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By: Emile Dawisha

A Powerful Voice in the Fight Against Malaria

October 6, 2020
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After a legendary six-decade career, opera superstar Simon Estes has dedicated his life to protecting children from malaria. The 82-year old bass-baritone singer has released a new compilation album with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Nothing But Nets.



The grandson of a slave and the son of a coal miner, Simon Estes emerged from a small town in Iowa to become one of the greatest bass-baritone opera singers of the 20th century. His uniquely American story took him from a home with no running water to most of the world’s great opera houses.

Along the way, he encountered racial prejudice within the US opera community. Dr. Estes spent most of the 1960’s and 1970’s earning international acclaim abroad, while the major American opera houses continued to snub him. He eventually built a decorated career in America – he has sung for six US presidents – and was influential in breaking down the barriers of racial prejudice in the opera world.

Now in the twilight of his 60-year career, Dr. Estes is not the type to rest on his laurels. He continues to devote his life to a higher purpose: supporting underprivileged youth and young artists in Iowa, while protecting children around the world from malaria.

The cause of malaria first struck a chord with him during the 2010 World Cup.

“When I sang at the World Cup in South Africa, I heard a startling statistic: that (in 2010) every 30 seconds a child died from malaria, and that 90 percent of all malaria deaths in the world are in Africa,” Dr. Estes wrote in a 2018 column in the Des Moines Register. “This realization – that children were dying needlessly from mosquito bites – inspired me to embark on what would become a lifetime mission.”

Dr. Estes, the ageless wonder that he is, has made countless road trips around Iowa to raise money for these causes. Incredibly – through benefit concerts, CD sales, and personal donations – he has provided scholarships to students in 54 Iowa counties and has raised over $500,000 for Nothing But Nets. These funds have enabled our campaign to protect over 100,000 families from malaria.

That’s remarkable; but if you think he is satisfied with this progress, then you don’t know Simon Estes.

We’re excited to announce Dr. Estes’s latest fundraising venture. He has released a new compilation album, “Save the Children, Save their Lives & Negro Spirituals,” with proceeds benefiting Nothing But Nets and the Food Bank of Iowa. The album contains compelling renditions of 20 songs covering a variety of genres, including stirring spirituals (“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”), show tunes (“Old Man River”) and inspiring standards (“You’ll Never Walk Alone”). You can stream or download on your favorite digital music service:

Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon Music | Tidal | iHeart Radio | YouTube Music | Deezer

This album is a great example of pandemic-proof philanthropy. Dr. Estes will also activate a generous matching grant to Nothing But Nets from The Simon Estes Foundation, which will give donors the opportunity to double the impact of their gift. But while he continues to make a big impact from a social distance, Dr. Estes looks forward to performing in public again – something he’s been doing regularly since joining a Baptist church choir at the age of 8.

“God has granted me good health—at age 82, I shouldn’t be able to sing as I do, but I feel God is singing through me to serve people, especially children,” Dr. Estes told DSM magazine in a September story. “I will sing to raise money for the rest of my life.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Estes became the only singer to perform in the United Nations’ 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversary ceremonies, with of course the latter event taking place ‘virtually.’  He was recently named the first-ever UN Global Singing Ambassador.

For more information about Dr. Estes’s life and charitable pursuits, visit The Simon Estes Foundation.

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