Opera singer performs for education


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World-renowned opera singer Simon Estes has performed in some of greatest concert halls around the globe.

But on Saturday, he’ll perform in the West Liberty High auditorium as part of his “Roots & Wings” performance series.

His tour will cover all of Iowa’s 99 counties in an effort raise money to benefit the Simon Estes Iowa Educational Foundation, which provides scholarships to Iowa high-school students. Half of his performance fees go toward the scholarship fund.

“For a town of 3,000 people, we’re totally excited,” said Letha Ottaway, the chief operating officer for the West Liberty Chamber of Commerce. “This is a tremendous thing for our town.”

Estes, a University of Iowa alumnus, has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, the Paris Opera, and the Zurich Opera, among others.

The Centerville, Iowa, native started “Roots & Wings” as a way to return to his Iowa roots and contribute to local students, said Paul Ferrone, the executive director of the Simon Estes Iowa Educational Foundation.

The Chamber of Commerce was not only excited to host the concert because of Estes’ fame but also because the scholarship sends Iowa students the message that “if you’re willing to work hard you can have anything you want,” Ottaway said.

Ottaway was first informed of the “Roots & Wings” tour in Our Iowa Magazine, and immediately contacted Estes on behalf of West Liberty.

“My enthusiasm is kind a what got it going, but certainly people who were familiar with him are really excited he’ll be performing,” said Ottaway, who has been organizing the event for about eight months.

The county will put concert proceeds toward the Veterans Memorial Park and back to the high-school music department.

Part of the series includes Estes performing with local choirs and young artists, and Muscatine school choirs will get a chance to sing with him.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students,” said Natalie Erlandson, chorus teacher at West Liberty High, in an e-mail.

Wilton High choir director Bev Reuter, whose students will also perform with Estes on Saturday, agreed.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for the students and not something we were going to miss for anything,” she said.

Today, choirs will meet up for their first combined rehearsal at West Liberty High. While there, Estes will speak to students at a short assembly.

Students must be recommended for the scholarship by their schools.

Thus far, Estes has put on 13 “Roots & Wings” concerts. Ferrone expects to have around 25 or 30 concerts done by the end of this year.

“Simon is thrilled with he response so far and with the diversity in the students’ interests.” said Ferrone, who noted the scholarship is distributed regardless of college plans.

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