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Farrell, Eileen (13 February 1920–23 March 2002), singer and educator, was born in Willimantic, Connecticut, the daughter of Michael John Farrell and Catherine Kennedy. Both parents had been vaudeville entertainers, but during Eileen's youth Michael worked as a painter and decorator. Eileen showed some aptitude for music at several Catholic grammar schools and then Woonsocket High School in Rhode Island. Her mother, who gave the girl her first voice lessons, suggested, upon Eileen's graduation in 1939, that she go to New York City for professional training with Merle Alcock, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera. Farrell studied with her for five years but claimed that she learned nothing of value and that Alcock improperly sought to take a percentage of her eventual earnings. Intimidated, Farrell twice returned home but was encouraged to persist. In 1940 an audition was arranged with CBS Radio, and suddenly her career was launched....


Eileen Farrell In costume for her role in "Andrea Chénier" at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 1962. Photograph by Robert Kradin Associated Press


Trapp, Maria von (26 January 1905–28 March 1987), author, governess, and singer, was born Maria Augusta Kutschera on a train headed for Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Karl Kutschera and Augusta Rainer. She was orphaned at the age of seven. Raised by a court-appointed guardian whom von Trapp described as anti-Catholic and socialist, she graduated from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna in 1923. Following her education she became a candidate for the novitiate of the Benedictine order at a Salzburg, Austria, convent....


Verrett, Shirley (31 May 1931–5 Nov. 2010), opera singer, recitalist, and educator, was born in New Orleans, the second of six children of Leon and Elvira Verrett. Her parents had been among the growing number of African Americans who had converted to Seventh-Day Adventism, and the Verrett children were raised in a restrictive religious environment. Verrett’s earliest musical training came from her father, who wanted her to become a concert recitalist in the tradition of ...