Photo by Bruce Williams
He has appeared as the leading baritone in The James Baldwin Chronicles with Renee Baker and the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, and as Pangloss in Bernstein’s Candide with the Oakland Symphony. Robert has toured Germany, Austria and Switzerland as the featured soloist with Roland Carter and the inSpirit Male Chorus performing spirituals of Noah Ryder, Roland Carter and Roland Hayes.
Since his solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 2005 (featuring a special appearance by the late Odetta), Sims has made several appearances at that venue performing the spirituals of Jacqueline B. Hairston, and most notably as a featured soloist in the 2009 series, Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy (at the invitation of Jessye Norman). His most recent Carnegie performance was a recital honoring the late Sylvia Olden Lee.
Sims has been presented in the Bay Area numerous times by Four Seasons Concerts founded by the late Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams. He sang the world premiere of Alice Walker's Peace is Always a Good Idea for the Afro Solo Music Festival in San Francisco and Noah Gasser's Black Suite Blues with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra.
He has been presented in concert by Friends of Negro Spirituals and has premiered Lena McLin's I'm a Soldier with the Chicago Sinfonietta among other orchestras throughout the United States. Sims founded and toured nationally with the ensemble, Three Generations. This trio which specializes in American spirituals and folk songs has included the renowned George Shirley, Kenneth Overton, the late William Warfield and Benjamin Matthews. He has also performed with the trio Simon, Sykes & Sims (with Simon Estes and Jubilant Sykes) singing spirituals and American songs.
Sims has appeared on numerous radio and television programs including Bill McLaughlin’s Exploring Music, NPR’s Performance Today, The Leonard Lopate Show, Conversations with Ed Tracy, The Gospel Experience with Emmit Powell, The Studs Terkel Program, and two PBS specials, In the Spirit, and the just released Voices for Freedom: the Hyers Sisters’ Dream, Change, and Legacy. Sims has performed as a soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the televised Songs from the Soul with Robert Sims: A Heritage Special. He had several engagements on Hour of Power from the Crystal Cathedral.
He has sung at New York’s Lincoln Center with the Ritz Chamber Players and a solo recital, “The Spirituals of Roland Hayes" narrated by George Shirley.
Sims has worked with several composers and arrangers including Lena McLin, David Baker, Moses Hogan, Roland Carter, Undine Smith Moore, Jacqueline Hairston, Wendell Logan, William Dawson, and Brazeal Dennard.
He recently released a CD of spirituals arranged by Roland Hayes which accompanied the prize-winning biography of the celebrated tenor, Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor (in collaboration with Christopher A. Brooks, Indiana University Press 2015).
Other recordings include Songs From Spoon River by Lita Grier, Soul of a Singer, In the Spirit, and Three Generations. He has three recordings produced by the late Moses Hogan including Home in a-Dat Rock, Deep River, and La Magie des plus beaux Negro Spirituals.
After winning the Friedrich Schorr Competition, Mr. Sims appeared in Massenet's Cendrillon, which won the National Opera America Award. He made his Goodman Theater debut in Kurt Weil’s Lost In the Stars under the direction of Frank Galati, and sang the role of Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale with Opera Carolina.
His other operatic credits include roles in Romeo et Juliette and Die Zauberflöte, Porgy and Bess, La Traviata, I Pagliacci, Cosi Fan Tutte and Le Nozze di Figaro.
He is the recipient of the Living Heritage Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award and the Friends of Negro Spirituals Heritage Keeper’s Award. Mr. Sims is the donor of the Robert Sims Spiritual Prize for the George Shirley Vocal Competition.
Sims is an alumnus of Oberlin Conservatory, SUNY Binghamton, Northwestern University, and Music Academy of the West.
Robert Sims, Gold Medal winner of the American Traditions Competition, has been hailed by critics for his rich tone, energetic performances, and convincing stage presence.
This season Robert appeared in his second telecast with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He returned to the Oakland Symphony Orchestra singing Brahms' German Requiem, as well as solo appearances with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and at Symphony Center in Chicago. Robert made his debut with Chicago Opera Theater in the world premiere of Dan Shore's Freedom Ride and produced Masters of the Spiritual at New York's Lincoln Center.
"Baritone Robert Sims, who made his Carnegie Hall debut in the Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall on Sunday afternoon, has made it his mission to keep alive the African American folk music tradition. As a performer, Sims displayed a warm, beautifully schooled lyric baritone voice, impeccable musicianship, attractive stage presence and fine interpretive skills. He knows how to meet the special stylistic requirements of this material. Sims gave us an afternoon to remember."
The New York Amsterdam News
"Baritone Robert Sims made"Ol Man River" his own, no mean feat with this famous showstopper. By devoting close attention to the lyrics, rather than trying to plumb the song's sonorous depths, Sims captured a rippling forward movement."
San Francisco Chronicle
"If Baritone Robert Sims were not so magnetic right from the git-go, the entire production would be a soggy noodle. He commands the stage, much as he commands a lead role in the story."
Picture This Post
"Robert Sims definitely has the range and power that "Ol' Man River" requires… the audience went wild over him."
San Francisco Classical Voice
"Sims' swaggering "A Woman is a Sometime Thing" and jaunty "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin" showed plenty of vocal and interpretive power."
The Richmond Times
"Baritone Robert Sims was marvelous whether interpreting Mozart or Jerome Kern. He has not only a fine voice but charisma and stage presence to spare. His "Ol' Man River" rightfully received great adulation from the audience. It was one of the most moving performances of this song I have ever heard.
Hyde Park Herald
“Sims knows how to merge European operatic grandeur with colloquial, all-American delivery. The ardor of his interpretation and plushness of his timbre, as well as his wholly convincing body language, made his performance a high point of the night."
“Providing many of the production’s vocal high points was Sims, who has an easy stage presence and a round, mellifluous baritone voice and convincingly conveyed the magnetic appeal of Clayton."
Classical Voice America
"Baritone Robert Sims gave a marvelously sonorous and silky performance."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Sims' voice was wonderfully expressive. It was equally a joy to hear him speak as it was to hear him sing."
San Francisco Classical Voice
“Sims caressed the audience with high notes that seemed to hang endlessly in the air. When Sims wants to wow, all you can do is sit back, stare dumbly and shake your head in disbelief.”
Savannah Morning News
"Sims performed with intelligence, dramatic intensity, purity of tone, impeccable stage presence, warm resonance and voice quality, instantly reminiscent of the young William Warfield."
The Chicago Crusader
"Baritone soloist Robert Sims brought a deep umber tone to his solos... Particularly beautiful was "Herr, lehre doch mich" (Lord, make me to know my end)."
San Francisco Classical Voice
1.12.20 - Solo performance with Metropolitan Opera Soprano Nicole Cabell
Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY
1.29.20 - Solo performance, Freedom Ride excerpts
Newberry Library, Chicago, IL
2.8-16.20 - Freedom Ride, Chicago Opera Theater, World Premiere Opera by Dan Shore, Leading baritone role “Clayton”
Studebaker Theater, Chicago, IL
2.29.20 - Gershwin on Broadway with Louise Toppin and Joseph Joubert
2.25.20 - Chicago Symphony Orchestra (AAN) The Music of Florence Price
4.16.20 - Solo performance, music of Mozart, Gershwin and Sims, Living Heritage Foundation, Benefit Concert
6.2.20 - Masters of the Spiritual Facebook live interview and musical excerpts with Soprano Susheel Bibbs and Composers Jacqueline Hairston and Roland Carter
6.17.20 - The National Negro Anthem arranged by Roland Carter with 60 internationally acclaimed African American opera singers (500K views of virtual performance)
8.9.20 - Interview with Gregory Lamar African American Voice teacher at the Komische Opera Berlin (Facebook live 3K views and over 100 comments and question)
9.13.20 - Solo performance for Club Curto, music of Gershwin and Kern
10.21.20 - Tennessee State University Masterclass, Sponsored by the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts
10.29.20 - Solo performance, music of Richard Rodgers for CASA of Cook County Annual Benefit Concert