Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson / William Henry Johnson /c. 1945,  Oil on paperboard /Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Harmon FoundationAccessed: 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: 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

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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
  • She has been a judge on various talent shows including X Factor India and Indian Idol Junior

Sonu Nigam

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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.


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(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:
**“Lizzo says she almost quit music the day she released her now No. 1 Billboard hit” by Jennifer Liu:

Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman 4 © 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

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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

Wu Man, Elekes Andor / CC BY-SA

Chinese-American Pipa Player & Composer • Born 1963 • Traditional Chinese and Contemporary Music

Fast Facts

  • Her family name (what Americans call the last name) is Wu, and her given name (what Americans call the first name) is Man, because Chinese names use that order.
  • Born in Hangzhou, China
  • Plays the pipa, a 2000-year-old Chinese instrument named after the plucking sounds of its strings
  • Was the first person to earn a Master’s Degree in pipa at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China
  • Performs solo and with groups such as major orchestras, The Kronos Quartet, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble
  • Composes for pipa and other instruments
  • Tries to spread the pipa into other genres such as electronic music and into other art forms such as theater
  • Loves to improvise in her playing
  • Lives in California

Susan Tedeschi

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American Singer, Guitarist, & Songwriter
Born November 9, 1970 • Blues

Fast Facts

  • Susan Tedeschi was Born in Boston and raised in Norwell, Massachusetts.
  • Her great-grandfather started Tedeschi Food Shops, a supermarket chain in New England.
  • She has a degree from the Berklee College of Music in performance and composition. 
  • She sang in a gospel choir in college.
  • She got her start in the Boston music scene.
  • Her vocal influences include Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin.
  • Her guitar influences include Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
  • She has performed as the opening act for the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Taj Mahal, and the Allman Brothers.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Kent Buckingham /, CC BY 2.0 (

Hawaiian Singer, Ukulele player, & Activist • May 20, 1959 – June 26, 1997 • Contemporary Traditional Music

Fast Facts

  • In Hawaiian Kamakawiwo’ole translates “the fearless eye, the bold face.”
  • Formed a band with his brother called Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau
  • He and his band embraced traditional Hawaiian melodies.
  • He is known around the world for his versions of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.”
  • He believed that Hawaii should become an independent country.
  • He and many of his family members struggled with health problems due to obesity.
  • His nickname was “IZ.”
  • He died of respiratory failure at age 38.

Edna Vázquez

Photo by Tonia GomezDaza. Used with permission.

Mexican Singer-Songwriter & Musician • Born 1978
Pop, Latinx, Rock, Mariachi

Fast Facts

  • Edna Fabiola Vázquez was born in Colima, México and raised in Tonila, Jalisco. 
  • She started writing music as a teenager in Mexico. 
  • In high school, her parents learned she was lesbian and feared for her safety so much that they sent her away to live with relatives in Los Angeles.
  • She later moved to Hillsboro, Oregon, learned English, finished high school, and joined Mariachi Los Palmeros in 1998.
  • In 2010, Vázquez performed a traditional Mexican song from her mother’s home region on the TV talent show Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento that left the judges in tears.
  • Edna Vazquez performs original songs which blend her mariachi roots with folk, rock, pop and R&B. 
  • Edna performs music to spread a message of “light, love and cultural healing.” (quote from