Professor sings in recital to celebrate his 80th

Richard Owens' recital

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  • | 12:32 p.m. October 5, 2011
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Richard Owens will sing in an 80th birthday celebration that chronicles his own life.
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Richard Owens will sing in an 80th birthday celebration that chronicles his own life.
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Three hundred performances, more than 30 different roles, two books and his own music theater studio program in Europe — Richard Owens has fit a lot into his nearly 65-year professional singing career.

But he’s not done yet.

Owens, an adjunct voice professor at Rollins College since 1992 and former Orlando Opera Company director, will hold his own voice recital, celebrating his life, career, voice and love of music on Saturday, Oct. 15, two days before his 80th birthday.

“This recital will capture what I have to say in this part of my life,” Owens said. “The program will start with old age and end with life.”

From visions of aging to his old dreams of going to sea, an ode to his home state of Texas, and years spent in Europe in between, “For the Love of Singing” will inversely chronicle tales from Owens’ lengthy career.

Gift of giving

The recital, though free to attend, will function both as a birthday party and benefit for Rollins College and Central Florida students who wish to attend Owens’ study-abroad Music Theater Bavaria program in Oberaudorf, Germany.

He says it is his birthday wish to be able to continue to help the community’s next generation of vocal performers succeed on a professional level. He hopes that through this scholarship fund benefit, more students will get that chance.

Having studied and performed extensively in Europe himself, Owens said all those who seek to perform professionally should have the opportunity to learn and experience the arts and ways of Europe, which led him to start the Music Theater Bavaria program in 2000.

“The studio has been a business combining what I did and what I should have learned,” he said.

His wife, Rolann Owens, who also serves as artistic director and choreographer for the program, said her husband’s greatest passion in life has always been that of teaching and sharing his craft with his students.

“He’s always put forth a great generosity of talent and time to help his students get a start in life,” she said. “For him, it is all about using their talents in the best way possible.”

Filling in the gaps

For his recital, Owens is highlighting not only his own talents, but also those of his friends, former students and colleagues.

The baritone singer said each chapter of the program focuses on a different time in his career and will be segued together by interlude performances by close friends and colleagues.

“I wanted to include people I had worked with,” he said. “My friends will help me fill in the gaps and interludes.”

Included in those performances will be Rollins College coworker and assistant professor of voice Julie Foster singing a song she said Owens first introduced her to while teaching at Music Theater Bavaria, and a performance by Melissa and Brian Minyard, Owens’ former students and Broadway veterans.

“I’ve always believed students are a reflection of their teaching,” Rolann Owens said, “and I think people will see that.”

Singing at 80

Owens said it’s not a miracle that he can still belt it out at 80, but the result of a gift of great genes.

“My paternal grandfather that I barely knew was a singer,” Owens said. “It must have in some way got passed down to me. I’m lucky that my voice is still going.”

The last time Owens said he performed a show remotely like this one was in 1976, and though he’s performed countless times since, it doesn’t make this one coupled with his age any easier.

“I think everyone is scared to death that I can’t do this,” he said. “And that might be including me.”

But when he lets just a few practice notes bellow through the Rollins College auditorium, it’s clear that he’s still got it.

“I think that’s what this is all about, wanting to continue singing regardless of age,” his wife said. “Every performer always has that voice in them, and they want to prove to everyone else that it’s still in there.”

Learn more

Richard Owens’ “For the Love of Singing” event is Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the John M. Tiedtke Concert Hall at Rollins College. For more information on the event and the cause, visit