Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sergio Mims: Burlington County Times: First African American at prestigious opera school

Fulton Fryar reflects on his stay at the Seagle Music Colony

Fulton Fryar, 78, was the first African American accepted into the Seagle Music Colony in New York, but his sleeping quarters were in a 12-by-6-foot wooden shed called “The Closet.”

When 17-year-old Fulton Fryar arrived on the 300-acre property of the Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake, New York, in the summer of 1957, a man was putting the finishing touches on Fryar’s new home, a 12-by-6-foot wooden shed built on the side of a laundry facility.

A product of the segregated South in Clinton, North Carolina, about 65 miles south of Raleigh, Fryar, now 78, of Willingboro, made history as the first African American invited to study at the oldest, most prestigious vocal academy in the nation.

Though the Seagle Music Colony was technically never segregated, racial politics dictated Fryar’s sleeping quarters even up North. He and the students rehearsed and ate in tandem, but at night, the others retreated to their dorms.

Except for a cot, an empty bookcase, desk and small space to hang his clothes, Fryar said there was “nothing in there, but air.”

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