Simon Estes coming to Austin school

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 19, 2007

There is an opportunity to hear a world class singer in Austin at 2 p.m. Oct. 28 in Knowlton Auditorium in Austin High School.

Simon Estes will appear with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, singing such favorites as &8220;Ol&8217; Man River,&8221; &8220;I Got Plenty of Nothin,&8217;&8221; and &8220;You&8217;ll Never Walk Alone,&8221; as well as several opera arias.

Estes has sung for five U.S. presidents, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela as well as numerous other world leaders. He is an internationally renowned opera star, enjoying the ecstatic praise of music lovers around the globe. He has over 100 roles in his repertoire, including premiering the role of Porgy in &8220;Porgy and Bess&8221; on Broadway, and he appeared for six successive years at the Bayreuth Festival as The Flying Dutchman. In high demand as a recitalist and orchestral soloist, he appears regularly in such places as Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, London and Vienna.

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He has performed with all the major international opera companies, and sung with such artists as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Jessye Norman, Leontyne Price and other notables.

Conductors that Estes has worked with include Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa and Mstislav Rostpropovich.

Grandson of a slave, Estes is a native of Centerville, Iowa, raised in poverty and the racial discrimination of the times. Taught by his parents to be strong, and that bitterness is a negative force from which nothing good comes, he struggled with the death of his father and the subsequent loss of the family home. While he worked to support his mother and siblings, education and music became all important to him.

There is an Austin connection with Estes.

When he was in Junior High in Centerville, his music teacher was Don Gunderson, who invited Simon to join the choir. This invitation, extended to a young man used to being excluded because of his color, was an important step in Estes&8217; musical development. Gunderson later moved to Austin in 1959, where he taught music at the elementary, high school and college levels. The two maintained contact until Gunderson&8217;s death this past year.

While a student at the University of Iowa, Estes became a student of voice teacher Charles Kellis and became the first black member of the Old Gold Singers.

Kellis realized the potential of Estes, and arranged an audition at the Julliard School of Music in 1963.

After only a year at Juilliard, a friend arranged an audition for him in Berlin, and he was given the role of the King of Egypt in Verdi’s &8220;Aida.&8221; Imagine his surprise when 13 days before the opening, he was told he would be singing the role of the High Priest, a much bigger role-which he then sang for 10 months.

There were ups and downs along the way, but the career began to take off: third place in the 1966 Moscow Tschaikowsky Competition, a command performance at the White House, singing at both the 25th and 50th anniversaries of the United Nations, opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games in Munich, opening the Kennedy Center, the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration, six honorary degrees, and recently he was awarded the Distinguished Iowa Citizen Award and the prestigious Alumni Award of Iowa State University.

Estes shares his love and knowledge of music with students from elementary school through college. Currently he lives in Waverly, Iowa, where he teaches at Wartburg College as well as Iowa State University in Ames and Boston University. He has created four scholarship organizations for youth, and in 1993 he established International Foundation for Children to financially assist underprivileged and need children for their education and health.

In South Africa he initiated a school for under privileged children, which was subsequently named for him.

Tickets, please

Tickets for this concert are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Advance tickets can be purchased at Hy-Vee or my contacting Marge Dunlap at 433-5647 or