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Arts & Entertainment

Professor Honors King

Opera star Simon Estes, a CFA music professor, performed at this year’s celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59).


Simon Estes, an internationally known bass-baritone, has traveled the world and sung before thousands of people, but yesterday’s performance at Boston University was dedicated to one man: Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59).

“I had the chance to hear him speak, and it’s an honor to celebrate his vision,” says the College of Fine Arts professor of music.

During this year’s tribute to King, titled Ode to the Common People: A Celebration of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Estes performed King’s favorite hymn, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand." He was joined onstage by several of his students at BU’s Opera Institute. Other performers included poet Sonia Sanchez, the Boston University Symphonic Chorus, BU’s Inner Strength Gospel Choir, and vocalist Allison Ritts, senior administrative secretary of the Howard Thurman Center.

Monday’s commemoration was not the first time Estes has honored King’s memory. He has performed Lee Hoiby’s musical work I Have a Dream, using text from King’s famous speech, and he played the civil rights leader in King — A Musical Testimony. “We premiered King in London, and I had the chance to meet Coretta Scott King,” Estes says. “She said there was no one else who she would have wanted to play him in that role.”

Another way Estes honors King’s vision is through educational scholarship foundations for children, including the Simon Estes Educational Foundation in Oklahoma and South Africa’s Simon Estes Music High School, which serves some of that country’s poorest children. The grandson of a slave, Estes has learned from his heritage how to overcome barriers. “I’ve been in this profession for 40 years,” he says, “and it’s important to me to provide opportunities in education and the arts.”

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu.

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