later attended Langston University in Oklahoma. In 1935 Jessye became choral director for the premiere of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.


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