The Spokesman-Review

Thomas Hampson, Eastern Washington’s homegrown international opera star, was the last person to perform at the Fox Theater in 2005 before it went dark and began extensive renovations. He returned in 2007 for the inaugural season of the restored facility, and again in 2009 to perform the world premiere of Michael Daugherty’s “Letters From Lincoln.”

His roots at the Fox actually run much further back – to the 1970s – and to a specific place – the theater’s balcony.

As a high school student at Upper Columbia Academy in Spangle, a reward for good grades was a trip to the Fox to see the Spokane Symphony perform, back when the theater primarily was a movie house.

“It sounded like a very cultural activity,” Hampson said in a recent phone interview from London, “but it was one of the few times you could sit with your girlfriend.” He added, chuckling, “So there were a lot of motivations involved. I must say that being in the balcony … some of the first symphonic works I’d ever heard in my life played by a symphonic orchestra were in the Fox Theater with the Spokane Symphony.”

After high school, Hampson, who was raised in the Tri-Cities, received his operatic training at Eastern Washington University and with Sister Marietta Coyle at Fort Wright College. He proudly proclaims his allegiance the Spokane Symphony Chorale, of which he is a founding member.

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In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.

Thomas Hampson