ROCHESTER, NY — The partnership between the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester City School District formed to enhance music education now carries the name of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated vocal artists.
The William Warfield Partnership encompasses all of the programs begun since Eastman and RCSD joined forces in 1996 to provide expanded opportunities for city youngsters to experience music. Warfield, the world renowned bass-baritone, grew up in Rochester and is a graduate of the city schools and of Eastman, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Clifford B. Janey, superintendent of the Rochester City School District, and James Undercofler, director of the Eastman School, announced the new name this week as part of the celebration of Warfield’s 80th birthday, an occasion that brought him home to Rochester for two concerts featuring Eastman faculty and students.
“William Warfield is a tremendous example of the power of music to enrich our lives and bring people together,” said Undercofler. “It’s a great privilege to have his name associated with our joint efforts to bring enhanced musical experiences to Rochester’s school children.”
At the Eastman Theatre concert tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 26), messages from President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Governor George Pataki, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and renowned soprano Leontyne Price will be read, and Undercofler will present Warfield with Eastman’s Alumni Achievement Award. At a public reception following the concert, Rochester singer and dancer Thomas Warfield will give a special tribute to his uncle, and birthday cake will be served. At a concert Sunday (Jan. 23), Rochester Mayor William Johnson proclaimed this to be “William Warfield Week.”
Projects of the William Warfield Partnership include scholarships, free music lessons for selected students from grades 6—12 through Eastman’s Community Education Division, a choral program for middle schools, special training for music teachers, and “Time for Bows,” which provides violin, viola and cello lessons for third graders at School 17.
In a career spanning six decades, Warfield has performed all over the world on the concert stage, as well as in movies and on television. Perhaps best known for his portrayals of Porgy in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and of Joe, the dock hand, in the movie Showboat, he won a Grammy for his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia. He now lives in Chicago, where he is a professor of music at Northwestern University.