A Pioneer of Classical Music: Mattiwilda Dobbs

Mattiwilda Dobbs was an African-American classical singer known for her coloratura soprano timbre. Dobbs was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 11, 1925. Dobbs journey with music started at a very young age, at the age of 7 she began piano lessons and also sang throughout the community along with church choirs. She began her study of voice at the illustrious Spelman College, which pushed her further into her journey with music. Following her time at Spelman, Dobbs’ continued her study of voice in New York City soon after that she began her studies of voice in Europe. During her time in Europe she sang at local festivals and created a name for herself within the genre. She made her debut in the United States during a recital with the Little Orchestra Society in New York City in 1954 and made her opera debut in 1956 as Gilda in Rigoletto. This metropolitan opera debut landed her a long-term contract which was the first time a black singer had been offered such a contract. This opened the door for other black musicians and singers within this genre.

Dobbs’ voice was praised around the world, she brought a fresh unique beauty when she sang. She had a very small voice but at the same time her voice was very cheerful. She has inspired many singers who came after her such as Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman.

In my opinion, Mattiwilda Dobbs is a pioneer of this genre and opened doors for many black women in the music industry. She made her mark and her voice will live on through all of the amazing women she inspired.

By: Alyssia Santiago

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