Rochester, NY — The late, internationally acclaimed vocalist William Warfield will leave a lasting local legacy, thanks in part to Rochester’s William Warfield Scholarship Fund.
Since it was founded in 1977, the Fund has awarded more than 30 scholarships to talented and deserving voice students at the Eastman School of Music.
“The Fund is also a way to keep Uncle Bill’s legacy as a singer, orator, teacher and mentor alive,” says Michael Warfield. Michael is now the Fund’s President, and his brother, Thomas, is also on the Fund’s board of directors. “My uncle was able to attend Eastman because of a scholarship, and we want to help others to realize their dreams,” Michael adds.
William Warfield and his family moved from Arkansas to Rochester when he was still a young boy. He attended Rochester City schools, and won the National Music Educators League Competition during his senior year. First prize was a full scholarship to any American music school of his choice, and Warfield chose the Eastman School of Music. There, the young baritone earned his bachelor’s degree and, after four interim years in military service, returned to Eastman to study for his master’s.
Warfield went on to attain worldwide celebrity. Famous for singing Ol’ Man River in the 1951 MGM film, Showboat, his title role in George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess was also a triumph. He was married to Leontyne Price for twenty years, and made more tours for the US Department of State than any other American solo artist. In 1984, he won a Grammy in the “Spoken Word” category for his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia Orchestra. In the last 25 years of his life, Warfield turned increasingly to teaching at the University of Illinois, Northwestern University and others.
Warfield died at age 82 in 2002, and is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. He leaves a large extended family in Rochester.
This year’s annual benefit concert will feature last year’s scholarship winner, Carl Franklin DuPont, Jr., who’s currently a senior at the Eastman School of Music. Also performing will be one of the Fund’s first scholarship winners, Derrick Smith, an Eastman grad who now teaches at the Eastman Community Music School. Thomas Warfield, founder of PeaceArt International and assistant professor at RIT/NTID, will also perform, as will Rochester’s African-American women’s gospel choir, AKOMA.
The William Warfield Scholarship Fund Benefit Concert will take place Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 4 P.M. at the Eastman School of Music’s Kilbourn Hall. Tickets are $10, and are available at the door, at the RPO Box Office (108 East Avenue), by phone at 454-2100, online at www.rpo.org, and at all Rochester-area Wegmans Video Departments.
Please note: Photos of William Warfield, Carl Franklin DuPont, Jr., Thomas Warfield, Derrick Smith, and AKOMA are available electronically upon request. Interviews and photo/footage opportunities can also be arranged.