February is Black History Month and each year I try to read several related books during the month.
One of the books I read a couple years ago has a close personal connection.
Simon Estes in His Own Voice was written along with Mary L. Swanson.
The book tells the story of Simon Estes who is one of the greatest opera singers.
Simon was born in Centerville, Iowa in 1938. The book tells of his family and the difficulties they had living in a small town in Iowa.
The book also recounts his struggles as he attended Iowa University and Julliard.
I really enjoyed reading about how he worked hard to build his career and become one of the greatest Baritone/Bass opera singers. He has shared his gift of voice in leading opera houses around the world, sung for many world leaders and US Presidents and been involved with many charitable works around the world.
My connection to the Estes family is through Simon’s oldest sister Patty.
After graduation from High School Patty first went to Des Moines for nursing school and then enrolled in the Midwestern School of Evangelism in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1949.
Two years later my Grandfather also enrolled in MSE and was her classmate for a year. My Grandfather already had a family when he started college, and Patty would spend time with them. Patty also stayed with them for a short time when she was going through a rough period in her life.
My Mom also remembers other members of the Estes family from Youth Rally’s and other church events around Centerville and Ottumwa.
I always enjoy listening to Simon Estes sing. I found a video of him singing Ol’ Man River that I will often watch and listen to. Oh, and sometimes sing along when no one is around.
Simon is still active in music, but performed in his last opera just last year in Des Moines. He is involved in teaching and mentoring musicians in Iowa and is a great inspiration for many young singers.