Ramey brings greatness to his students

Two men step out from behind a curtain to face their audience in Miller Concert Hall Sunday. Without bowing, one man takes his place at a piano and the other steps out and abruptly bursts into song.
Accompanied by Warren Jones on piano, Samuel Ramey, distinguished professor of opera at Wichita State, fills the concert hall with the sound of his bass-baritone voice.

As the first song ends, Ramey lifts both arms to rest on the piano, and takes a moment to breathe deeply and prepare to sing again. The audience bursts into applause. Smiling humbly, Ramey gazes out over his audience and silently mouths the words ‘thank you.’ After gathering himself, he begins the next song with his bellowing voice.

Ramey has been heralded as one of the most renowned opera singers of the last three decades. He is from Colby, Kansas, graduated from WSU in 1968, and has performed around the world. His versatility has allowed him to portray a grand variety of characters on stage. He is now regarded as one of the world’s foremost interpreters of bass and bass-baritone repertoire.

“He’s an unbelievable artist,” said Stephanie Sheldon, a junior majoring in choir and vocal performance, said. “He’s inspiring for the rest of us.”

Ramey is also the most recorded bass singer in history, having been part of more than 80 recordings on every major music label. His recordings have received awards including three Grammy awards, multiple Gran Prix du Disc awards and declared “Best of the Year” by publications such as Stereo Review and Opera News.
“He’s got more releases than many opera artists put together,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon said Ramey brings a humble and expert teaching style to his students.

“He does a lot of opera coaching,” said Sheldon. “He’s very invested in the students.”

Although Sheldon does not attend any of Ramey’s classes, she knows him not just as a star or a lecturer, but personally.

“It’s really to have him, it’s like ‘Oh hey, Sam,’” Sheldon says, “He’s super down to earth. Having him perform here is super special to us. It shows he doesn’t think he’s too far above the rest of us.”

Sheldon also says Ramey’s worldwide fame brings something extra to the university.

“I performed in a show with him,” Sheldon said. “It’s really cool saying I performed on the same stage as Sam Ramey.”

Ramey was named Kansan of the Year in 1995, and in 1998 the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the rank of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters. Ramey was inaugurated into the WSU College of Fine Arts hall of fame last year.