Lawrence Brownlee Shares Importance of Always Being a Student
Lawrence Brownlee aided student singers in taking their performances to the next level
Vocal performance majors from the BYU School of Music participated in a masterclass given by BRAVO! guest artist, Lawrence Brownlee. The opera star presented a concert on April 3 which included the performance of the song cycle, “Cycles of My Being.”
“I don’t consider myself a master of anything,” Brownlee began. “I consider myself a student.” This sentiment was echoed throughout the class as he explained that no matter how proficient a singer may be, there is always room to grow and take a performance to the next level.
“Just singing is not enough,” Brownlee said. “When you have a good grasp on the song, that is when you take it apart again and find new things.”
Brownlee worked with four students who performed well-prepared arias. However, Brownlee said performing is not about perfection but about finding special moments that captivate the audience. He emphasized how singers need to use their craft and expertise to consciously create these moments and how “nothing should happen by accident.”
In order to create these moments, Brownlee discussed how everything the singer needs is already given to them, including dynamics, phrasing and the text or lyrics.
“Everything is built on the text,” Brownlee said. He compared the idea to not just conveying the meaning of the song, but to overcoming nerves when performing. “If you have something to say, you can use that energy to create a character. Be the character.” He continued by saying the character should also inform the musical choices a singer makes which will help set the singer apart from the hundreds of others who perform the same song.
Brownlee commented on the importance of a singer knowing their limitations so they can work within them, such as knowing how loud or soft they can sing so they can create more colors and shape the phrasing to create satisfying payoffs. He worked with the singers on relaxing and resetting their breath so they could offer stronger high notes.
“Enjoy the high notes,” Brownlee said. “They are what the audience has come to hear.” While doing so may be easier said than done, Brownlee suggested thinking about what comes after the high notes in order to phrase the full idea as well as refraining from making the high notes sound as if they are at the top of a singer’s range.
A brief question and answer session followed the workshop portion of the masterclass. When Brownlee was asked about finding balance between his work and his family, he replied that the most important thing is making the most of the time he has when he is with his family as well as making an effort to connect with them while he is on the road.
“You are bigger than your career,” Brownlee said before finishing the masterclass. “Always be a student. You always have something to learn and new places to go.”