Kennewick grad returning to perform at Evening for the Angels

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldJuly 10, 2013 

Will Earl Spanheimer performs at Evening for the Angels on July 20.

COURTESY WILL EARL SPANHEIMER

Music captured the attention of opera singer Will Earl Spanheimer when he was just a kid growing up in the Tri-Cities.

Today, the 1986 Kennewick High grad lives in Coral Gables, Fla., when he isn't traveling the world singing for a living.

Spanheimer is taking time out of his busy schedule to perform July 20 for the Evening for the Angels fundraising event for the Tri-Cities Chaplaincy. The event is at the Richland Red Lion Hotel.

"It was through my parents' encouragement that I was a part of choirs and musicals at school," Spanheimer told the Herald in a phone interview. "I took lessons from Estyn Goss, Steve Harter, Elaine (Sherperell) Burgess and others. But I had a great many Tri-Citians shape my musical training."

Some of those mentors include Libby Watrous, Patty Robertson, Debi Eng, Pat Dixon, Jean Seibert and Terry Geluso, he added.

Watrous, a Richland music teacher, met Spanheimer in 1986 when she was vocal director for Richland Light Opera's (now called Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre) production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

"He was about 19, I think, and a student at Columbia Basin College," Watrous said. "This lovely young man had so much talent, warmth, great humor and was simply so open to ideas and suggestions. It was an absolute delight watching him work."

Spanheimer says he's never regretted choosing a singing career. He lives in Florida with his beloved Labrador retriever Ryker Henry, which he named after his father Henry Spanheimer, who still lives in Kennewick.

He spends much of his time performing in North America, Europe and beyond.

"As with all professions, there are drawbacks, but singing as a profession is very fulfilling and exciting," he said. "I get to travel a great deal and work with wonderful artists and conductors. I get to sing some of the most gorgeous music ever composed, and I have the opportunity to make people happy and give them some beauty and emotion."

Also performing with Spanheimer at the Evening for the Angels event will be Carisa Simpson, Molly Holleran and Karl Hedlund.

Simpson and Spanheimer have known each other for many years and became fast friends from the moment they met, Simpson said.

"Will has always been a talent," she said. "He was so amazing even back in the day when we were both doing community theater. He has a gorgeous voice to go with being a gorgeous man.

"His voice is rich in timbre and beautiful to listen to. It is pure pleasure to sing with him."

The concert features a musical feast of opera and musical theater, including tunes from Carousel, The Student Prince, La Boheme, South Pacific and Godspell.

Spanheimer never thought he had a chance to pursue singing as a career while growing up in Tri-Cities.

"Back then, singing for a living never seemed like it could be a real thing," he said. "It seemed unattainable because I didn't live in a big city like New York. But when I went away to college, the dream became a reality."

Tickets to the event cost $50 and are available at www.tricitieschaplaincy.org or by calling 783-7416.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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