Acclaimed American mezzo-soprano and soprano Shirley Verrett has died at age 79, in Ann Arbor. New Orleans-born Verrett was one of the top black opera singers of the 1970s and 1980s. She taught at the University of Michigan.
Here's a great excerpt from a speech she once gave to her students:
". . . Not all of you who come through these portals will become major opera singers or renowned scholars. However, every one of you should leave this university as an educated person . . . I have now come to believe specializing too early is counter-productive and can stunt your growth. I have heard many a voice professor talk about "the voice" as if it were detached from the physical body, the emotions, and especially the mind. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Your mind is your greatest asset. . . My mother, Elvira Verrett, always told my brothers, sister and me to "learn everything you can because you'll never know when you will need it. . . ." You may face your own moral crisis where your personal development or views may place you in conflict with those of your family, your friends, or "tradition." I can't advise you how to handle such a dilemma should it arise, however I can encourage you to be honest in your reflections. But don't let the fear of rejection slow down your intellectual curiosity or your personal development."