Jessye, Eva (Alberta)
- James Standifer
(b Coffeyville, KS, Jan 20, 1885; d Ann Arbor, MI, Feb 21, 1992). American choral director, composer and arranger. She studied at Western University, Kansas (graduated 1914), and Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma. After teaching in the public schools, she became the director of music at Morgan College, Baltimore, in 1920. In 1926, a year after joining the staff at the Baltimore Afro-American, she moved to New York to study with Will Marion Cook and Percy Goetschius. By 1930 her Original Dixie Jubilee Singers (later the Eva Jessye Choir), an ensemble that performed spirituals, work-songs, mountain ballads, ragtime jazz and light opera, were popular on both stage and radio, appearing regularly on the ‘Major Bowes Family Radio Hour’ and the ‘General Motors Hour’. The first black woman to win international distinction as a choral director, she and her choir performed throughout the world and in numerous Broadway shows and motion pictures, the first being King Vidor’s ...