Opera great Jessye Norman emcees fundraiser for the school named in her honor
Anyone who has lived in Augusta for more than five minutes is familiar with Jessye Norman. Even if they aren’t familiar with her talent as an opera singer, they have at least heard of the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre located downtown on the Riverwalk.
What most Augustans probably don’t know is that there is a Jessye Norman School of the Arts located on Greene Street. The Jessye Norman School of the Arts (JNSA) is a free after-school program designed to develop and nurture the artistic and creative talents of students, who may come from economically disadvantaged or otherwise underserved backgrounds. The school offers a wide range of professional instruction in the fine arts, and since all students enrolled in the programs at JNSA must maintain at least a C average in their academic courses, the school also offers free academic tutoring to those students who need it.
“I’m surprised how many people have never heard of it,” remarks Michael Ray, the school’s director. “I think we’re going on our 10th year in existence. The school was started by Dr. Linda Scales about 10 years ago, along with Jessye Norman. Originally, it was across the street at Saint John’s Methodist Church, and it stayed there for three or four years. Then Peter Knox donated this building, and we’ve been here ever since.”
Ray is referring to 739 Greene Street, where the school is now located. The building is going through many exciting renovations at the moment that will enhance and increase the functionality of the current space. One of the significant improvements will be the addition of an elevator, which will allow the school to cater to students who are unable to navigate the stairs that lead to the current classrooms.
Additionally, the new classrooms will be larger in order to better accommodate the currently overflowing rooms. Fortunately, the rooms are overflowing with eager students, who just seem happy to be there and do not seem at all bothered by the overcrowded space.
While the school currently only enrolls students in the fifth through eighth grades, there are plans to offer some high school courses beginning in January as part of the renovations.
“When the downstairs gets finished,” explains Ray, “we’ll have room for a technology program we’re starting for high school kids. We’re going to pilot that with photography and Photoshop and a little bit of web design.”
This weekend JNSA will be hosting a fundraising concert called “An Evening at the Opera,” which will be held at the Maxwell Theatre. A reception will follow.
“We’ve done this yearly for the past three or four years,” says Ray. “Jessye Norman is the emcee, and most of the performers are her contemporaries from New York, with a couple of locals, like Dr. Rosalyn Floyd who is a piano professor at ASU and Tanya Courier is a local opera singer. So, it’s going to be an awesome event — and the Jessye Norman Chorus is going to get a chance to sing a song by themselves and then with the entire ensemble, so it’s going to be a really great event.
And while some of the proceeds will go to the performers, the rest will help with the renovations currently going on at the school.
“All the funds go to pay for the performance costs and anything leftover goes directly to the school,” Ray says. “In past years it’s been the biggest fundraiser for the school. The first half of the show is going to be standard opera and the second half will be lighter. A lot of Broadway show tunes and standards.”
An Evening at the Opera
ASU’s Maxwell Theatre
Sunday, November 11| 5 p.m.
$40; $20, students and military
706-667-4100 | tickets.aug.eduYou Might Also Like:
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