Photo of Odetta

With a trained voice and a love of classical music, Odetta's goal as a teenager was to sing oratorio because, back in the bad old days, she felt a black woman couldn't become an opera singer. But a chance exposure to folk changed her mind about music and the gift of an old guitar changed her life. A folk music legend, Odetta is imposing. She caresses her audience with a message of hope, love and social change. Her accomplishments are stunning: she has performed all over the world in concert halls, clubs, and universities; accompanied ballet companies and symphony orchestras; acted in "The Crucible" and "The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon-Marigolds;" and received the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award at Yale University. She has collaborated with other major folk stars -- Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, the late Elizabeth Cotton, to name a few, and has been honored by the Federation of Protestant Charities and The World Folk Music Association, with their Lifetime Achievement Awards for her contributions to numerous humanitarian organizations and causes. Odetta's purpose is to be useful, she says, performing "wherever and whenever I'm needed." Her favorite audiences are college students ("TV babies and rock concert devotees," she calls them) because she feels that their "listening muscle" needs development. "If they are not responsive, I tease them and ask if they have ever been with a nonresponsive lover. I'm up here making love to you and it's no fun if you don't respond." But they do. They always do.