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Born in 1946, in pre-independence Jamaica, Willard grew up within a typical Jamaican family structure. But it was not until he was a big 15-year-old that he entered Excelsior College 'the school of second chance' created by a visionary Jamaican for children 'too old and too poor' for the traditional high schools. This is the place that first exposed him to the music that would shape his life thereafter. Only four years, but several worlds separated Willard's leaving Excelsior, in July 1967, from his debut in the Juilliard American Opera production of Hall Overton's opera, Huckleberry Finn in May 1971. Since then he has been Othello and Mephistopheles and Porgy, and played every other coveted role in the bass-baritone repertoire, and many others beside. In 1995 Willard White was awarded the CBE and was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2004. White has also been celebrated in his own land with its highest honours for international distinction in the performing arts. Willard White, transformed from awkward schoolboy to imposing international celebrity, has remained an accessible, humble, human being, conscious of the fact that he found himself in the right place at the right time. His enormous talent allowed him to take the tide of opportunity at the flood. Rise Sir Willard!
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Sonia Mills is a Jamaican writer who has worked in print, radio and television and has also written for the stage, primarily as a co-author with Trevor Rhone, Jamaica's foremost playwright. She contributed a chapter to the Jamaican publication The Shopkeepers (2004), and In the Light of the Sun: The Story of Wolmer's Girls' School, Kingston, Jamaica (2009), of which latter publication she was also the editor.
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