Opera Legend Marilyn Horne to Address Pitt-Bradford Graduates

BRADFORD, Pa. – Internationally renowned opera legend and Bradford native Marilyn Horne will address the graduating class of 2011 at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford at the May commencement ceremony.

Horne, whose foundation sponsored a series of recitals by rising opera singers at Pitt-Bradford and who served as honorary chairwoman of the campaign to build Blaisdell Hall, will deliver the keynote address during commencement exercises at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, in the KOA Arena of the Sport and Fitness Center.

“Marilyn Horne’s legendary journey from rural Pennsylvania to international renown in the world of opera makes her the perfect choice to give the commencement address this year, especially as our graduates prepare to face a much more competitive and economically challenging environment,” said Dr. Livingston Alexander, Pitt-Bradford president.

“Throughout her magnificent career, Ms. Horne has inspired young men and women to discover their talents in the arts and other endeavors and to maximize their potential. I’m confident our graduates will draw inspiration from her in much the same way that thousands of other young people in this country and throughout the world have been inspired by her.”

Last year, Horne’s foundation donated its archives to Pitt-Bradford. She has agreed to donate her personal archives collection to Pitt-Bradford as well. Discussions are under way to bring the entire collection to Pitt-Bradford and the University of Pittsburgh.

Horne was born in Bradford in 1934 and has retained a soft spot in her heart for her hometown.

Since her retirement from performing in 1998, she has returned to Bradford to perform for the Bradford Creative and Performing Arts Center and to attend the opening of Blaisdell Hall, for which she helped to raise $3.4 million toward its construction.

Bradford has in turn embraced its native daughter, naming a street in her honor. Pitt-Bradford commissioned a bronze bust of Horne to grace the lobby of Blaisdell Hall, which is home to Pitt-Bradford’s programs in broadcast communications, public relations and fine and performing arts, and the Bromeley Family Theater.

In 2000, Pitt-Bradford honored Horne with its Presidential Medal of Distinction, and in 2004, she became the first person to receive an honorary degree from the University of Pittsburgh at a regional campus.

While Horne was growing up in Bradford, her father, Bentz Horne, encouraged his daughter to pursue her musical dreams. She moved with her family to Long Beach, Calif., when she was 11 and made her debut when she was 20 at the Los Angeles Guild Opera.

Following her father’s death in 1956, she traveled to Europe, performing in many productions and receiving rave reviews.

She sang professionally for more than 40 years, becoming not only a star of the opera world, but also an ambassador to pop culture through appearances on “The Odd Couple,” “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “Carol Burnett and Friends” and “Sesame Street.”

In 1994, she formed the Marilyn Horne Foundation to nurture and champion not only young opera singers, but also the art of vocal recital. The foundation sponsored recitals for young singers at several locations, including Carnegie Hall and Pitt-Bradford, before becoming part of the Marilyn Horne legacy at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

In 2007, the Metropolitan Opera Guild chose Horne as the honoree for the inaugural presentation in its “Met Legends” tribute series. At the same time, she was battling pancreatic cancer with the help of an experimental treatment at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. She was declared to be cancer-free in 2008.

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