It might surprise audiences who only know him for his acting performances in movies such as Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, or in classic feature films like To Kill a Mockingbird, to learn that Brock Peters started his performing career as a singer. Born Brock Fisher in New York in 1927, he was the son of Sonnie Fisher and the former Alma A. Norford -- his parents were, respectively, of French African and British West Indian descent. Peters was a boy soprano in the choir of the St. Phillips Church and took up the violin at age nine. His voice made a smooth transition to a powerful baritone, and he studied singing and music theory at the High School of Music and Art. During this period, he was also drawn to acting, and took private instruction in this field; he balanced all of these studies with an interest in physical education. Peters attended the University of Chicago from 1944 to 1945, and graduated from the City College of New York in 1947 with a degree in physical education, but he'd already made his stage debut as Jim in Porgy and Bess in 1943. Peters toured with the production during the season that followed, and also appeared on stage in South Pacific in a small role. After graduating from college, he served in the military; he also sang in a uniformed choral group during this period. Over the next decade and a half, he pursued careers as a singer and actor, appearing on stage in works such as Anna Lucasta, My Darlin' Aida, and Mr. Johnson in their original productions during the mid-'50s, and also singing in cabaret while working as a YMCA instructor, hospital orderly, and shipping clerk in the early years. Peters made his television debut as a singer on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1953, and made his movie debut a year later in Otto Preminger's production of Carmen Jones -- he also appeared on the soundtrack album from the film. During the late '50s, he performed at such clubs as the Village Gate in New York, the Gate of Horn in Chicago, the Purple Onion in Toronto, and the Troubadour in Los Angeles, juggling those engagements with film appearances in Porgy and Bess (as Crown); To Kill A Mockingbird (in a non-singing role); and as a singer on the television shows The Hit Parade, The Garry Moore Morning Show, Music for a Summer Night, Music for a Spring Night, The Tonight Show, and Hootenanny. He also recorded a pair of albums for the fledgling United Artists label during the late '50s: Sing'a Man, produced by jazz specialist Jack Lewis with bassist Chet Amsterdam, and At the Village Gate, both released in 1959. He also appeared on Odetta's Overture for Ballad of Americans LP. From the early '60s onward, Peters was more widely recognized for his acting than his singing, although he continued doing musicals on stage into the '70s, including the starring role in a production of Lost in the Stars. Peters married Dolores Daniels, a television producer, in 1961, and he later turned to producing himself, both on stage and in films, most notably the comedy Five on the Black Hand Side.
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