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Iowa History Daily: March 2 - Simon Estes

Iowa History Daily: On March 2, 1938, far-famed operatic singer Simon Estes was born in Centerville. With a distinctive bass-baritone voice, Estes went on to become one of the world’s greatest opera performers who still continues to wow audiences today.

A true American success story, Estes’s father worked as a coal miner in the early southern Iowa coal industry after migrating from the American South. Estes's grandfather, a formerly enslaved person, once sold at auction for $500. In two generations the family rose from enslavement to world fame thanks to hard work and the singing talents of Simon.

One of five children, Estes grew to love music in his local Baptist church before eventually entering the University of Iowa in 1957. The first African-American in U of I’s famed “Old Gold Singers,” Estes went on to enter the Juilliard School of Music in 1964 with the help of donations from Iowans throughout the state.

Following a successful European debut, by 1966 Lyndon B. Johnson invited Estes to perform at the White House. Acclaim, honors, and many other notable performances have followed as Estes continues to build an incredible career. Bent on giving back, teaching posts at DMACC, Wartburg, and Iowa State continue to provide Estes with opportunities to influence the next generation of Iowa singers.



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