Renaming of Music Hall honors Simon Estes, international opera singer

Simon Estes had Music Hall officially named in his honor Wednesday night.

Nicole Mattson

Music Hall was renamed Simon Estes Music Hall to honor his musical legacy Wednesday night.

Estes, the grandson of a slave and internationally acclaimed opera singer, had his contributions permanently recognized on Iowa State’s campus. Estes is the F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Artist-in-Residence in the music and theater departments. At 82 years old, his passion for teaching continues through the “Roots and Wings” tour, which was launched in 2010 with the goal of donating half of his concert fees to scholarships for high school seniors. 

“To date, the Iowa native has awarded more than $220,000 in scholarships to students in 54 countries,” according to a press release. “Following each concert, Estes visits a local school to talk about the importance of education and share his life experience.”

Estes spoke on the value of music in his life and shared his personal experiences with the audience in attendance.  

“Music is something we can’t touch, but we can sense it, and we can feel it,” Estes said. “This is why music is the international language of the world because no matter where you are on this planet Earth, there is music.”

Hope Metts, senior in music and a student of Estes’, spoke at the ceremony to show others the impression he has left on Iowa State students, faculty and staff.

“When I think of Simon, I get filled with the feeling of love and that I want to share his story and share the love that he has for people and pass it on. He’s really all about loving others and treating them with respect, and that’s what I want to do through my singing one day as well.”

Elaina Borg, junior in music and attendee of the renaming ceremony, said that Estes’ story is particularly inspiring because he came from small-town Iowa and became known internationally. 

“I’ve known of Simon Estes for a long time, and I know that he has done a lot for this university, so I wanted the chance to hear him speak,” Borg said. “I spend a lot of my time in Music Hall, so it’s pretty cool that they’re renaming it […]. I felt like it would be cool to experience and be a part of it.”

Estes said he is very humbled and honored to have the building named after his legacy. He hopes that his name will hold love for years to come. 

“This building is named after me, but it’s not for me,” Estes said. “It’s about all of you young people who are here and studying music […]. I hope that this building will continue to inspire all of you young people to enjoy education, enjoy music, enjoy life. Be kind to one another. Help each other.”