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William Brown

Male | Performers

Pioneering giant of African American Art song performance.


William Brown (1938, Jackson, Mississippi – October 20, 2004, Jacksonville, Florida) was an pioneering legend in the research and interpretation of African American Art Song. Brown earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Jackson State University in 1960 and a Master of Music degree from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in 1962. He later earned a Doctorate of Music from the Peabody Institute in 1971. From 1962 to 1966, he was a soloist with the United States Navy Band and Choit, with whom he performed for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1967, he made his professional opera debut as Spalanzani in The Tales of Hoffman with the Baltimore Opera Company. That same year, replacing an ailing Plácido Domingo, he made his New York City Opera debut, followed by engagements worldwide.

1977 saw him singing the role of Nate in the New York premier of Highway 1 USA, by William Grant Still, for the inaugural production of Opera Ebony. He also debuted with the New York Philharmonic that year, singing a concert of works by African American composers. In 1985, he starred in the world premiere of Dorothy Rudd Moore’s opera Frederick Douglass, at Aaron Davis Hall. He recorded extensively for Albany, Columbia, Ninesuch, and Videmus Records.

From 1972 until his death 32 years later, Brown was a professor of voice at the University of North Florida.

Published Work