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William Warfield Scholarship Fund to Hold 41st Annual Benefit Concert Featuring 2017-18 Recipient

By Staff –


Jonathan Rhodes

Jonathan Rhodes

The William Warfield Scholarship fund will hold its 41st annual benefit concert Jan. 7, in an effort to raise money for the scholarship fund, and to celebrate the legacy of Warfield, who was a prominent African-American soloist and recitalist at the Eastman School of Music.

The concert will take place in the school’s Kilbourn Hall on Sunday, at 4 p.m., and feature this year’s award recipient, tenor Jonathan Rhodes.

The fund was created in 1977, “to promote opportunity for deserving African-American artists who are pursuing a career in vocal performance through advanced training at the Eastman School of Music, and to promote the life and work of William Warfield,” a press release stated.

The Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church Male Chorus, along with director Thomas Green Sr.; Alexander Peña, founding director and lead teaching artist of the ROCMusic Collaborative; and soprano Taiiz Ocasio, from the Rochester City School District’s School of the Arts, will also perform during the event.

Rhodes, a sophomore vocal performance major at Eastman, is currently studying with Professor Anthony Dean Griffey, and previously made his performance debut in the premiere of “Memory Boy” with the Minnesota Opera’s youth program in the principal role of Kurz.

Rhodes’ ensemble experience includes the Eastman Chorale, the Bach Festival Society, as well as a touring choir with Hans Zimmer in 2017.

He was also the recipient of the Eastman Voice and Opera Department’s Freshman Jury award.

In addition, last November he also performed the role of Liberto in Eastman Opera Theatre’s production of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea.

Outside of music, Jonathan is pursuing a dual degree in Political Science at the University of Rochester.

Past recipients of the scholarship have included soprano Julia Bullock, winner of the 2014 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s International Vocal Competition; soprano Nicole Cabell, winner of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition; and bass-baritone Jamal Moore, who was featured with the University of Rochester a cappella ensemble The Yellowjackets on the NBC competition The Sing-Off in 2011.

Born in Arkansas, Warfield moved to Rochester with his family as a young boy, and attended Rochester city schools.

During his senior year in high school, he won the National Music Educators League Competition, and a full scholarship to the Eastman School of Music, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school in 1942 and 1946, respectively.

Warfield is best known for his portrayals of Porgy in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and as Joe, the dock hand, in the movie Showboat.

He also won a Grammy Award for his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonic.

Warfield died in 2002, at the age of 82.

Individuals interested in attending the event may purchase tickets for $18 in advance, or for $20 at the door; $10 for students with ID.

Advance tickets are available online, at

Visit for additional information regarding the scholarship fund.

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