AUGUSTA, Ga. – The annual fundraising concert for Jessye Norman School of the Arts was scheduled a year out in order for both Jessye Norman and Audra McDonald to attend. But organizers tell us the tone of the concert necessarily had to change.
“I loved her. I loved her with all of my heart. She was an inspiration to me. She was someone I knew, she was my neighbor, and so any way that I can help honor her legacy is an imperative, as far I’m concerned,” says singer and actress McDonald.
Intended as a homecoming, the tone of the concert immediately shifted to honoring the legendary opera star’s life when Norman died September 30th, 2019.
Family, long-time friends, and students crowded the Miller Theater to hear McDonald perform multiple songs for the last day of Norman’s four-day homegoing celebration, which started Thursday with a public viewing at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church where the public was able to pay their respects.
McDonald tells us she didn’t have Norman on the stage with her, but that Norman was there in her heart. McDonald said she sang knowing the impact Norman had on her life.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to thank her enough for everything that she’s done for all of us, especially African-American female singers,” says McDonald.
The Jessye Norman School of the Arts choir and dancers had an opportunity to perform, as well.
One of her students, Sol Tucker, says he had the honor of meeting Jessye Norman.
“We met her in Toronto after we finished completing a piece for her, and we sat down, we talked with her, and had a good dinner with her. And, man, hearing her voice is like her singing while she’s having a conversation,” says Tucker, who is one of the Jessye Norman School of the Arts dancers.
Tucker tells us dancing to honor her legacy meant the world to him.
“It got really emotional while I was up there. Being able to go to a school in honor of her and being able to show my talent in honor of her is just amazing to me,” says Tucker.
Audra McDonald says she believes Norman would be so proud to watch these kids dream big as they put their hearts into their craft.
“She’s inspiring future generations to dream as big as she did and live worthy and full, educated, brilliant lives. And to soar. She walked and ran and flew, so that these kids can soar,” says McDonald.
Loved ones tell us even though this is the last day of celebrations honoring her life, she will always be celebrated, always be loved, and never forgotten.