Norma Edna McCray, 74, a music educator in Washington for 40 years who shared Brazilian and African music and culture with her junior high school students, died of cancer Aug. 19 at Howard University Hospital.
She also served as a vocal coach, rehearsal accompanist and tutor in foreign languages for the D.C. Boys Choir. She was cataloging the choir's music at the time of her death.
Ms. McCray was born in Tuskegee, Ala., and received her elementary and secondary schooling at Tuskegee Institute. She graduated from Howard University's music school in 1952 and later received a master's degree in music education from the University of Michigan.
After graduating from Howard, Ms. McCray taught music for a year in Baltimore before becoming a music teacher at Shaw and Roper junior high schools in the District. She was a no-nonsense, innovative teacher who taught her students about different cultures through music and instruments indigenous to other countries.
She took the Shaw Boys Choir to hear the Washington National Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, an experience that inspired some members of the Shaw group to go back on their own to hear the church choir, said a friend, Josephine Baker. At Roper, she welcomed into her classes jazz pianist Marian McPartland and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
After retiring in the 1990s, Ms. McCray participated in the Cathedral Choral Society Partner School Program developing program materials, including videos, in preparation for workshops. She also was a key member of the Choral Society's education committee.
Ms. McCray, who was twice selected as D.C. Teacher of the Year, was the recipient of an Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation grant for travel to Brazil to study and collect Brazilian music. She became proficient in Portuguese to prepare for the trip. Later, she translated articles from Portuguese to English for Howard University professor Dr. John Lovell. The Brazilian Embassy honored Ms. McCray for disseminating Brazilian music and culture to D.C. public school students.
Open to new adventures, McCray traveled to Japan, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
She held memberships in a number of organizations and was a patron of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She was a workshop clinician at state, divisional and national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference, and she was the first African American female editor of a state music educators journal. She served on the board of the Children's Chorus of Washington.
She was vice president of the Hines-Lee Opera Society, an organization that presents young artists in concerts and provides scholarships for vocal study, and was a member of the Duke Ellington Society.
Ms. McCray was a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Washington for more than 30 years and sang in the choir. In 2002, she joined Trinity Episcopal Church, also in Washington, and was involved the church's education, arts and music ministry and its Artist in Residence program. She also volunteered full-time in the church office.
Ms. McCray, a member of the Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, had served as director of the Xi Omega Chorale and as a reporter for the organization's magazine, Ivy Leaf. She was on several committees and organized and directed the music for a regular senior's program.
In 2003, Ms. McCray represented the local chapter in a WUSA-Channel 9 documentary on the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. She reflected on her participation in the historic event.
She leaves no immediate survivors.