Joseph S. Eubanks, Morgan State University music professor emeritus and world famous singer whose bass-baritone was dubbed “The Golden Voice” by one of the 20th century’s best Black singers, died May 16 of end-stage polycystic renal disease at the Gilchrist Hospice Center in Towson, Md. He was 88.
A memorial service will be at Faith Presbyterian Church in Baltimore June 9 at 3 p.m., followed by a reception.
Eubanks, a California native, was a classically-trained singer who performed internationally from the 1950s through 1989 and was known for his unique depth of expression through his sonorous bass-baritone voice.
He was born in San Jose, Calif. and raised in Oakland. His career as an accomplished, classically trained singer/performer took him around the world.
His work as a music and voice teacher spanned seven decades and, at the time of his death, he was one of the leading members of the music and arts community in Baltimore.
After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music from San Francisco State University. He studied voice under Lotte Lehmann, Herta Glatz, John Brownlee, and later with Todd Duncan and Dr. William Ray. Duncan, the first Black man to act in the lead role in Porgy and Bess, gave him the nickname "The Golden Voice."
In 1951, while studying at the Music Academy of The West in Santa Barbara, Calif. with the renowned soprano, Lotte Lehmann, Eubanks landed an alternate role as Jake in Porgy and Bess with the Every Man Opera Company.
At a time when African Americans were rare operatic performers and classical singers, he toured internationally with leading actors Leontyne Price, William Warfield and (then dancer) Maya Angelou throughout 72 major cities and 25 countries– including Middle East, Europe, South America and Russia, where .Eubanks was in the first American theatrical production ever to appear in the then-Soviet Union.
He appeared in nationally famous productions of Verdi’s Don Carlo in which he played Phillip; sang in the title role in Moussorgsky’s Boris Godunof; created the role of Sodo in the Japanese opera Ye Zuru in New York with the Harmonia Opera; performed the role of Joe in the Broadway musical Showboat at Baltimore’s old Fox Theater. His interpretation of “Old Man River” became a fan favorite during concert recitals.
He was a concert soloist and performed several times with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Opera Company and was featured as guest soloist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Pop Concert Series.
His was devoted to teaching musical theatre, opera and classical vocal technique, according to his family. Eubanks’ first teaching positions were at Prescott Jr. High School and Oakland Technical High School in the late 1940s. Rev. Ed Love hired him as minister of music at Bethel AME Church in San Francisco, a position he held until 1950.
He was hired in 1962 to teach at Morgan State, where he developed and directed the Morgan Music Theater and Urban Musical Theatre. He taught at Morgan for 23 years and is credited with training Morgan graduate/current Metropolitan Opera singer April Haines, and Hugh Carey, who developed a choir for Baltimore City at the request of the late Mayor Donald Schaefer.
Prior to joining the Morgan State faculty, Eubanks performed in summer stock theater in Lamberville, N.J. and at the Westbury Music Theater in New York. These experiences influenced his directing summer theater training programs at Morgan State for youth in 1973 –1976.
Other notable performances include concert singing and narrating at The Lyric and with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He also sang the National Anthem in Baltimore at Orioles’ World Series appearances in 1966, 1970, and 1979.
In addition to his singing career, he acted in several films and television productions including Hairspray; Homicide: Life on the Street (TV series); and The Day Lincoln Was Shot.
He was active in many community groups in Baltimore and sang on numerous occasions with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He performed for several years in the Baltimore City Public Schools under the auspices of Young Audiences of Maryland.
Although he retired from Morgan in 1985, Eubanks continued to teach his voice students until 2013. In addition to music, he was, according to his family, an enthusiast of gardening, model trains and space travel.
Survivors include his two daughters, Karen Eubanks of New York and Leanora Eubanks of Baltimore; two grandsons of New York, Jonathan Joseph Doncker and Ali Alexander Moore; his brother, accomplished photographer, Jonathan P. Eubanks and wife, Louise Terry, of Oakland, Calif.; a niece, Paula Eubanks-Major of Castro Valley, Calif. and husband; a nephew, J. Phillip Eubanks of Fremont,Calif. and his wife; grand niece, Jasmine Eubanks and two grand nephews, pianist Alexander Major and violinist Matthew Major; and a host of other relatives, former students, friends, church members, and supporters.
Eubanks’ older sister, the late Dr. Rachel Eubanks of Los Angeles, Calif., founded and directed the Eubanks Conservatory of Music and Arts in Los Angeles from 1951 until her death in 2006.
Joseph S. Eubanks donated his body to science