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WITTE, ORA LAAS

WITTE, ORA LAAS (1900–1993). Ora Laas Witte, soprano and vocal coach, daughter of Dr. Ben E. and Emma (Laas) Witte, was born on January 21, 1900, in Shelby, Texas. The family moved to San Antonio about 1903, and she later attended the Bonn Avon School for Girls. She studied voice at school and under private instruction. After high school Witte continued her vocal training in Europe. Among her teachers was Emile Jacques-Dalcroze who had developed a method of ear training through rhythmic movement and the integration of voice with dance and instruments. She lived in San Antonio during much of the 1920s and at some point taught voice at Westmoorland College (predecessor of the University of San Antonio).

After her father’s death in November 1930, Witte and other family members embarked on a tour of Europe. Witte debuted in Germany in 1932 and was heralded for her mellow soprano voice and mastery of three languages. She gave recitals throughout Europe and the United States. She also taught at New York University, Juilliard, Princeton, and Teachers College, Columbia University.

Witte later opened her own voice studio in Manhattan, and through the years she compiled an impressive roster of students that included Anthony Quinn, Lynn Redgrave, Van Johnson, and Carrie Fisher. Her instruction included innovative exercises for voice therapy. In her elder years Witte appeared in daytime television, commercials, and movies. She was a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, The Bohemians, The Tuesday Musical Club, and Mu Phi Epsilon. She was a Presbyterian. Ora Witte died on March 20, 1993, in Tyler, Texas. She was buried at Mission Park South in San Antonio. A memorial service was also held in New York City.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

San Antonio Express-News, March 21, 1993; Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Laurie E. Jasinski

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Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "Witte, Ora Laas," accessed October 23, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwicc.

Uploaded on March 18, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.