SARASOTA, Fla. - Sarasota is known world over as an opera town. The Sarasota Opera Company has been here since 1960. The Sarasota Opera Guild was formed in 1977 to support the company, and Tuesday they held their annual Star of the Opera luncheon.
Each year the guild honors a star of the opera, an outstanding artist whose long and distinguished career has made an impact on the world.
This year they choose operatic bass Samuel Ramey. One listen to his voice, and you'll understand why.
Ramey is heralded as one of the most extraordinary singers of the past 3 decades. "He's one of the most well-known bass baritones in the world, and he has sung many, many roles, and he is very famous,” says guild board of trustees member Janet Huelster.
That’s quite an achievement for a kid from Colby, Kansas. "As a little kid, I just loved to sing. I had a really nice boy soprano voice when I was young."
But even when that soprano voice changed to bass, he wasn't thinking opera. "When I was in junior high, high school my dream was to be some sort of pop singer. I had no exposure to opera, didn't know what it was. My boyhood heroes were Elvis and Pat Boone."
In college he studied music, thinking he might teach. "My voice teacher in college started me to work on an aria from the Marriage of Figaro. He suggested I find a recording to listen to."
After listening to that recording of the opera he was hooked. He started listening to operatic recordings and landed a job in the chorus of a small opera company. "I had never seen an opera until I was actually on stage taking part in one."
He says he's thrilled to be honored by the Sarasota Opera Guild because of the work they do. "The purpose is to promote the opera in the community, promote education, provide scholarships for young singers, and also to support the youth opera, Sarasota Opera," says guild president Mary Cook.
And the lesson we can all learn from his amazing career? "No dream is out of reach. I'm a boy from a small town in Kansas, and I developed this dream. I've basically lived my dream."
The Sarasota Opera Guild says it is young people like Samuel Ramey they hope to reach. They want to introduce opera to kids at an early age, help them learn to love it, and make it possible for them to study and develop any talent they might have.