Shirley Callaway, celebrated singer, pianist, one of New York’s leading voice teachers, and mother to Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway passed away September 14, 2017 after a two-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Born in Indianapolis on March 15, 1933 to William and Ann Wolff, it was soon clear that her talents in music would be the passion of her life. She grew up in McNabb, Illinois and was featured prominently in numerous concerts at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. After graduating, she moved to Chicago and got a singing job with The Jan Garber Orchestra. In 1957, she married John Callaway, who later became a distinguished radio and TV journalist. They were married for 17 years and had their two daughters, both Tony- nominated Broadway and concert artists.
In Callaway’s early years, as she became a devoted mother, she turned her talents to teaching. She taught nursery school at Temple Sholom in Chicago, music in West Babylon, New York, and voice at New Trier East High School in Winnetka, Illinoise. After moving back to the Chicago area, she became a professional member of The Chicago Symphony Chorus for eight years, where she performed at Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall under the direction of Sir George Solti and in Ravinia Park Summer Festivals with James Levine conducting. The ensemble recorded six albums and received several Grammy Awards: Beethoven’s Fidelio, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Brahms’ German Requiem, Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 8 and Verdi’s Requiem. She also made Chicago nightclub appearances at numerous clubs including The Signature Room, The Ritz Carlton, The Drake, and The Palmer House.
In the early ’80s, after moving to New York City to be closer to her daughters, Callaway had a highly successful career as a voice teacher, helping Broadway, cabaret, and jazz artists achieve their full potential as singers and performers. Tovah Feldshuh, Erich Bergen, Boyd Gaines and Cady Huffman are among the many well known performers she taught. She also continued to perform at private parties and was a featured singer at two recent New York Cabaret Conventions.
In addition to her daughters, Ann and Liz, she is survived by Ann’s wife, Kari Strand; Liz’s husband, Dan Foster; Liz’s son, Nicholas Callaway Foster; and her brother, Bert Andersen.