Her-Story Matters: A look at Lorraine Doggett, daughter of prominent former St. Louis’ NAACP President and Civil Rights activist

In memory of a 1960s USC School of Music mezzo soprano who represented USC and Los Angeles during The Civil Rights Movement on the world stage

Courtesy of Bill Doggett

January 12, 1944-March 4, 2023

Lorraine Frances Doggett, born in New York City, January 12, 1944. And she was an important pioneer at The University of Southern California Music School in the early 1960’s, as a showcase African-American young musician at the dawn and height of the Civil Rights Movement .

The daughter of prominent early 1960’s Los Angeles Civil Rights Movement parents, former St. Louis’ NAACP President, Reverend John N Doggett, and Frances Doggett. Lorraine demonstrated vocal gifts early as she was a featured singer in the late 1950’s at Los Angeles High School in lead roles in popular musicals.

Courtesy of Bill Doggett

Matriculating from Los Angeles City College Music Department in 1962, to The University of Southern California School of Music,

Lorraine was the first Black singer to integrate the elite USC Chamber Singers, and would be featured in a 1964 World Tour of the ensemble.  

Lorraine showcased famous Negro Spirituals, including her signature “In That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”- in an arrangement by the famous Los Angeles based Negro Spirituals arranger, Jester Hairston.

Courtesy of Bill Doggett

Lorraine’s presence acted as an ambassador for “The Negro Cause” worldwide at the height of The Civil Rights Movement and symbolically for the face of The University of Southern California Music School.  

Their 1964 World Tour has been memorialized on YouTube by a special video compiled in recent years. The video recording opens right after her solo in In That Great Gettin’ Morning.  She is seen immediately in the first image and in the first 1:40 of the film in the brown fur coat, a gift of her mother.

A Live recording made after their World Tour in 1964 featured her on double LP of The Chamber Singers signatured repertoire. Lorraine Doggett symbolically represented the cause of Civil Rights, Los Angeles and the emerging ascendance of Black professional opera singers making their names at The MET i.e. Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Reri Grist and George Shirley.

Coming into prominence as a young Mezzo Soprano college student during the eras of Leontyne Price, Shirley Verrett and Grace Bumbry, she stood with them artistically with dedication to join them professionally

Additionally, Lorraine Doggett made history as USC’s first known Black singer to be given a featured role in the 1964 Los Angeles Premiere of Mozart’s Idomeneo performed by USC Opera Theater under the direction of Walter Ducloux. 

Featured in the leading role ,”the pants role” of the character Idamante, her opera debut would lead to be recognized in 1965 as “Artist of The Future” by The Los Angeles Bureau of Music {see attached news clippings} 

During her work with Dr. Ducloux at USC Opera Theater, she was also featured as the lead in the operas of Gian Carlo Menotti-The Telephone and The Medium

Lorraine studied with USC School of Music legends, Madame Gwendolyn Koldolsky, Dr Charles Hirt and Walter Ducloux. 

Like her Class peer, Michael Tilson Thomas, she spent days and hours at Clarke House, the legendary  home for USC Music School associated teachers, Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, Madame Koldofsky and John Crown

Her teacher who made her entrance at USC possible was the renowned 1930s-50s Los Angeles based singer, Alice Mock.   

After graduating from USC in 1966 as did her famous conductor peer, Michael Tilson Thomas , she traveled in 1968 to Switzerland to study at Zurich Opera Studio during which time she met the celebrated mezzo soprano, St. Louis’ legend Grace Bumbry. Grace Bumbry mentored her and provided important introductions,  

Her success at Zurich Opera Studio led to Lorraine an audition and offer of a new role as a house singer at Opera Trier.

Lorraine entered the European opera world at a time  where opera house doors had been opened by other Black women- Felicia Weathers, Gwendolyn Killibrew and Grace Bumbry.

Among her Puccini opera aria signatures, Schubert and Schumann Lieder and Faure Chanson, she also signature the role of Serena in Porgy and Bess and auditioned in the role of Liu in the Puccini opera, Turandot for the renowned conductor Julius Rudel in Italy

Although she was not able to extend her passport, due to financial challenges. She returned to The States and auditioned for The MET and sought mentorship from Leontyne Price-both efforts ill timed, proving unproductive, and ultimately traumatic in view of her role waiting for her at Opera Trier.

During her business career, she continued to sing and was a great supporter of other young singers
of color.

During the 1990’s she returned to USC for a meeting to arrange a scholarship for young black singers and musicians, the details of which are yet to be discovered.

She had a long-standing career right up until her health started to turn for the worse.

Courtesy of Bill Doggett

“In that great gettin’ up morning”.….may my sister Lorraine rest in peace in a “new morning”

Lorraine is survived by her husband, Curtis Melton Sr, her brothers, William Doggett and John Doggett and his wife, Haiping Tang and Brother and Sister-in-law, Curtis Melton Jr and his wife Lisa Valerio.


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