Professor discovers passion for classical music as a soprano
Assistant professor of music Christine Brandes’ pursuit for a career in classical music started in a small church in rural Ohio where she was raised but has led to her perform at the nation’s most renowned orchestras and symphonies.
The tick of the clock pierced the vocal studio in the creative arts building as Brandes tried to decide on the luckiest moment of her life–the first time she performed at the Berlin Philharmonic or the first time a song was composed with her mind. Throughout her career, Brandes has performed with all of the Big Five Orchestras in the U.S. and in February she released a CD titled “Of Color Braided All Desire.”
“I’ve never in my wildest dreams thought I would do half of what I’ve done which is kind of an amazing thing to say,” Brandes said. “I’ve really loved the variety of work that I’ve done because it’s allowed me to be in contact with all kinds of musicians and doing all kinds of repertoire.”
Brandes grew up in a family of musicians, where she said she learned about preforming from her father and defined discipline from her mother.
Growing up in a musical family, Brandes said she had dreams of achieving her father’s natural talent but her voice and musical interests did not fit in the genre of classical music.
After receiving an undergraduate education at Ohio State, where she was once told by a professor that she would never become a professional singer, the soprano singer was offered a full scholarship in a performance practice program to earn her master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University in her home state.
“I finished my master’s and I said ‘I’m going to go to New York and I’m going to be a singer,’” Brandes said.
Brandes said her parents were hesitant about her move to the Big Apple but after six months of auditions and working a catering gig, the 17th Century opera singer said she was making enough money to do the only thing she was interested in doing: singing.
“I was singing for a living and I know that is a rare and amazing thing to do, especially in New York,” Brandes said.
Bill Palant, works for IMG Artists and oversees musical artists, scouted Brandes during a performance in New York almost 20 years ago and the singer has been with the company ever since.
“I first heard her in autumn 1996 in a recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City,” Palant said.
“(Brandes) has always been a performer who doesn’t just sing but she tells a story. The words are just as important to her as is the music.”
Since their first meeting, Brandes has performed in orchestras and operas all over the U.S. and has added international work to her resume. The music professor has collaborated on recitals with pianist and professor of music at Stanford University Laura Dahl for nine years.
“(Brandes) has an absolutely beautiful voice that, in combination with her work ethic, scholarship, creativity and innovative programming, make her an ideal collaborative partner,” Dahl said.
It was after a life-altering event that Brandes said her life shifted from a lifetime of singing and performing to becoming a professor of music.
“I had this massive upheaval in my life; my long-term partner of 14 years died suddenly,” Brandes said. “My world was really turned upside down and in the back of mind I thought ‘I don’t really know if I want to be a singer anymore.’”
Brandes said her choice to become a music teacher in 2011 allowed her to have stability while still pursuing her craft and passion for performing music.
“I told myself that while I’m figuring out all the crazy questions in my life maybe I’ll try out teaching,” Brandes said.
Brandes said her time teaching students in the music department has taught her about her own work and has helped her develop new passions she had not explored before, like directing.
“While directing, I began to see the students grasp and understand classical music, which is thrilling,” Brandes said.
Brandes said performing music is a way of life, not just a profession. Through directing and teaching, the professor said she is able to see the other side of classical music and produce shows with students.
“The medium of music is so profoundly engrained in me that it’s an amazing thing,” Brandes said. “Singing feeds me in every possible way, it’s completely unbelievable.”