Into every life a little regret will likely fall.
For Peggy Shivers, a longtime staple of the Colorado Springs classical and jazz music scene, that regret is more than six decades old. And it involves the world-renowned singer Marian Anderson.
It was sophomore year at Portland State University in Portland, Ore., and along with her studies in education, Shivers’ soaring soprano voice was in constant demand around town. After one event she was connected with a voice teacher.
And then Anderson came to town to perform. She had become a figurehead for Black artists struggling to perform in the face of racism in the U.S. during the mid-20th century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to sing in Washington, D.C., once they learned she was Black. But first lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited Anderson to perform on Easter Sunday in 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Anderson also would be the first Black to perform at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in 1955.
And she liked Shivers, whose beloved voice teacher arranged a meeting between the two. She even came to Shivers’ voice lesson.
“I remember her coming in. It was like an angel,” says Shivers, 81. “It looked like there was an aura or halo around her. I remember her saying what a big voice for such a small girl.”
Anderson invited Shivers to her annual recital and competition, where she might meet people who could help her career. But first, she wanted Shivers to graduate from college.
And she did, but she began teaching second grade straight away and never followed through on Anderson’s invitation.
“I regret it to this day, but I was still excited about being in her presence. You felt something spiritual about her. Something angelic. I’ll always remember that experience.”