Jerry Helton, longtime Winthrop music professor, dies

A longtime Winthrop University music professor whose trainees now perform around the world died Sunday after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.

Opera performance teacher Jerry Helton, 81, spent 36 years mentoring and training students before he retired in 2006.

A native of Kentucky, Helton studied vocal performance at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and later in New York and Europe before arriving in Rock Hill in 1970.

At Winthrop, he was honored with the Kinard teaching award in 1987 and the Medal of Honor in the Arts in 2013.

Many of the students Helton taught went on to perform in major opera companies around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and the Newberry Opera Company, school officials said Monday.

In his own career, Helton, a tenor, sang with well-known performers such as Beverly Sills, Franco Corelli, Richard Tucker and Jerome Hines. Helton sang on stages from Charlotte to Barcelona, Spain, during his career.

His funeral will be at 4 p.m. Thursday at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Rock Hill. Visitation will follow the service.