After immigrating to Pittsburgh from Lithuania about 1903, Julius Lazier (c.1880-c.1929) peddled granite in the Hill District. In 1909, he brought over his wife, Rebecca, and their five children, Hilda, Lena, Edith, Sam and Anna. Once in Pittsburgh, they had a sixth child, Freda.
Freda Lazier (1912-2001) displayed musical talent at an early age. She was a pupil of the pianist Sybil Young and performed at a 1925 recital at Adath Jeshurun Congregation. She performed in operettas at Schenley High School but never had any formal vocal training. “She couldn’t afford to study voice,” according to an article by Si Steinhauser. “So she went to a small Pittsburgh station the day after she graduated from high school, and asked for an audition.” The audition led to a radio spot, which led to singing gigs at restaurants and clubs around the city.
By 1930, Lazier was a successful singer, performing in clubs, on stage and on the radio in Pittsburgh. She regularly performed with Burt Wydener and his Sylvanians and Bob Canfield’s Orchestra. Articles in the Jewish Criterion called her “a charming soprano” and “a popular radio songstress.” Lazier also performed at events for Beth Shalom Congregation, Poale Zedeck Congregation, the Hebrew Ladies Sick and Relief Society, the Jewish Home for the Aged, the Sisters of Zion Mizrachi, the Braddock Zionist Organization and other Jewish groups.
In 1932, Lazier was runner-up in a talent contest on Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties hour, which traveled coast-to-coast auditioning up- and-coming radio talent. She won the contest in April 1936, receiving the unanimous approval of a three-judge panel that included George Gershwin. As a prize, she was given the opportunity to sing on the program, which was broadcast nationally on NBC radio. On that occasion, she sang “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” She subsequently toured Ohio, Michigan and New York.
In 1941, Freda Lazier married Dr. David Alexander. They settled in Pottstown, Pa., and had two children, Barbara and Hilary. Freda Alexander twice served as president of the local branch of the Jewish War Veterans Ladies’ Auxiliary and was elected its national president in 1969. That year, she went on a coast-to-coast tour for the organization, visiting veterans.