The Missouri State University Music Department's Director of Choral Studies Dr. Cameron LaBarr invited tenor and musical theatre specialist Brandon Nase to come to campus for a week's worth of master classes for music education and vocal performance students. His week in Springfield culminates Monday Sept. 21st with a free public concert in the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts at 7:30pm. He'll be joined by longtime accompanist Jim Wilson for performances of music from Honeymoon in Vegas, Parade, Bridges of Madison County, Man of La Mancha and other musical-theatre works. Seating will be on the Hammons Hall stage, and no tickets are required.
Both Nase and Wilson are Texas natives. Nase received his Bachelor's in Choral Music Education at North Texas State University and he has just completed his Graduate studies in vocal music performance/musical theatre at New York University. Now based in New York, Nase said he's "now entering into that world of auditions and performing in the musical theatre industry." He noted that one of the main perks of coming to MSU for a week was to be able to work with students, "to be able to give insight to the music education students, having done that for my undergrad as well." While here Nase has presented lectures for music education students and coaching sessions for the musical theatre students. He'll give a master class Monday afternoon the 21st as well.
Pianist Jim Wilson is originally from Plano, Texas. While performing as a church keyboardist and playing in various jazz and other ensembles in the Dallas area, Wilson and Nase met when Brandon was an intern with the choir program at Wilson's church in Plano. (And for that matter, Dr. LaBarr was youth choir director at the same church, and pursued his Graduate studies at North Texas State, where Brandon Nase was an undergrad, so their friendship goes back a long way as well.) Wilson says, "One of my favorite things is accompanying vocalists. And definitely, collaborating with Brandon is a great challenge. He picks really interesting music, and it's just a dynamic event and a lot of fun to work with Brandon, so I'm excited to be here with him in Springfield to do it again."
What drew Brandon Nase to musical theatre? "Well, I've always been a 'theatrical' person to say the least, and when I was doing my undergrad I didn't get a lot of opportunity to pursue musical theatre because--as I'm sure a lot of the music-education students here will attest--you don't have time for anything but music education! But once I got into the world of teaching, that (performing) bug kind of got back into me after doing some shows in my home town of Amarillo. And so I just thought, 'there's no better time than the present', and 'if I don't pursue this now, I'll kick myself in a few years.' And I've had a lot of success and can definitely tell that I'm where I should be. For now I know I definitely want to pursue performance." But he says he also really likes coaching, teaching, "so I don't think I'm done with education by any means."
Nase and Wilson's Hammons Hall concert will have seating right on the stage, rather like the Wessel Emerging Concert Artists Series, so audience members will be up-close and personal with the performers. Nase says, "I'm really doing a range of repertoire as it pertains to the musical theatre world. I'm doing some 'Golden Age' stuff from Carousel and Man of La Mancha, and I'm also doing a lot of contemporary things--quite a few things that have just been seen on the Broadway stage. And Jim and I are known for our own arrangements...!" Which means, says Jim Wilson, "taking a traditional song and making it more of a jazz, or a gospel, or a Latin (style). We like to put a little twist on some of those."
Joining Brandon and Jim will be MSU Music Professor and Voice Area Coordinator, baritone Dr. Chris Thompson to sing a duet that is one of Brandon's favorites from the musical theatre repertoire, "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden.
During his undergraduate years at North Texas State, Brandon Nase carried a double major of Choral Music Education and Vocal Performance. He didn't lean specifically toward opera or lieder, but says "I would always recommend that the classical training should come before the musical theatre training." In fact, he'll be putting his classical training to good use here at MSU in the spring of 2016, when he returns to sing the tenor solos in the Mozart Requiem with the MSU Choral Ensembles and Symphony Orchestra.
Following their stint in Springfield, Jim Wilson returns to his church job in Plano working as accompanist for the youth and adult choirs--"and another day job on top of that!" he says. As for Brandon, he's going back home to New York after what he calls a "hectic" summer. Asked if he misses having a "day job" himself, Brandon says, "Oh, sometimes when you're wondering what you're going to eat it's a little... but I love the work that I get to do. It's a different kind of work as opposed to a day job, but I definitely wouldn't have it any other way right now."