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William Warfield - Baritone Bass

Acclaimed throughout the world as one of the great vocal artists of our time, William Warfield was a star in every field open to a singer’s art.

I first met William Warfield when I lived in Chicago doing the Boadway National Tour of Showboat. He was a very gracious host and shared his home, music and legacy with those of us who were just starting our Professional careers. I do not recall how I was invited, but I remember one of the singers telling me that Mr. Warfield extended an invitation to all of the singers from the show to his home.

The legacy of Mr. Warfield's music career was only taught to me by my parents and other African American singers and vocal coaches. He was not included in our curriculum, nor was he part of any vocal listening music assignments. I did not think much about it then, but I often think about it now. My parents made sure I knew about the great singers of color who paved the way for me to study music and become a classical singer.

Meet William Warfield (January 22, 1920 – August 25, 2002) was an American concert bass-baritone. Not only was he a talented classical singer, but also an actor. Mr. Warfield completed high school education in Rochester, NY with a cosmetology license. He discovered classical music in his senior year of high school and began competing in music competitions. Mr. Warfield went on to study at Eastman School of Music where he received his Bachelor of Music, and Master of Music degree. He served over four years in the military before completing his Master of Music degree.

His 1950 New York debut catapulted his singing career as a recitalist into an overnight sensation on the operatic stage and in film, including the movie SHOWBOAT. William was one of the world leading experts on Negro Spirituals and German Lieder; received numerous honorary doctorates including: Doctor of Laws from the University of Arkansas in 1972; a Doctorate for his “Contributions in the Arts” in 1977 from Lafayette University; in 1982 from Boston University; in 1983 a “Doctor of Humane Letters” from Augustana College, Illinois; and in 1984 from James Milliken University, Illinois.


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