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Amber Karlins

was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to Reverend John J. Mainor and Alice Jeffries Mainor. Her sister was a piano player, and Dorothy grew up in a house full of music and sang regularly at her father’s church. However, despite her passion for music, she did not initially envision it as a possible career path.

At fourteen Dorothy began studying at the Hampton Institute with the intention of pursuing a career as a teacher. In 1929 she had the opportunity to tour with the school’s choir, and the director was so impressed by her potential that he called Dorothy’s father and insisted her major be changed to music. Although Dorothy was not consulted at all, she was nevertheless pleased by the change.

Soon after Dorothy was granted a scholarship to Westminster Choir College, where she studied choral conducting before graduating in 1935 She then moved to New York under the ...