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Willie Brown, Jr.

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Information about Willie Brown, Jr.

Profile image of Willie Brown, Jr.

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Opera Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown
Favorite Food:
Steak
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New Orleans, Louisiana
Favorite Quote:
The Lord Is My Light And My Salvation. Whom Shall I Fear?

Birthplace

Born:
8/17/1930
Birth Location:
New Orleans, Louisiana

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Opera Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown
Favorite Food:
Steak
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
New Orleans, Louisiana
Favorite Quote:
The Lord Is My Light And My Salvation. Whom Shall I Fear?

Birthplace

Born:
8/17/1930
Birth Location:
New Orleans
See how Willie Brown, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Bass soloist and educator Willie Brown, Jr. was born on August 17, 1930 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Odessa Jackson Brown and Willie Chester Brown, both church soloists. He sang his first solo, Heaven’s Radio in kindergarten. Brown attended Sylvania F. Williams School in New Orleans and spent some of his elementary years in Redondo Beach and Los Angeles, California. Attending Nelson Junior High School in New Orleans, Brown performed as a church soloist and in school operettas. He formed the group, Willie Brown and the Boys, before graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1949. His education at Xavier University was interrupted by service in the United States Army in 1953, but he returned to graduate with a B.A. degree in music education in 1957. Brown went on to earn a Masters degree in musical performance from Governors State University in Illinois and later a Ph.D. in music from Birmingham, Alabama’s Faith College. At Xavier University’s Opera Workshop, Brown performed the title role in the opera Riggoletto, “Figaro” in The Marriage of Figaro and “Escamillo” in Carmen.

Moving to Chicago in 1957, Brown served as a Chicago public school teacher, while building a reputation as a church and classical soloist. In the early 1960’s, he gained national exposure as a guest soloist on NBC television’s Dave Garroway Show. In 1967, he was invited as special guest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to perform for the SCLC Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Brown performed with the black McLin Opera Company and the Light Opera Company and performed over two thousand times as a professional with Chicago’s Lyric Opera Company where he was the only full time African American artist. His Lyric Opera credits include solos as “Escamillo” in Carmen and as the priest in Aida. Brown was also a soloist in Tales of Hoffmann, Pagliacci and Cavallieria Rusticana. Brown often performed Handel’s Messiah, Requiem, Seven Last Words of Christ, St. Paul by Mendelssohn and Strabat Mater as an oratorio bass soloist. His musical repertoire included operatic arias in Italian, French and German and oratorio arias in Latin. Brown also performed cantatas, English, Italian and German folk songs, American show songs, spirituals, gospels, hymns and popular songs. Brown’s concert credits included Notre Dame University, International Parliament of Religion, and the Chicago Gospel Fest. The Bravo Chapter of the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Board of Education Music Department, and the Chicago Board of Administrative Affairs invited Brown as a special guest performer.

Brown was the winner of numerous awards for his solos including the “Best Male Singer” from the R. Nathaniel Dett Scholarship Award, the B Sharp Best Singer Scholarship and the 1996 James P. Lyke African American Male Image Award. He was the director of the Angels Choir of Chicago’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Brown passed away on February 7, 2014 at age 83.

See how Willie Brown, Jr. is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie Brown, Jr.'s interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his mother's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his mother's family background, pt. 3
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his mother's childhood in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie L. Brown, Jr. describes his father's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his father's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers his childhood in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes New Orleans' neighborhoods, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes New Orleans' neighborhoods, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes Sylvania F. Williams Elementary School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls how his community encouraged him to sing
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls his early recognition as a singer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes discrimination based on color in New Orleans
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. lists the school he attended in California and New Orleans
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his high school singing career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls his decision to attend Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes the Solfege system
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers the choir at Xavier University of Louisiana, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers the choir at Xavier University of Louisiana, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers performing with the Xavier University choir
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers John H. Stroger, Jr.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. talks about his service in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his return to Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his career upon arriving in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his position with Chicago Public Schools
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his career with the Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers the highlights of his opera career, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers the highlights of his opera career, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls his notable opera performances in New Orleans
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls singing for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willie Brown, Jr. reflects upon theatrical adaptations of operas
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willie Brown, Jr. reflects upon his opera career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his travels during his opera career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers meeting Paul Robeson, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers meeting Paul Robeson, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. remembers being compared to William Warfield
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls racial discrimination in the Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. recalls the Lyric Opera of Chicago's cast and events
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Willie Brown, Jr. shares his advice for aspiring opera singers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Willie Brown, Jr. reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Willie Brown, Jr. reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Willie Brown, Jr. talks about his wife's religious conversion
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Willie Brown, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Willie Brown, Jr. talks about the use of vulgar language
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Willie Brown, Jr. narrates his photographs