Alvy R. Powell Jr (born October 31, 1955) is an American bass-baritone opera singer and a former member of the U.S. Army Chorus. He is known for his performances at presidential events and for performing the role of Porgy in the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. Before his retirement from the military in 2017, Powell was the oldest enlisted soldier in the Army.
Powell was born in Birdsnest, Virginia. He grew up in Cheriton, Virginia; he had four older sisters, and he said that they were instrumental in getting him interested in music. He grew up singing gospel music at the African Baptist Church. He said that from an early age he was encouraged by church members who recognized his vocal abilities.
Powell remembers that at age 14 he was inspired by a recording of William Warfield singing the part of Porgy in the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. “I had never seen anyone black in something so classical. I knew it was right for me. I said I was going to sing it some day,” he said later. He attended Northampton High School, graduating in 1974. He went on a musical tour of Europe the following year after hearing about it from his high school chorus teacher.
Later, Powell worked as a prison guard, as a baggage handler for an airline, and as a disc jockey. He studied at Virginia State University and Indiana University before enrolling at the University of Maryland, where he was mentored by George Shirley, who had been the first black tenor with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Powell also sang at a dinner theater in Washington, D.C., where he received encouragement from other singers that led to his auditioning for the U.S. Army Chorus.