Wyclef Jean

Photo by Matthew Straubmuller of Wyclef Jean live in Washington, D.C. CC By 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Haitian Rapper, Producer, and Philanthropist • Born October 17, 1969 • Hip Hop, Reggae Fusion, R&B

Fast Facts

  • Wyclef Jean was born in a suburb of Port-au-Prince in Haiti where he lived and was raised by his relatives until he was 9 years old. 
  • His first instrument was accordion, then he learned guitar, bass and piano, but his favorite of them all was guitar.
  • At age 9, Wyclef moved to Brooklyn, New York to join his parents who had immigrated to the United States when Wyclef was a baby.   
  • Although rap was frowned upon by Wyclef’s family he joined the Fugees, originally known as the Tranzlator Crew founded by Lauryn Hill and Prakazrel Michel in the late 1980s. 
  • Wyclef Jean studied music at Five Towns College in Long Island, New York but didn’t graduate because he dropped out to focus on rapping. 
  • Every day he gets up and goes into the studio: “My therapy is when I pick up my guitar and sing.”
  • As a producer, he has worked with such artists as Shakira, Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, Carlos Santana and Avicii.
  • He filed to run for President of Haiti in 2010, but was disqualified because he hadn’t lived in the country for five years prior to the election.
  • Wyclef won two grammys for his work with the Fugees. 
  • Wyclef’s original name is Nel Ust Wycliffe Jean

Jessye Norman

Photo by Jati Lindsay, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

American Opera Singer • 1945-2019 • Opera, Western Classical Music

Fast Facts

  • Jessye Norman was an American opera singer and recitalist (this means she sang recitals of Western Classical music).
  • Her mother and grandmother both played the piano, her father sang in a local choir, and Jessye and her four siblings learned to play the piano at a young age.
  • When she was nine years old, Jessye received a radio for her birthday and was inspired by listening to the weekly broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Jessye Norman studied music at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Northern Michigan and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • She has performed many roles with opera companies around the world.
  • Jessye Norman received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Medal of Arts.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

“Buffy-Sainte-Marie-DSC_2402” by sidrguelph is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Indigenous Canadian-American Singer/Songwriter, Guitarist, Pianist, Political Activist and Visual Artist • Born February 20, 1941 • Folk and Rock

Fast Facts

  • Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Indigenous Canadian-American musician, artist and activist.
  • She was born on Feb. 20, 1941, on the Piapot Cree First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • She was adopted by parents of Micmac ancestry and raised in Massachusetts.
  • She is well known for using her music to raise awareness for issues affecting Indigenous Americans.
  • Buffy plays the guitar, piano, and the mouth bow.

Wu Tong

Photo Copyright by World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle / CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

Chinese Sheng Player, Bawu Player,
Singer and Composer • Born 1971 • Chinese Traditional Music, Western Classical Music, and Rock & Roll

Fast Facts

  • Performs on the sheng (pronounced shung) and the bawu (both Chinese wind instruments).
  • Attended the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China.
  • From a family of sheng makers/players.
  • Has developed an electronic sheng.
  • Performs in the Silkroad Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and Rhiannon Giddens.
  • Sang in the rock band Lunhui and also sings opera.
  • Has played with orchestras in Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, and New York.
  • New York’s China Institute named him 2012 Musician of the Year.
  • Has won 2 Grammys and an Asia Game Changer Award.
  • Has also composed music for film.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson / William Henry Johnson /c. 1945,  Oil on paperboard /Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Harmon FoundationAccessed: https://npg.si.edu/exhibition/one-life-marian-anderson. Re-used for educational use according to the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use.

Marian Anderson, New York / Irving Penn / 1948, Gelatin silver print / Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries. 
© The Irving Penn Foundation Accessed: https://npg.si.edu/exhibition/one-life-marian-anderson. Re-used for educational use according to the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use.

American Singer and Diplomat • 1897-1993 • Western Classical Music and African-American Spirituals

Fast Facts

  • Born February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, PA 
  • Became a choir member at her church at 6 years old, nicknamed “Baby Contralto”
  • Choir members raised money to send her to train with well-known voice teacher Giuseppe Boghetti
  • Toured extensively through Europe 
  • Invited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at the White House, becoming the first African-American to receive that honor
  • Denied the opportunity to perform at Constitution Hall by Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) on account of her race
  • Her rejection from the DAR caused an uproar, leading Eleanor Roosevelt to publicly withdraw her own DAR membership and work to secure a performance for Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939, which became one of Anderson’s most famous performances 
  • Sang at the inauguration of both Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy Jr. 
  • Sang at the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech
  • First African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955

Shreya Ghoshal

Bollywood Hungama / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Indian Singer • Born 1984 • Bollywood Playback Singing and Indian Classical Music

Fast Facts

  • Born in 1984, West Bengal, India
  • Mum was a singer and taught Shreya songs from an early age
  • She trained in Hindustani Classical Music (Northern Indian)
  • Her father (and the whole family) was transferred to Mumbai when she was 13. Mumbai is the main centre of the ‘Bollywood’ film industry.
  • Shreya won or did well in several national singing competitions whilst a teenager, including Sa Re Ga Ma (famous singing competition show).
  • She records in several languages including Hindi, Assamesse, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Gujrarati, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Nepali, Oriya, Tamil and Telegu 
  • “The American state of Ohio has honoured Bollywood playback singer Shreya Ghoshal for her contribution to the music industry by declaring June 26 as ‘Shreya Ghoshal Day.'” (From https://www.hindustantimes.com/entertainment/shreya-has-her-own-day/story-gjlTB9YizqeF9fXFqIlhHK.html)
  • She has been a judge on various talent shows including X Factor India and Indian Idol Junior

Sonu Nigam

Vaikoovery / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Indian Singer and Composer • Born July 30, 1973 • Bollywood Playback Singing 

Fast Facts

  • At four, Sonu began his singing career when he was invited by his father, Agam Kumar Nigam, on stage to sing.
  • He began working in the Bollywood industry in 1991. 
  • Leo is his zodiac sign.
  • He studies Taekwondo and is a skilled fighter.
  • He is also an accomplished actor.


friedoxygen / CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Embed from Getty Images

(Melissa Viviane Jefferson)
American Singer, Rapper, Songwriter, and Flutist • born April 27, 1988 • Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul, Funk-Pop

Fast Facts

  • Lizzo was named TIME’s entertainer of the year in 2019.
  • “Lizzo is a combination of an early nickname, Lissa, and Jay-Z’s song ‘Izzo.’”*
  • She sings. She raps. She dances. She’s also a classically trained flautist. 
  • Lizzo’s flute has its own Instagram account and 130,000 followers. 
  • “The day she released her now No. 1 Billboard single ‘Truth Hurts,’ Lizzo almost quit the music industry altogether”**

*“Lizzo: TIME’s Entertainer of the Year 2019” by Samantha Irby: https://time.com/entertainer-of-the-year-2019-lizzo/
**“Lizzo says she almost quit music the day she released her now No. 1 Billboard hit” by Jennifer Liu: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/09/lizzo-almost-quit-music-the-day-she-released-her-no-1-billboard-hit.html

Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman 4 © Masterclass.com.jpg  https://www.primoartists.com/itzhak-perlman#media. Used with permission.

Israeli-American Violinist, Conductor & Teacher • Born 1945 • European Classical & Klezmer Music

Fast Facts

  • Grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel, with his parents who moved there from Poland
  • Spoke Yiddish as a child 
  • Wanted to learn violin after hearing it on the radio
  • Performs with major orchestras around the world
  • Also plays klezmer music, a style from Jewish people in Eastern Europe
  • Was the violin soloist in the soundtrack to the film Schindler’s List
  • Walks with crutches or rides a motorized scooter because of leg paralysis from the disease polio 
  • Speaks about the rights of people with disabilities

Yo-Yo Ma

Ralph Daily / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Chinese-American Cellist • Born 1955 • European Classical Music

Fast Facts

  • Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris but moved to the USA when he was seven.
  • Both of his parents were Chinese.
  • Yo-Yo Ma’s first cello teacher was his father.
  • Yo-Yo Ma graduated from Harvard with a degree in anthropology (the study of human beings and society)
  • He has won many awards during his lifetime including including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the Leonie Sonning Music Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), Kennedy Center Honors (2011), the Polar Music Prize (2012), the Vilcek Prize in Contemporary Music (2013), and the J. Paul Getty Medal Award (2016). 
  • Yo-Yo Ma performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony in 2009
  • In addition to recordings of famous works, Yo-Yo Ma is known for his collaborations with other musicians and artists including Bobby McFerrin and James Taylor.
  • Yo-Yo Ma plays a cello nicknamed “Petunia,” created by Domenico Montagnana in 1733. It is valued at $2.5 million