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Sylvia McNair Recovering From Breast Cancer, Joining Indiana University Faculty

By Matthew Westphal
07 Aug 2006

Top: Sylvia McNair; Bottom: McNair singing in a jazz performance at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music.
photo by permission of Indiana University

Soprano Sylvia McNair is recovering from breast cancer following chemotherapy and a radical mastectomy, according to reports in The Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press.

The news came out as Indiana University announced last week that the 50-year-old soprano is joining the voice faculty of its Jacobs School of Music, from which she received her own master of music degree in 1983. Her initial appointment is for three years.

According to the reports, she underwent the mastectomy on July 7 after two months of chemotherapy; she will do a second course of chemotherapy next week in Bloomington, Indiana.

"I never dreamed I would end up being diagnosed with breast cancer," she told the Star. "There's no history in my family, I never smoked, I eat healthy all the time and exercise like a bandit. You just assume it will never happen to you, and then it does."

McNair had a stellar career as a lyric soprano in the 1980s and '90s, known especially for her Mozart. She won a Grammy Award in 1996 for The Echoing Air, a disc of songs by Henry Purcell performed with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. She also sang on the 1994 Grammy-winning recording of Handel's Semele starring Kathleen Battle and Marilyn Horne. In recent years, she has left behind opera for the American classic jazz and popular song repertoire, performing a touring cabaret show and many pops and jazz concerts.

"My future is going to be a hybrid — a combination of teaching and continuing to sing concerts and productions of musical theater pieces," she told the Star. "But obviously, my near future is going to involve winning over cancer, which will happen."




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