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Marvin Hayes (Bass-Baritone)

Born: March 4, 1926 - North Carolina, USA 1956
Died: December 31, 1995 - Los Angeles, California, USA

The American baritone, Marvin Hayes, was born into a large musical family where almost everyone sang or played an instrument. Marvin employed his bass-baritone voice in the US Army as part of the gospel choir "Wings Over Jordan". His choice to pursue a degree in vocal performance at the University of Sothern California (USC) took him far from home. He was a USC Thornton alumnus of the vocal arts program under the guidance of Todd Duncan, graduating in 1956.

While still a student at USC, Marvin Hayes began working professionally in the music industry. Otto Preminger came to campus to audition singers for his film version of Carmen, Carmen Jones. The director was looking for trained singers whose voices could be dubbed in for some of the actors in his film. Both Hayes and Marilyn Horne (1953) were selected. Marilyn Horne dubbed the part of Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen and Hayes dubbed the part of Joe Adams who played Husky Miller, a prize fighter. Preminger had his film storyline updated to appeal to modern day audiences and the text was set in English; the movie was released in October of 1954. Hayes also had an opportunity to work with Igor Stravinsky while at USC. He played Nick Shadow (the devil) in The Rake’s Progress and had a chance to be heard by the composer himself!

After USC, Marvin Hayes traveled to France to study with Pierre Bernac (a highly respected singer, especially of French music) in Paris. He also received coaching from Francis Poulenc. He frequented the composer’s apartment and personally received from F. Poulenc some of his music for baritone. While in Europe, Hayes entered the prestigious Geneva competition and won second prize. He then returned to the USA and enrolled at the California Institute for the Arts and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in vocal performance.

Marvin Hayes considered his debut to be his Town Hall recital in New York City, sometime in the 1950’s. He soon began to develop his reputation as a concert artist, singing sang all over the USA, , often as the bass soloist in L.v. Beethoven's 9th Symphony. His wife, Althea Waites-Hayes (an outstanding concert pianist in her own right), shared that, “He auditioned for Leopold Stokowski and ended up singing the solo part in L.v. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Orchestra [Philadelphia Orchestra]. He received many opportunities because of his talent and during the 1950s and 60s, when racism and segregation in the arts was a tragic aspect of life in America, this was a major breakthrough. Marvin rose above these obstacles and looked at them as a chance to do something exceptional. He felt like he had a mission.”

Marvin Hayes had the ability to perform varied styles of music from the Baroque to modern periods. He appeared as a soloist and as a chamber musician throughout the USA and Europe. He performed with major symphony orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Charles Munch, the London Symphony Orchestra under Andre Previn, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Lukas Foss and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under both Zubin Mehta and Erich Leinsdorf. He also appeared on occasion at the Hollywood Bowl at the invitation of Ernest Fleischman, at the Ojai Chamber Music Festival and on the Los Angeles County Museum Monday evening concert series, and at the Carmel Bach Festival (1971). He recorded madrigals and other early music for Decca Records with the Abbey Singers in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. As a singer he was known for intense emotional involvement.

Marvin Hayes lived his later years in Pacific Palisades and taught voice to a large number of students in Southern California. As a teacher he was known for enthusiasm and a kind disposition. He served on the faculty of Cal Arts from 1965 to 1979. Later, he was a member of the Pomona College Voice faculty from 1981 to 1995. He participated in many faculty recitals, especially at Cal Arts where he often performed contemporary music written by his colleagues such as Mel Powell and Morton Subotnick. A number of his students have gone on to enjoy success in the music industry.

Many years after the death of his first wife, Marvin Hayes met his second wife, Althea Waites in 1991 through a mutual friend (another singer). A classical concert pianist, she trained at the Yale School of Music and teaches at Cal State University/Long Beach. The two found that they had a lot in common since Waites had extensive professional training and performed a great deal and traveled. They also both performed the music of modern composers and attended concerts. They soon became friends and found that they were spending time together; the couple decided to marry in 1993. Hayed died in 1995 of brain tumor in Los Angeles.

Source: USC Thornton School of Music Website (Author: Elaine Murphy ’96 DMA ’07); IMDB Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (December 2011)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Sandor Salgo


BWV 248/1

Links to other Sites

Marvin Hayes ’56 (USC Thornton School of Music)

Marvin Hayes - Biography (IMDB)

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