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Music

Philadelphia Orchestra’s Home Renamed Marian Anderson Hall as Verizon Name Comes Off

February 28, 2024

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s home is being renamed Marian Anderson Hall in honor of the pioneering Black American contralto, a rare case of an artist’s name replacing a corporation.

The orchestra’s auditorium in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts was known as Verizon Hall from 1999 through 2023, as part of a $14.5 million contribution agreed to by Bell Atlantic Corp. before its name change in 2000 to Verizon Communications Inc.

Anderson, who died in 1993 at age 96, was born in Philadelphia and in 1955 became the first Black singer to appear at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The renaming was announced Wednesday, a day after the 127th anniversary of her birth.

“Knowing Marian, she would be humble,” said her niece, Ginette DePriest, the wife of late conductor James DePriest. “She always used to say: ‘Don’t make any fuss about this,’ but I think that the fact that it’s her hometown that she adores — I think she would be obviously honored but mostly humbled by by this gesture.”

Richard Worley and wife Leslie Miller, who live in suburban Bryn Mawr, are underwriting the name change with a $25 million gift to the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, which united in 2021. Worley joined the orchestra’s board in 1997 and served as its president from 2009-20; Miller was on the Kimmel Center board from 1999-2008, serving as acting president.

“A tribute to Marian Anderson of this nature, we think it’s long overdue,” Miller said,. “She was an iconic artist and she fought discrimination at every turn with grace and grit and kept on going. She deserves this kind of recognition.”

Philadelphia orchestra CEO Matías Tarnopolsky made a presentation to the board in August 2022 to name the hall after Anderson.

“We feel that what we’ve done for the orchestra and other Philadelphia institutions is well-enough known and well-enough recognized,” Miller said. “We just thought with a non-corporate name and a name in honor of someone that deserves the honor we might be able over time to raise more money for sustaining the hall than if we named it after an individual donor.”

A statue of Anderson is planned for the vicinity of the hall.

“We hope that in naming the hall Marian Anderson it will be an indication of the efforts that the orchestra is making to diversify its audiences, its programing, and in so doing, to be more relevant to all Philadelphians and beyond,” Miller said.

Tarnopolsky and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin have in recent years programmed music written by Black Americans Florence Price, Valerie Coleman and William Grant Still.

“We have a lot of catching up to do,” Tarnopolsky said. “We began that journey several years ago and it’s ongoing and we feel like we’re making some really positive change. So what’s the logical next chapter is what we asked ourselves. And we thought about the legendary artist, civil rights icon and Philadelphian Marian Anderson.”


By RONALD BLUM Associated Press

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