About Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was born February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of three daughters born to John and Anna Anderson. John was a loader at the Reading Terminal Market, while Anna had been a teacher in Virginia. Marian attended William Penn High School. When Marian was 13 years old, she joined the senior choir at church and began visiting other churches, soon becoming well-known and accepting invitations to sing. In 1919, at the age of 22, she sang at the National Baptist Convention. When she was 15 years old, Marian began voice lessons with Mary Saunders Patterson, a prominent black soprano. Shortly thereafter, the Philadelphia Choral Society held a benefit concert, providing $500 for her to study for two years with leading contralto Agnes Reifsnyder. On April 23, 1924, Marion and her new manager, William “Billy” King, took a giant step and held a concert at New York’s Town Hall. Unfortunately, it was poorly attended and critics found her voice lacking. Marian was so discouraged, she contemplated abandoning her career choice. In 1925, she entered the Lewisohn Stadium competition. She beat 300 rivals and sang in New York’s amphitheater with the Philharmonic Orchestra accompanying her.

“I could not run away from the situation. I had become, whether I liked it or not, a symbol, representing my people. I had to appear.”

Music Career