This Day in Black History: Dec. 2, 1923

Roland Hayes became the first Black singer at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

Posted: 11/30/2012 02:19 PM EST
Roland Hayes

(Photo: Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Roland Hayes, a son of former slaves, became the first Black singer to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Boston's Symphony Hall on Dec. 2, 1923. He was a lyric tenor renowned for his ability to master classic solos with masterful skills in French, German and Italian.

Hayes was born in 1887 in Curryville, Georgia. He began with arranging his own recitals and coast-to-coast tours from 1916–1919. He sang at Craig's Pre-Lenten Recitals and several Carnegie Hall concerts. He performed with the Philadelphia Concert Orchestra and at the Atlanta Colored Music Festivals and the Washington Conservatory concerts.

At the height of his career, Hayes obtained professional management with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Concert Company. He reportedly earned an annual salary of $100,000. In 1924, he was presented the Spingarn Medal.  He was also a highly sought after voice teacher in Boston.

He died on Jan. 1, 1977, in Boston at the age of 89.

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