Trovillo and William Graham in gratitude
of their generosity.
is presented to the First-Place Vocal Award
in honor of George Trovillo and Bill Graham
to Learn a Song” by George Trovillo)
George Trovillo and Bill Graham bequeathed their house and
a very generous donation to the Musical Merit Foundation of
San Diego in 2009. Along with preparing countless San Diegans
for the Musical Merit competition, George and Bill were involved
in defining the vocal repertoire requirements, promoting Musical
Merit and serving on the Board.
Bill Graham, a native San Diegan, performed extensively in
New York City where he danced with Martha Graham and her dance
company and had a long run as Captain “Big Jim” Warrington in
Little Mary Sunshine which opened at the Orpheum theater off-Broadway
in 1959 and ran for over a thousand performances.
As one of the select accompanist at Columbia Management, George
Trovillo was accompanist and coach to Eileen Farrell, Roberta
Peters, James Melton, Cesare Valletti, Jussi Bjoerling, Jan
Peerce, Gladys Swarthout and many other stars and appeared in
all the most important concert and recital venues in the U.S.,
toured Canada and performed in Europe. In an article about Trovillo,
which appeared in the November 2001, issue of Classical Singer
Magazine, Dianne Cawood wrote that:
A farmboy with the usual Midwestern schooling, George Trovillo
was encouraged by his mother to study piano. In early childhood,
she taught him to read music and saw to it that he received
proper piano lessons from a neighboring teacher. The family
lived on a farm in Illinois, probably the only farm in its vicinity
with a large collection of recordings by the opera singers of
the day: Galli-Curci, Caruso, Melba and the like. By playing
for singers all through high school, Trovillo developed his
natural gift for accompaniment and his feeling for the repertoire.
He attended Kansas University, achieved his degree and set his
sights for The Juilliard School in New York. From the beginning,
it was obvious that accompanying was his special strength, and
he was successful at it […] In 1949 Trovillo entered the professional
“big time” with a two-year contract with tenor James Melton
which included both concerts all across America and appearances
in the then-fledgling medium of television, in which Melton
was an early believer.
In order to accept this extremely prestigious engagement, Trovillo
had to get out of a contract with the young Eileen Farrell,
temporarily thwarting what eventually was to become one of the
longest and most artistically fruitful associations of both
of their long careers. When he and Farrell finally got together
in 1951, their association, which lasted until 1966, took them
to the world’s great concert halls and left a series of very
important art song recordings. During his time with Farrell,
in 1954 Trovillo began an association that continued for many
years with Roberta Peters, then approaching the height of her
tremendous fame. Their association took them to Russia in 1960
for a state-sponsored concert tour that took on historical implications
in those days of the cold war.
George recorded many albums with Eileen Farrell, one of which,
“Song Recital", was elected to the Classical Recording
Industry Hall of Fame in 2003.
You Tube links:
George and Bill moved to San Diego in 1966 where Bill managed
properties and worked with performers on their acting skills,
while George continued coaching singers and pianists until shortly
before his death in 2003. Up until her final vocal retirement,
Roberta Peters would regularly come and stay with them while
she worked with George to prepare for her upcoming engagements.
The carefully kept guest room in the house in Point Loma that
was bequeathed to the MMF, was called “the Roberta room,” and
was used by far-flung performers who needed a place to stay
as they, like Roberta, worked with George on upcoming performance
repertoire or had come to San Diego or Los Angeles for performances.
And for all those who benefited from George’s wisdom, support
and gentle teaching, along with Bill’s humor and ability to
go directly to the truth of the matter, an invitation to breakfast
or tea around the kitchen table could combine laughter and gossip
with life-clarifying insights.