Story, Rosalyn M.
Story, Rosalyn M.
CAREER: Writer, journalist, and violinist. Violinist with Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra and Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra; Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth, TX, violinist, beginning 1987; Dallas Opera; and Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Detroit, MI, violinist, beginning 2000.
More than You Know (novel), Agate (Chicago, IL), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Essence, American Visions, Stagebill, Crisis, and Opera News.
ADAPTATIONS: And So I Sing: African-American Divas of Opera and Concert served as the basis for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary Aida's Brothers and Sisters: A History of Black in Opera, narrated by Rosalyn Story.
SIDELIGHTS: Rosalyn M. Story is a freelance journalist and concert violinist. In a musical career spanning more than thirty years, she has performed with orchestras throughout the United States, including the Kansas City Philharmonic, the Tulsa Philharmonic, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Story was encouraged to pursue a career in music by her junior-high-school music teacher, and after high school she studied at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As a professional musician, Story seeks to return that encouragement by helping young people—particularly young African Americans and Latinos—learn music and participate in its performance. Her "advice for … students is to find a passion and use it to learn the critical skills that will lead them through their lives," noted a biographer on the Kansas City Public Schools Web site.
As an author, Story "feels fortunate to be able to interweave her two career interests," stated the biographer on the Kansas City Public Schools Web site. And So I Sing: African-American Divas of Opera and Concert contains biographies of thirty-two African-American female vocalists who have had notable careers in opera and on the concert stage. Story profiles early singers such as Sissieretta Joyner Jones, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, and Marie Selika Williams, all of whom had to overcome serious cultural and racial obstacles amid the aftermath of slavery in the late nineteenth century. Insulted for their physical appearance and maligned for their talent, these early vocalists overcame daunting odds to achieve success. The book also covers the struggles and careers of noted twentieth-century artists such as Leontyne Price, Jesseye Norman, Kathleen Battle, and Marian Anderson. According to Story, several of these women had to go to Europe to pursue their careers, owing to both racial impediments and lack of venues for classical musicians in America. Story also covers a number of ascending talents who are forming the twenty-first century's generation of divas. However, she does not make predictions about the possible future importance of these artists, and she "carefully separates the emerging from the arrived," wrote Daphne Duval Harrison in American Music.
Harrison concluded that And So I Sing offers "a much needed addition to the meager literature on blacks in classical music." As Paula Giddings remarked in Essence, Story's work "captures not only the pathos in the … singers she writes about but also the unique elements that make up their genius."
More than You Know is Story's fiction debut. L.J. Tillman is a talented saxophonist married to Olivia, a singer and beauty shop owner. More than forty years before the story opens, L.J. had been paid to drop an infant off at a beauty shop, no questions asked. When this long-held secret is revealed to Olivia—who was apparently the child in question—she throws L.J. out and severs ties with him. L.J. is then involved in a car accident, and though he is uninjured, he decides to let the world, and Olivia, believe he is dead. Depressed and disillusioned, L.J. works as a street musician in New York. Despite his ragged circumstances, L.J. muses on his past, and becomes dedicated to recovering his life and returning to his beloved Olivia.
More than You Know is a "romantic, deeply sentimental redemption story of smoky jazz clubs, beauty salons crackling with gossip, and the intricate, wide-ranging community that holds it all together," stated a Kirkus Reviews critic. "Story writes with the plot-twisting precision of a veteran," declared reviewer Regina Cash-Clark in Black Issues Book Review, "and a lyricism reminiscent of James Baldwin's novel-turned-serenade Sonny's Blues." The novel's "finely drawn characters, jazz settings, and taut emotions … build tension toward reconciliation," observed Vanessa Bush in Booklist. Story "has written an engaging first novel whose characters have great appeal," remarked Library Journal contributor Robin Nesbitt.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Music, winter, 1993, Daphne Duval Harrison, review of And So I Sing: AfricanAmerican Divas of Opera and Concert, p. 491.
Black Issues Book Review, November-December, 2004, Regina Cash-Clark, review of More than You Know, p. 70.
Booklist, February 15, 1995, Ray Olson, brief review of And So I Sing, p. 1049; September 15, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of More than You Know, p. 210.
Essence, June, 1990, Paula Giddings, review of And So I Sing, p. 44; January, 2005, Laurina Gibbs, review of More than You Know, p. 93.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of More than You Know, p. 835.
Library Journal, November 1, 2004, Robin Nesbitt, review of More than You Know, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, August 23, 2004, review of More than You Know, p. 34.
Washington Post, October 31, 2004, Bridgett M. Davis, review of More than You Know, p. BW08.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Web site, http://www.fwsymphony.org/ (September 25, 2005), author profile.
Kansas City Public Schools Web site, http://www.kckps.org/ (September 25, 2005), biography of Rosalyn M. Story.