David Livingstone Tigner discovered he had perfect pitch as a child plunking out a Johann Sebastian Bach prelude by ear on a broken piano at his family's Sebastopol home.
Tigner became a renowned bass-baritone vocalist, performing extensively with the San Francisco Symphony and on stages from New York City to London.
But Tigner's legacy perhaps rests with his students, a diverse group of professional singers as well as children he taught for more than 30 years at UC Berkeley's Young Musicians Program for musically gifted youth from poor families.
"They were next to his heart because he demanded a lot of them," said his sister, Linda Tigner-Weekes of Simi Valley.
Tigner died Tuesday of renal and congestive heart failure at a San Francisco dialysis clinic near his Ingleside neighborhood apartment. He was 61.
Tigner was born May 28, 1951, in Santa Rosa to Joseph and Mary Tigner, growing up on Green Hill Road surrounded by cherry, plum and apple trees in a small home with an outhouse.
His father owned Golden House Cleaning Service.
"They never took vacations, they never got new cars," Tigner-Weekes said of their parents. "They made sure we were educated and exposed us to music."
Singing helped Tigner overcome a stutter as a young child, she said.
Tigner attended Redwood Adventist Academy in Santa Rosa until the 10th grade, and he began serious music study during his junior year at Rio Lindo Adventist Academy in Healdsburg.
He joined the San Francisco Opera in 1974 after two years studying music at Pacific Union College in Angwin.
Tigner performed widely and was known for his solo oratorios from Giuseppe Verdi's "Messa da Requiem" and George Frideric Handel's "Messiah."
He performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's concert arias with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989 and Verdi's "Requiem" at Carnegie Hall in 1993.
An African-American opera singer in a field with few ethnic stars, Tigner championed other singers of color and devoted three decades to teaching disadvantaged youth.
He started each lesson making sure his students were fed, his sister said.
"He changed their lives for the better," Tigner-Weekes said.
Tigner had an encyclopedic knowledge of music that spanned from operatic masterworks to African-American spirituals. He made sure his students learned both.
Tigner was deeply religious and sang at churches throughout the Bay Area and in Southern California where his sisters live.
Tigner performed until 2002 when his health began to decline, but he continued teaching until about a month ago.
"Even though he had a great voice, he probably was an even greater teacher," Tigner-Weekes said. "He passed that passion for music to his students."
In addition to his sister, Tigner is survived by brothers Joseph Tigner, Jr. of Vallejo and Johnathan Tigner of Fontana and sister Lois Saunders of Glendale.
His family held a memorial service in Sebastopol.
Memorial donations may be made in Tigner's name to the Redwood Adventist Academy, 385 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa.
As people are allowed back into their homes in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, there are several safety issues to remember.
•Do not touch debris. Ash is a hazardous waste. Other hazards could include asbestos, heavy metals, byproducts of plastic combustion and other chemicals. Do not transport ash or debris to landfills or transfer stations. To be eligible for state-funded debris cleanup by CalRecycle, residents cannot move or spread debris. Any action by residents to remove debris may force CalRecycle to declare a site ineligible for the program.
•Wear protective clothing: closed-toed shoes, long pants, eye protection, a face mask and gloves.
•Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper masks found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles like sawdust and will not protect your lungs from the smaller particles found in wildfire smoke. If you want to wear a mask, look for one with a particulate respirator, labeled NIOSH-approved, marked N95 or P100. Look for them on Amazon, Home Depot or other hardware retailers.
•Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed.
•Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution like smoking, burning candles or using fireplaces. Vacuuming stirs up particles inside your house, contributing to indoor pollution.
•Do not turn PG&E service on. Either PG&E has been there and turned the gas on or homeowners must wait for them to do so. Customers without gas service should stay as close to home as possible so service can be restored when a PG&E representative arrives. If no one is at home, the representative will leave a notice with a number that customers can call to schedule a return visit. PG&E can be reached at 800-743-5000.
•If you see downed power lines near your home, treat them as if they are “live” or energized and extremely dangerous. Keep yourself and others away from them. Call 911, then notify PG&E at 800-743-5002.