Born on April 26, 1899, in a small village near Domzale, Slovenia, as the tenth child of a poor Slovenian lumberman and stonemason and of a hard-working mother whose greatest joy was singing, Toncek (Toncheck) reputedly knew 75 songs by the age of four and started singing in duets and as soloist by the age of six. After completing his studies of voice and music at the Slovenian Conservatory of Music, he became, at 24, an opera singer with the Slovenian National Opera in Ljubljana.
Following four years of a successful music career at the opera, he embarked on his first singing tour of America, presenting 127 concerts from coast to coast and receiving superlative reviews in immigrant and American press. On this tour, in 1928/1929, he also learned the African American spirituals and, in March, 1930, sang them to enthusiastic concert audiences in Berlin, Germany.
By July of the same year he returned to America, giving a string of highly successful concerts of Slovenian, American, Russian, Italian, French and German folk and modern songs and opera arias for large groups of immigrants and other Americans, as well as private concerts for the Roosevelts, Kesselers, Morgans, Jellineks, Erskines and other leading American families.
Between 1931 and 1945, he sang baritone and bass with the Metropolitan Opera of New York. In 1945, Schubel (in Slovenian Subelj) became general manager of the Associated Concert Bureau and talent scout for Carnegie Hall. He personally auditioned over 6,000 young American singers, pianists and violinists in over 300 American cities and towns. With national finalists he presented a series of magnificent concerts at Carnegie Hall. He discovered some of America's leading stars, including, in Kilgore, Texas, a 13-year old pianist Van Cliburn whom he brought to Carnegie Hall and who has, only ten years later, become a celebrity as the winner of the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.
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