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AT&T Presents: Listen 2 Learn! Denyce Graves

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Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves has been hailed by USA Today as "an operatic superstar of the 21st Century." But that doesn't mean she's beyond being fazed while performing. Here she recalls conjuring up the spirit of her idol, legendary contralto Marian Anderson, who sang at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Easter Sunday 1939—after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform for an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. "I remember just after 9/11, I was asked to sing at the Washington National Cathedral for a prayer of service," she tells The African American Voice in Classical Music host Patrick D. McCoy. "As I stood there and looked into the sea of faces, I remember thinking, 'That looks like President Ford. Is that President Ford?' And then I looked next to him and I said, 'That looks like President Carter.' Then I saw President Clinton and President George Bush. And at that moment, I turned my mind to that Easter Sunday of Marian Anderson, and I said, 'Denyce, just think what Marian Anderson must have felt like when she had to sing in the sea of people during that very historic moment. She got through that, so you can get through this.'"