Melissa Joseph

Florence Kopleff’s Voice Still Echoes in Music Student Melissa Joseph 

Florence Kopleff is remembered as the concert singer Time magazine once called the “greatest living alto,” but her music career continued long after she retired from the stage. Kopleff joined the Georgia State faculty in 1968 — becoming the first artist-in-residence in the entire University System of Georgia — and mentored music students for the next 30 years.

Though Melissa Joseph never got to meet Kopleff, she still counts herself as part of the late singer’s legacy. The scholarship Kopleff endowed in 1984 helped Joseph follow her dream of becoming an opera singer.

“It enabled me to come here,” says Joseph, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State’s Honors College this past spring and is now pursuing a master’s in vocal performance. “I had HOPE and a Pell Grant, but the Kopleff Scholarship really helped with the expenses of living on campus. When you have class at 8 in the morning and don’t get out of the Rialto until 11 at night, you don’t want to drive all the way home and then have to turn right around again the next morning.

“Also, when you’re on scholarship in the School of Music, you’re held to a higher standard, and you’re expected to help out,” she adds. “So I’ve also helped run auditions and competitions, and that helped me build connections with my professors, which helped me get gigs like singing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.”

While at Georgia State, Joseph also studied abroad in Italy, joined a trip to France with the University Singers, and sang the national anthem at commencement. After earning her master’s, she hopes to kick off her music career at a studio opera program in Cape Town, South Africa.

At some point, though, Joseph wouldn’t mind singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. “Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, Renée Fleming, all my favorite singers have done that,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to sing at the Met, but there’s just something about the Super Bowl.”