The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has announced the creation of The Florence Kopleff Choral Administrator Chair in perpetuity as a tribute to American Contralto Florence Kopleff who died on July 24, 2012. The impact of Miss Kopleff - once called the "greatest living alto" by Time magazine - on American music and the Atlanta Symphony will be felt for generations to come. Jeffrey Baxter, current Choral Administrator for the Atlanta Symphony, longtime member of the ASO Chorus, and a friend of Miss Kopleff, will be the first holder of the chair.
Miss Kopleff had always acknowledged the deep influence former Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Shaw had on her life. She first met him in 1941, and was a mainstay of the Robert Shaw Chorale, having performed on every recording made by the group. It was Mr. Shaw who encouraged her to take private voice lessons, and fostered her love of literature, philosophy, poetry, and religion. "He made me the human being that I am," she said. At the urging of Mr. Shaw, Miss Kopleff came to Atlanta in 1968 to become Professor of Voice at Georgia State University, and also became the school's first Artist-in-Residence, a position she held for 30 years
Miss Kopleff also had an active solo career, having performed and recorded with renowned conductors such as George Szell, Charles Munch, Fritz Reinger, and Eugene Ormandy, and was soloist in multiple Grammy Award-winning recordings with the Robert Shaw Chorale. After moving to Atlanta, she began a long-lasting relationship with the Atlanta Symphony, with which she gave many memorable performances as soloist. During her long association with Mr. Shaw and the ASO Choruses, she gave innumerable group voice classes and also prepared transliterations of foreign-language texts.
"The passing of Florence Kopleff is especially poignant for me as someone who also sang under the baton of Robert Shaw," said Atlanta Symphony Orchestra President Stanley E. Romanstein. "The spirit and energy she embodied a singer and teacher was contagious, and her dedication to our ASO Chorus is particularly special to the Orchestra. By naming this Chair in her honor, we are ensuring her legacy will live on for generations to come."
"Florence Kopleff was a supreme artist, a gifted educator, and a remarkable human being. She gave so much of herself and her talent to others. Her singing and teaching changed lives," said Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Director of Choruses Norman Mackenzie. "Florence loved and nurtured the
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and our members returned that love and devotion. I find it particularly fitting that we are creating The Florence Kopleff Choral Administrator Chair, and I am thrilled my dear friend and colleague, Jeff Baxter, a close associate of both Florence and Robert Shaw, will be the first holder of this chair."
Miss Kopleff taught hundreds of singers in her 30 years at Georgia State University, where she was honored with the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award in 1982. "Music is my religion," she said. "I don't have a family or a business to leave to the world, so my music, which is my life's work, will be my testament."