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Legendary Singer, Actor William Warfield Honored at Eastman School of Music

By Staff

A sculpture created by artist Shawn Dunwoody, honoring William Warfield’s legacy installed at the Miller Center Courtyard of the Eastman School of Music in downtown Rochester, New York. Photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester.

A sculpture honoring famed international African American singer, actor, and activist William Warfield was installed in the Miller Center Courtyard of the Eastman School of Music in downtown Rochester.

The event was made possible by a collaboration of the William Warfield Scholarship Fund (WWSF) along with Thomas Warfield, The Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the City of Rochester.

The bronze sculpture of Warfield was created by artist Shawn Dunwoody and was revealed in a ceremony at the Courtyard, September 27th.

“William Warfield has always been a history maker, and it’s no surprise that at a time when statues are being removed or relocated because of negative connotations all across the country, he is honored with the installation of a bust, signifying success and inspiration,” remarks WWSF President Lolita Forsett. 

This collaboration involved the work of many participants: nationally recognized and award winning Rochester artist Shawn Dunwoody is the Bust sculptor; Elizabeth Kronfield, Professor & Graduate Director, College of Art & Design at RIT, oversaw the bronzing/final creation; Kevin Gibson, Executive Director of Operations at Eastman, coordinated the installation and placement in Eastman’s Courtyard; and the many generous donors, Thomas Warfield, Lolita Forsett, and the WWSF Board were the driving force behind funding and realizing this project. 

“William Warfield is considered one of the finest singer-actors of the 20th century. As a product of the Rochester City Public Schools and Eastman School of Music, it is appropriate that we honor him and his legacy,” noted Thomas Warfield, WWSF Board Historian and nephew to Warfield. “This bust will stand as a testament to his triumphant career and broad influence as a performing artist and educator, and his legacy that inspires others to strive for excellence.”

“The City of Rochester is proud to partner with The William Warfield Scholarship Fund, Thomas Warfield, The Eastman School of Music, the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology to pay tribute to Rochester’s own William Warfield, one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “The installation of this sculpture will serve to inspire young classical singers all around the world and honor Rochester’s rich African American history.”

In addition to the prominent display of the William Warfield Bust, a short documentary film is underway by RIT University Creative Productions capturing the full scope of the project, including key moments in the design and creation of the bust, as well as highlighting Warfield’s life, achievements, archival videos of performances, photography and interviews with members of his family, the Scholarship Fund, Eastman School of Music, and special audio of William Warfield as a voice student at Eastman. The documentary will be aired at a future date.