Bob’s singing career began at the age of six on the Illinois family farm when his mother discovered that her son was a soprano! She encouraged him to sing at local gatherings, and by the age of nine he won first place in a talent contest at NBC radio in Chicago.
It wouldn’t be long before Bob was attending the University of Michigan School of Music in Ann Arbor. He was President of the Class of Music ’54 and became the 1st freshman soloist of the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club in their over 90-year history.
In 1954, he was drafted into the Army, and after basic training in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, spent time at 7th Army Headquarters near Stuttgart, Germany, attached to the 7th Army Symphony and Soldier Show Division. He conducted the chapel choir and organized a male quartet which placed 2nd in the All Army talent contest. The prize was a month-long tour in France to perform for troops on U.S. Army bases.
After the Army in 1956, while working on his Master’s degree in voice at the Manhattan School of Music, the St. David’s School hired him to teach music appreciation and theory to 2nd through 8th graders. There, he met his future wife Ann Sperry, the nursery school teacher. They were married in 1958 and now have five children and eight grandchildren.
For the next two years, Bob continued working as a freelance artist in New York City, performing both classical and contemporary works. He sang everything from Gregorian chants at funerals to symphonic choral works with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. He recorded with Igor Stravinsky, was in a quartet at the Pablo Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale, the Fred Warring Pennsylvanians, and even with a few rock and roll bands. He sang jingles for radio and appeared on camera in television commercials and musical television shows like The Bell Telephone Hour and the Hallmark Hall of Fame opera productions. Later, he would appear on The Tonight Show, What’s My Line, and To Tell the Truth.