He doesn’t have the name recognition of Mick Jagger or Kelly Clarkson, but a retired opera singer, known internationally for his baritone voice, returned to central Iowa this week. Sherrill Milnes got his B-A and master’s degrees at Drake University in the 1950s and hopes to inspire young singers to pursue their dreams. Milnes says his humble beginnings on an Illinois dairy farm eventually took him to all corners of the globe.
In many cases, he says he was the only American on the stage in Moscow, Prague, Copenhagen or Budapest. Milnes says getting applause in those environments made him “feel like you were waving the American flag and I was very happy to do it.” At 71-years-old, Milnes is teaching voice at Northwestern University and says he’s focused on sparking passion for music in others. “Helping young singers attain their dreams or even in some cases, helping them make realistic decisions about, ‘You know, I don’t think there’s enough talent there and maybe you should think about another direction in life.’ That’s also a teacher’s responsibility.”
Milnes has made more than 70 recordings on major labels and was often partnered with two of the famous Three Tenors in a range of operatic repertoire, stretching from Mozart to the Moderns. Milnes was at his alma mater’s campus in Des Moines on Thursday and Friday. His autobiography is called “American Aria: From Farm Boy to Opera Star.”