'Even in her passing, she lives on': Family wants Jessye Norman's legacy to be seen through students

Tuesday, October 1, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Students, family, and the public gathered to honor the late, great opera singer, Jessye Norman, on Tuesday afternoon.

Students at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts even sang a tribute to the Augusta native, who died on Monday at age 74.

The family sees the students as Norman's living legacy.

"Even though we'll miss her dearly, it means to me that she still lives on in every song written, every song sang by these children," said Raymond Sturkey, Jessye Norman's nephew.

Sturkey is an artist himself. He says his aunt inspired him to be who he his.

"A lot of people on the world stage saw the grandeur of the stage presence, but for us we just had Aunt J, ya know?" Sturkey said.

To many of the students, Norman is their role model.

"I just look up to her," said Jasmine Yancey, a dance student. "I will still continue to do that. I'll honor her. She was such a sweet lady."

Yancey met Norman while on a school trip to Toronto in February. Students attended the ceremony for the Glenn Gould Award, which Norman received.

"Here is where I really found my place and my calling," said Haley Wilson, a senior art student.

She says the school changed her life.

"I wouldn't be in the place I'm at right now without Jessye Norman," Wilson said. "I wouldn't be an artist. I wouldn't be a poet."

Broadway actor and Augusta native, Russell Joel Brown, says students feel a responsibility to live up to Norman's expectations.

"It's a unique opportunity for them to experience the gravity of how immense her impact is," Brown said.

Norman's legacy is inspiring students to leave their own.

"Being a legacy makes me think that I can make a difference just like she did," Wilson said.

The family says they were expecting Norman to be here for the renaming of 8th Street in her honor next week. That celebration will go on, according to organizers.

The family says they are looking at Oct. 12 as a possible date for the funeral services.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.