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Hampson was born on 28 June 1955 in Indiana, grew up in Spookane, Washington State and was set to become a lawyer. Sister Marietta Coyle, an important voice teacher, heard him sing at an arts festival, approached him and asked him what precisely he intended to do with his life. The young man told her, Coyle reacted by saying that he was a born artist and his future was on the world's opera stage. She handed him her card and told him to call her if he came to the same realization. A few days later he did, she taught him, and the rest is history. America had lost another lawyer, but the world had gained a performer without whom the classical music scene would no longer be imaginable.

He always goes beyond the call of duty when performing a new work, spends many hours researching the composer and his piece, studying the original score. A Seventh Day Adventist home life and schooling has helped instil an iron discipline and perfect time management, leaving room for many important projects, including his own foundation (Hampsong Foundation), masterclasses, lectures, essays and so on. Fitness is a must for a singer and for Hampson in particular. At forty eight, he is fit as ever and this goes back to a long history of iron discipline. In school, he played basketball, baseball, golf and tennis, was student body president in high school and college, sang in choir and the Spokane Chorale, and was active in school politics. He graduated from university with two degrees, one in politics and one in voice performance. Nowadays, he juggles a stable home life, a calendar full enough to scare a president, pedagogy, research, reading, writing, designing musical multi-media projects and he does everything to the usual high standards.

Naturally, Hampson is the recipient of countless awards and honours, of which only some can be mentioned here. In 1990 and in 1992 he received the Netherlands Edison Prize, for Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and selected Mahler Lieder, respectively. In 1991 he became Musical America's Vocalist of the Year. In 1993 he was awarded his first honorary doctorate of music, by Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington State, USA. In the same year he was Male Singer of the Year at the Classical Music Awards in London. In 1994 he received many important awards and honours, among them the Puccini Foundation Achievement Award, Male Singer of the Year at the Cannes Classical Awards, Gramophone Awards for Best Vocal, Best Musical and Best Video, Cannes Classical Award for best Nineteenth/Twentieth Century Vocal Recital and he also became an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music (HONRAM). He has received two Echo Prizes (German critics prize for best classical music achievement), in 1997 and 1995, as best male singer of the year 1996 and 1994. In 1996 his EMI recording received the Grand Prix du Disque and he was EMI artist of the year in 1997.

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Copyright © 27 May 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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