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AUGUST 31, 1914 - 2001

Baritone Fred Thomas became the first African American to win the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air competition when he tied for second place in 1951 and he made both his Town Hall and Carnegie Hall debuts that same year. Thomas earned a degree from Cheyney University, the nation’s first HBCU, before earning a scholarship to Mannes College. Despite his military service, Thomas was able to sing concerts in Europe wherever he was stationed. Upon his return to the states, Thomas appeared in musicals on Broadway and in regional houses; he performed with the New York City Opera, Harlem Opera Society, and was featured on television and radio. Thomas toured throughout the U.S. and Europe as a soloist with the Los Angeles Jubilee Singers. He celebrated the 20th anniversary of his Town Hall debut with a recital at Alice Tully Hall. In 1998, the National Opera Association awarded Thomas its legacy award in recognition of his influence on opportunities for African American singers.

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