Alumna’s Memories Revived on Broadway

As a 7-year-old girl in 1935, Naida King Rasbury ’51 made her Broadway debut in the classic American opera “Porgy and Bess.” Nearly 80 years later, she strode the red carpet on opening night for the Broadway revival that would later win the Tony Award.

Naida King Rasbury ’51  with Tony Award winner Audra McDonald

Naida King Rasbury ’51
with Tony Award winner Audra McDonald.

When she learned the 2012 revival was in the works, she emailed the producers, told them that she was in the 1935 original and asked if they were headed to New York. Not only were they returning to New York, the producers wanted her to be there.

“They invited me to bring a guest to the opening, and the guest was my husband, of course,” says Rasbury, who now lives in Florida.

“We went from the opening to the after-party that was given at a hotel with hundreds of people,” she continues. “After a while, when things began to thin out, many of the cast members sought me out, talked with me and asked me about the original.”

Rasbury grew up in New York City. Her mother sang in a choir led by Eva Jessye, whom George Gershwin hired to be musical director for “Porgy and Bess.” When her mother learned that children were needed for the cast, she sent for Rasbury.

Naida King Rasbury ’51 as a young girl on  the stage.

Naida King Rasbury ’51 as a young girl on
the stage.

“I auditioned for Rouben Mamoulian and George Gershwin, and after that, they said I was in,” Rasbury says. She had a small supporting role, who made a doll dance to music, led the residents of Catfish Row to a church picnic on nearby Kittiwah Island and hid from a police officer in a basket of laundry.

She later attended the High School of Music & Art in New York, and met Oswego recruiters James Moreland, the freshman class advisor, and Golden Romney, head of the department of health and physical education. She applied to Oswego and was accepted, then joined a half dozen other freshmen on an overnight train from Manhattan to the lakeside campus.

“Most of the professors I had there, I loved,” Rasbury says. “They taught me things that I still carry to this day in terms of education, my vocation and the way in which I live. I don’t think you find a lot of people today with the same kind of dedication as these folks had at that time.”

She finished with a degree in elementary education. “The impact was that I became a teacher instead of just another singer,” Rasbury says. “To become a good teacher, I learned that preparedness was the key to being in charge of your classroom at all times, and later in life, being prepared for any job. I was well-prepared to teach in
a New York City public school where some tenured teachers were not in charge of their classrooms.

“I give Oswego the credit for really preparing me to be in charge of all of the changes that have come about in my life.”

—Edwin Acevedo M’09

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