Vermont Symphony Orchestra

Dr. François S. Clemmons

Dr. François S. Clemmons is a singer, actor, author, playwright and university lecturer. Best known for his appearances on PBS television’s series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for over 25 years, he was one of the first African-Americans to have a recurring role on a children’s television series, and his presentation as both a beloved neighbor and a respected authority figure has been described as a groundbreaking message in race relations.

In 1968, Dr. Clemmons won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in Pittsburgh and a position in the Metropolitan Opera Studio, Cleveland, where he sang for seven seasons and performed over 70 roles. He received a Grammy (Best Opera Recording) in 1976 as part of the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus’ recording of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. In the 1980s, Dr. Clemmons created and performed internationally with The Harlem Spiritual Ensemble.

From 1997 until his retirement in 2013, Dr. Clemmons was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College, where he received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree. (He is also well known in the Middlebury community for his superb rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.)

In October 2019, Dr. Clemmons was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. He starred in the most recent episode of Mister Chris and Friends, a children’s program produced by Vermont PBS and released in November. His autobiography, Officer Clemmons, will be published in May of 2020 with national distribution by Catapult Press.