Kathleen Battle (b. August 13, 1948) is an American lyric soprano. She is particularly known for her pure timbre, exceptional technique and musicianship, and ability to connect with her audience.
Battle was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, the youngest of seven children. Her father was a steelworker, and her mother was an active participant in the gospel music of the family's African Methodist Episcopal church. It was through Battle's musical experiences with her mother and at church that she first grew to love music.
Battle attended Portsmouth High School where her music teacher and mentor was Charles Varney. In a Time magazine interview with reporter Michael Walsh, he told of his wonder at first hearing the eight-year old Battle sing, describing her as "this tiny little thing singing so beautifully." "I went to her later," Varney recalled, "and told her God had blessed her, and she must always sing."
Battle was a good student and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she studied voice with Franklin Bens and also worked with Italo Tajo. She majored in music education rather than performance in undergraduate school and went on to get a master's degree in Music Education as well. In 1971 Battle embarked on a teaching career in Cincinnati, even though she was encouraged to seek a vocal career. Battle took a teaching position at a Cincinnati inner-city public school. She taught music to students aged 10 through 12 and thus fulfilled her desire to give back to the African-American community. While teaching 5th and 6th grade music, she studied voice privately.