Mary Costa was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she lived for much of her childhood. She sang Sunday school solos at the age of six. When she was in her early teens, Costa’s family relocated to California, where she completed high school and won a Music Sorority Award as the outstanding voice among Southern California high school seniors. Following high school, she entered the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to study with famed maestro Gasto Usigli. Between 1948 and 1951, she appeared with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the Bergen radio show. She also sang with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in concerts at UCLA, and made numerous commercials for Lux Radio Theatre.
In 1952, after meeting people at a party, she auditioned for the part of Disney’s Princess Aurora. Walt Disney called her personally within hours of the audition to inform her that the part was hers. In 1958, Costa was called upon to substitute for Elisabeth Schwarzkopf at a gala concert in the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by Carmen Dragon. Because of her glowing reviews from that performance, she was invited to sing the lead in her first fully staged operatic production, The Bartered Bride, produced by the renowned German producer, Carl Ebert, for the Los Angeles Guild Opera. Ebert later requested that Mary appear at the Glyndebourne Festival, where she made a debut.
Costa went on to perform in 44 operatic roles on stages throughout the world, including Jules Massenet’s Manon at the Metropolitan Opera, and Violetta in La Traviata at the Royal Opera House in London and the Bolshoi in Moscow, and Cunegonde in the 1959 London premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. In 1961, for RCA, she recorded Musetta in La boheme, opposite Anna Moffo and Richard Tucker, with the Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. Among numerous roles sung for San Francisco Opera, she was Tytania in the American premiere of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1961), Ninette in the world premiere of Norman Dello Joio’s Blood Moon (1961) and Anne Truelove in the San Francisco premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Violetta in,La Traviata on January 6,1964 receiving one of the season’s greatest ovations and enthusiastic praise from critics.
Costa now spends much of her time volunteering with schools and colleges across the country to inspire youth, especially those studying music. She was honored’ in October 2011, by Pellissippi State with a special tribute presentation of the Faculty Recital Showcase, part of the school’s annual concert series. The concert highlighted Costa’s volunteerism in education.
Joe and Judy Johnson are longtime supporters of Pellissippi State. Joe was chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2013. Joseph is the owner of the A & W Supply Company. A&W was founded in April 1974 by Larry Acuff and Dowell Wolfenbarger as an office supply and equipment company. They were committed to providing their customers with excellent service and quality products at competitive pricing. Joe and Bob Johnson purchased A&W in November 1978. Joe and his sons Rob and Jonathan still maintain ownership.
A&W is a wholesale distributorship, and over the years, they have expanded the products they sell to include office supplies & equipment, office furniture, janitorial-sanitary maintenance supplies & equipment, and packaging supplies & equipment. This diversification has allowed them to have a larger customer base making them a stronger company. A&W is located in Knoxville, TN.
In order to qualify for a scholarship provided frorn the Judy and Joseph Johnson Endowment Fund, a student must meet the following criteria:
(1) Must be a full-time student majoring in Music Voice. If none are available, the scholarship may be awarded to any worthy student, full-time or part-time.
(2) Must receive a written recommendation for the scholarship from his/her college faculty advisor, teacher, or other recognized professional such as his/her employer.
(3) Demonstrate financial need, but not required to comply with state or federal financial aid guidelines.
(4) Must maintain an overall GPA of 2.75.
(5) Student must follow all requirements listed on the syllabus of the respective ensemble to the satisfaction of the ensemble director.
One or more scholarships of $1,000 are awarded annually to a student or students meeting the eligibility requirements.