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Simon Estes

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Information about Simon Estes

Profile image of Simon Estes

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Opera Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Beige, Yellow
Favorite Food:
Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken, Corn (Cob)
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
Let's Love Each Other As Neighbors

Birthplace

Born:
3/2/1938
Birth Location:
Centerville, Iowa

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Opera Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Beige, Yellow
Favorite Food:
Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken, Corn (Cob)
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
Let's Love Each Other As Neighbors

Birthplace

Born:
3/2/1938
Birth Location:
Centerville
See how Simon Estes is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Renowned opera singer and educator Simon Estes was born on March 2, 1938, in Centerville, Iowa. Estes is the youngest of three siblings. Raised in a spiritually-centered family, Estes sang in his church choir as a young boy and throughout his young educational years.

Estes began his university career as a pre-med student in 1957 at the University of Iowa. In 1961, a voice teacher, Mr. Charles Kellis, heard Estes sing in one of the university choirs. Kellis introduced Estes to several classical recordings which led Estes to change his professional career path to singing. Upon graduating from the University of Iowa, Estes enrolled in the Juilliard School in 1964. In 1965, he received a music grant from the NAACP and the New York City Trust Fund to audition for the role of Ramfis in Aida. Estes was cast in the role, and made his professional debut at the Deutsche Opera in Berlin. He later won third prize in the Munich International Music Competition in 1965 and the bronze medal at the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Also in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson invited Estes to sing at the White House.

Estes has performed at many major opera houses around the world, and with top opera singers including Leontyne Price and Luciano Pavarotti. Some of his most memorable operatic performances have been performing for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa, and in The Flying Dutchman and Porgy and Bess. Estes also sang at the 1999 Nobel Prize Committee where he was introduced to Nelson Mandela.

In 1999, Estes published his autobiography, Simon Estes: In His Own Voice. Estes has worked as a voice, humanities, and foreign language professor at Iowa State University, Boston University, and Wartburg College. He has also established several foundations including the Simon Estes Iowa Educational Foundation; The Simon Estes Music High School near Cape Town, South Africa; and the Switzerland-based Simon Estes International Foundation for Children.

See how Simon Estes is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Simon Estes' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Simon Este defines opera
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Simon Estes lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Simon Estes describes his mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Simon Estes talks about his maternal grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Simon Estes describes his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Simon Estes describes his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Simon Estes describes his mother's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Simon Estes describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Simon Estes recounts the discrimination that led to his father's premature death
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Simon Estes recalls his mother's lessons in facing discrimination
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Simon Estes describes his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Simon Estes describes his childhood home
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Simon Estes describes his childhood neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Simon Estes recalls his childhood neighbors' occupations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Simon Estes describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Simon Estes describes his family life growing up, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Simon Estes describes his family life growing up, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Simon Estes recalls his parents' pride in his accomplishments
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Simon Estes reflects upon the power of encouragement
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Simon Estes describes the role of religion in his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Simon Estes describes Second Baptist Church in Centerville, Iowa
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Simon Estes reminisces about his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Simon Estes recalls his early aspirations
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Simon Estes remembers his time in elementary school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Simon Estes recalls discrimination in elementary school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Simon Estes remembers joining the Centerville High School choir
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Simon Estes talks about singing in junior high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Simon Estes recalls attending Centerville High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Simon Estes describes his experience of segregation in Iowa
  • Tape: 2 Story: 17 - Simon Estes recalls his favorite subjects at Centerville High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 18 - Simon Estes recalls transferring from Centerville Junior College to the University of Iowa
  • Tape: 2 Story: 19 - Simon Estes recalls being the first black member of the University of Iowa's The Old Gold Singers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 20 - Simon Estes remembers joining the Deutsche Oper Berlin
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Simon Estes recalls his performance at the International Tchaikovsky Competition
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Simon Estes recounts his teaching at The Juilliard School in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Simon Estes describes the discrimination he faced from American opera houses
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Simon Estes recounts his most memorable performances in Europe
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Simon Estes talks about his family
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Simon Estes describes founding the Simon Estes Music High School in South Africa
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Simon Estes recalls founding the Simon Estes Educational Foundation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Simon Estes describes his philanthropic efforts and his honors in Iowa
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Simon Estes relates stories that he shares with his students at Boston University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Simon Estes recalls meeting Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela and HistoryMaker Maya Angelou
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Simon Estes remembers meeting President Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Simon Estes describes his 102nd operatic role
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Simon Estes explains how opera roles are chosen
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Simon Estes describes his gift for memorization
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Simon Estes shares his plans for the future
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Simon Estes describes how his voice has changed during his career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Simon Estes talks about writing his autobiography
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Simon Estes recalls meeting Roland Hayes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Simon Estes talks about his awards and honors
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Simon Estes describes his hopes for people of color and women in opera
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Simon Estes describes African Americans' contributions to opera
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Simon Estes describes his frustrations with discrimination in classical music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Simon Estes reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Simon Estes describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Simon Estes narrates his photographs