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Barbara Hendricks is an internationally recognized leading lyric soprano. Whether performing light soprano roles in traditional operatic repertory, demanding premieres of twentieth-century vocal music, song recitals, or jazz, Hendricks has been recognized as a leading artist since the mid-1970s. In addition, she is recognized internationally for her work for human rights and world peace.
Barbara Hendricks was born on November 20, 1948, in Stephens (Ouachita County). The child of a Methodist minister, she lived in various small towns in Arkansas and Tennessee. She graduated from Horace Mann High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She enrolled at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and transferred to the University of Nebraska as a chemistry major. She graduated in 1969 with a BS in mathematics and chemistry.
Her musical activities to that point were in church and civic choirs. She was encouraged to attend the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 1969 and there met the celebrated vocalist and teacher Jennie Tourel, who invited her to study at the Juilliard School in New York City after college. She moved to New York, winning several vocal competitions in the early 1970s and completed a BM in voice from Juilliard in 1973.
Hendricks found success with the Mini-Met production of 4 Saints in 3 Acts (1973) and a recording of Porgy and Bess (1974). She followed it up with debuts in San Francisco, California (1974); Paris, France (1982); and London, England (1982), as well as with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (1987). Vocal recitals have been particularly important to her.
Hendricks lived in France and then in Switzerland with her husband, Martin Engstrom, a Swedish citizen whom she married in 1978. They have three children. Her interest in humanitarian activities led to her being named a goodwill ambassador in 1987 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She performed at an inauguration gala for President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. She received an Honorary Doctor of Music from Juilliard in 2000.
For additional information:
“Barbara Hendricks.” Ebony 45 (May 1990): 158–160.
Barbara Hendricks Official Website. http://www.barbarahendricks.com (accessed February 8, 2013).
Forbes, Elizabeth. “Barbara Hendricks.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York: Macmillan Publishers, 2002.
Karp, Judith. “Barbara Hendricks.” Fugue 3 (January 1979): 37–38.
Scherer, Barrymore Laurence. “Mimi with a Method: On Becoming Barbara Hendricks.” Opera News 53 (August 1988): 8–12.
Floyd W. MartinUniversity of Arkansas at Little Rock
Last Updated 5/7/2013
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