Known professionally as Margery Mayer, she enjoyed great success as an opera singer, starting at an early age in her native Chicago. In 1946, two important events occurred that brought her to New York City and to Wagner College: her New York City Center Opera Company debut, as Suzuki in Madame Butterfly; and her marriage to Sigvart J. Steen, who served as chair of Wagner’s music department and conductor of the Wagner College Choir from 1948 until his death in 1968.
Mayer became a leading contralto at the New York City Center Opera, starring in dozens of roles, including highly acclaimed performances in Carmen, Aida, and Il Trovatore. She was also an accomplished oratorio singer and performed with major orchestras.
In 1961, Mayer was appointed assistant professor of music at Wagner, where she taught voice lessons and also developed a popular course in opera appreciation, drawing on her many contacts in the New York City opera world to enrich students’ experience. Recalling her own teacher’s motto, “If you can speak, then you can sing,” she taught singing for personal as well as professional enrichment. A few of her students found significant professional success, such as Olivia Brewer Stapp ’57, who received a Fulbright Fellowship to Italy and sang major roles in Berlin, Vienna, New York, and San Francisco.
Mayer retired in 1977. The following year, she married George Voutsas, a retired NBC music producer. Her survivors include two sons, two granddaughters, and six great-grandsons. The family requests that memorials in honor of Margery Mayer be sent to the Sigvart J. Steen Scholarship Awards at Wagner College.