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BILL DEES (June 1951)
Growing up in the glory years of Hollywood musicals, William Dees (June’51) saw that the leading singer (Allan Jones, Nelson Eddy, Mario Lanza) always got the girl. His family had season tickets to the MUNY Opera, and always listened to the Voice of Firestone and the Bell Telephone Hour on the radio, featuring singers like Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, and Eileen Farrell. These influences, plus inspiration from his teachers at Rose Fanning and Roosevelt, gave Bill a love for singing and classical music that has guided and enriched his entire life.
A three-time winner of the Metropolitan Opera District Auditions, Bill trained at the Internationales Opern Studio in Zurich, Switzerland, the apprentice program for the Zurich Opera. He subsequently became a leading baritone for the Swiss opera houses in Biel, Solothurn, Burgdorf, Grenchen, Langenthal and Schaffhausen.
Bill has performed over twenty-five leading roles in Europe and the United States in operas by such composers as Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Menotti, Monteverdi, Offenbach, Pergolesi, Bizet, and Strauss.
As artistic director, writer, and baritone for the Bel Canto Ensemble, the St. Louis unit of the national organization Young Audiences Inc., Bill and his group gave over five hundred performances of opera in schools throughout Missouri and Illinois. During his lengthy career, he was also employed as a baritone soloist by numerous churches and synagogues in St. Louis.
Bill appeared as a featured soloist with the Laclede Symphony, the Kirkwood Symphony, the Clayton Symphony, the Evansville Philharmonic and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestras. He sang with the Orlando Opera, St. Louis Opera Theatre, St. Louis August Opera, the Muddy River Opera, Mississippi Opera, and CBS Television Repertory Theater.
After the age of forty, Bill enrolled in the music program at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in vocal performance. Subsequently he taught voice as an adjunct instructor at Webster University, Lindenwood University, and Forest Park Community College, and was a full-time faculty member at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where he taught voice and opera.
Bill had a private voice studio in St. Louis where he taught singers from Six Flags, and in Orlando, Florida, where his students were the stars at Disney World. His students have been featured at the MUNY Opera and Opryland, on television programs and cruise ships, on Broadway and at the White House.