Dr. Simon Estes
Artist in Residence
World-renowned opera star and Iowa native Simon Estes joined the Wartburg College community in 2002 as distinguished professor and artist-in-residence. He performs with Wartburg music groups, works with student musicians, and serves as a resource for a variety of classes during his periods of residency at the college.
Estes studied under Charles Kellis at the University of Iowa before being admitted to The Juilliard School of Music in New York City in 1964. He received a grant to study abroad and made his professional operatic debut in 1965 at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, where he sang the role of Ramfis in Aida. A year later, he received the Bronze medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1982.
Estes has taught at The Juilliard School of Music and has given numerous master classes throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, and South America. A well-known youth advocate, he has established four scholarship foundations for young people, including the Switzerland-based Simon Estes International Foundation for Children. The Simon Estes Music High School and choir, near Cape Town, South Africa, stress musical pursuits and are named in his honor.
Estes was born in Centerville, Iowa, the grandson of a slave, and he maintains strong ties to Iowa. He and his wife, Ovida, reside in Switzerland and have made Waverly their U.S. home. In addition to his involvement at Wartburg, he is a distinguished artist-in-residence at Iowa State University in Ames. In 2001, he established the Simon Estes Iowa Educational Foundation, a multiracial, nonprofit organization committed to providing positive minority role model programs and scholarship opportunities for disadvantaged Iowa youth. The organization’s primary focus is to encourage and inspire in all Iowa students the value of an education in achieving success. Through the foundation, scholarships are awarded to students attending two- or four-year colleges or universities in Iowa. Three scholarships are awarded annually. In 1996, former Gov. Terry Branstad gave Estes the Iowa Award. In 2000, the Iowa House of Representatives honored Estes through a special resolution. The Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater, a popular event venue in Des Moines, bears his name.