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Meet Carol Brice, One of the First Successful Afro-American Women To Glide In Classical Music

Carol Brice was an American classical singer. She sang in the contralto range.  Carol was born in Sedalia, North Carolina on April 16, 1918.  She went to Palmer Memorial Institute and then Talladega College, where she earned her Bachelor of Music in 1939.  She proceeded her education career at Julliard School of Music from 1939-1943, spending approximately another four years after having received a Bachelor in music years before.

In the same year, 1943, Brice made her debut appearance in a recital. Her career soared after World War II; in 1946 Brice earned a recording contract from Columbia Records.  She remained with the New York City Opera until 1963.  From 1967 to 1971, she performed with Volksoper in Vienna, Austria; from 1976 to 1977 she sang with the Houston Grand Opera.

Image of Carol Brice

Brice’s heyday didn’t just end with her career in the opera. She was also successful on Broadway.  In 1958 she was cast as kakou in the original cast of Harold Arlen’s Saratoga, Maude in the 1960’s revival of Finian’s Rainbow. Throughout the 1960’s Brice played several roles to include Catherine Creek in The Grass Harp, Harriett Tubman in GentlemenBe Seated, and Queenie in Showboat. 

While performing in Vienna in 1968, Brice met Thomas Carey; they married the same year.  In 1969 the couple relocated to Norman, Oklahoma and both became faculty members at the University of Oklahoma; Brice joined as a staff member in 1974.

Carey and Brice founded their not-for-profit organization called Cimarron Circuit Opera. Classical Music City cites CCO as a company which “fosters and encourages aspiring performers by providing a medium which gives an opportunity to perform on stage; by enabling the public an opportunity to see and hear the finest in operatic and lyrical productions; by developing educational experiences in music for performers and audiences; by enriching the cultural environment of our state and beyond; by providing production and staging experience for performers and creative technicians; by providing workshops and staged performances for children and youth to stimulate enthusiasm and understanding and ensure a future for the art among young people of tomorrow; by providing an opportunity for arts management training; and by providing high quality music theater for parks, schools, community centers, churches, and small outlying communities.”

Brice died of cancer on February 14, 1985. She was survived by Carey, their two children, and six grandchildren.

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