by Maya Balakrishnan
Virginia Babikian, revered soprano soloist, choral conductor and professor at
the Shepherd School of Music, died March 23 at age 72 after a long battle with
Babikian enjoyed a fruitful and successful career both here at Rice and in
Born in Everett, Mass., Babikian attended Westminster Choir College in
Princeton, N.J., where she earned both her bachelor's degree in Voice and
master's degree in Choral Conducting in 1951 and 1952, respectively.
Upon her graduation, Babikian was called to be the first Minister of Music at
the River Oaks Baptist Church. Babikian's career escalated from there.
In 1952, Leopold Stokowski, the music director of the Houston Symphony at the
time, chose Babikian as the soprano soloist for the Texas premiere of Carl
, giving her musical career a huge boost.
A performance in 1956 brought success to Babikian, who received a Fulbright
scholarship to study voice in Rome. Upon returning to the United States,
Babikian established a base in New York City. While traveling throughout the
United States, Europe, South America, Central America and East Asia, she sang
with world-renowned orchestras, opera companies and conductors such as
Stokowski, Bernstein, Scherchen and Jenkins.
Babikian came back to Houston in 1958 for the revival and recording of Orff's
She pursued her career until 1964, when she married George Stein. She moved to
Seguin, Texas, and then back to Houston, where she remained for the next 27
Here in Houston, she joined the faculty at Houston Baptist University as an
artist-in-residence and professor of voice from 1965 to 1982.
In 1982, Babikian entered the faculty of Rice University's Shepherd School of
Music as the chair of the voice instruction department and a professor of
Babikian has been credited with raising the Houston chorus' vocal standards
significantly with her crucial contributions through a long association with
the Houston Symphony Chorus; she served first as a vocal coach and then as
director for nine years.
This item appeared in the News section of the April 4, 1997 issue.