Voices In My Head Podcast Episode #287: Guest Francois Clemmons (Officer Clemmons) from Mister Rogers Neighborhood
On this episode of Voices In My Head we welcome Dr. Francois Clemmons.
Dr. François Scarborough Clemmons is an Afro-American singer, actor, playwright and university lecturer. He is perhaps best known for his appearances as Officer Clemmons on the PBS television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from 1968 to 1993.
In 1968, Clemmons won the Metropolitan Opera auditions in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He went on to Cleveland, Ohio, where he won a position in the Metropolitan Opera Studio. He sang there professionally for seven seasons, performing over 70 roles with companies including The New York City Opera, Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, and Washington Civic Opera.
Clemmons sang with numerous orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1973, he won a Grammy Award for a recording of Porgy and Bess; he performed the role of “Sportin’ Life” in that musical over 100 times.
For 25 years, Clemmons performed the role of Officer Clemmons, a friendly neighborhood policeman, in the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” on the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In the neighborhood itself, Clemmons ran a singing and dance studio located in the building diagonally across from Mr. Rogers’ house. As “Officer Clemmons”, he became one of the first African Americans to have a recurring role on a kids’ TV series.
Clemmons actively writes across genres for a variety of age groups. Currently, he is writing his autobiography entitled DivaMan: My Life in Song, a children’s story entitled ButterCup and the Majic Cane, and a volume of poetry entitled A Place Of My Own. Some of his published works include a volume of spirituals named Songs for Today and a stage musical called My Name Is Hayes based on the life of Roland Hayes. He also commissioned a choral work composed of spirituals entitled Changed My Name, arranged by Linda Twine.
From 1997 until his retirement in 2013, Clemmons was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. He “played the role of professor, choirmaster, resident vocal soloist, advisor, confidant, and community cheerleader”. He is also well known in the Middlebury community for his superb rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”, which he sings at the Middlebury College men’s basketball games.
Clemmons lives and works in Middlebury, Vermont, where he is the Emeritus Artist in Residence of Middlebury College. He is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men in music.
Rick Lee James