By Denny Patterson
Hailed by the New York Times for her warm, ample voice, performance singer Brandie Sutton is excited and eager to perform with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) for its 2019-2020 season opener. The Masterworks Series I is scheduled for November 16-19, 2019, and audiences are invited to watch Sutton perform the magnificent works of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.
Embracing classical music during her undergraduate studies, Sutton began her professional career with a solo recital in St. Maarten. Her career has allowed her to tour and solo across the world, and she has been the recipient of several awards. I had the pleasure of chatting more with Sutton about her upcoming performance with the SFSO and passion for performing.
DP: Let’s begin by talking more about your upcoming performance with the SFSO. What can audiences expect?
BS: I will be singing Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, which I have done before. The symphony for the first few movements is just for the symphony, and then it has a soprano solo at the very end. I absolutely love singing it, but I am most excited about singing Samuel Barber’s Summer of 1915. I have never done it before, and it’s a piece for the longest time that people have been telling me I need to sing it, I need to learn it. So, finally I get a chance to do it. I am super excited. I will be just performing it with Richmond’s Symphony only a couple weeks before I come to Florida, so I get to do it twice. And I am excited to work with Sebrina again. She is such a sympathetic conductor and I love working with her.
DP: That’s right! This is not your first time performing with SFSO.
BS: Yes. I was there in January when I played Bess in their production of Porgy and Bess.
DP: Awesome! Have you always had a passion for singing and performing?
BS: Oh, yes! It’s funny because I started singing when I was very young, just kind of yelling in my room. I was [too] shy to sing in front of people and my mom always tried to make me do it. It just wasn’t happening. Finally, I got to high school and I started to branch out and started singing in groups and do some things like that. When I got to college, I just never thought this was something I could do professionally and survive. I started taking voice lessons and my teacher convinced me to drop biology; I was a biology major. She said I needed to drop that and do music. I am very, very, very thankful for her. I followed my passion and haven’t had to work a day in my life.
DP: That’s great. And classical performance is your forte?
BS: Yes. I started off singing gospel, that’s what I grew up doing. Once I started taking voice lessons, I realized I could sing classically.
DP: What would you say is the biggest challenge of being a performer?
BS: For me, it’s being a single mom. I have a seven-year-old son. I would say, hand in hand, being a single mom and keeping consistent because sometimes it’s feast or famine. If I’m not working, I’m not making money. Being a mom and dad, I need to make sure my son has everything he needs. Once you become a parent, your life kind of goes on the backburner so that your child can get everything they need. So, just having to do gigs and sometimes having to leave him or sometimes having to bring him with me and trying to figure out how I am going to keep him entertained during my rehearsals. But, he’s so used to it now, and he’s been in a couple operas with me which has been a huge blessing.
DP: And I bet he’s your biggest fan.
BS: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
DP: How do you prepare yourself for each performance?
BS: I like to learn the music ahead of time. When I was younger, I didn’t really realize the time that needs to go into preparing music because I learn music very quickly. I could pick up a song and learn it in about half an hour and have it memorized, but that’s not enough when you are trying to convey the message of the song. I like to have it in my body as much as “Happy Birthday” or “Jesus Loves Me” so I can just get up and do it. When I’m in my dressing room before the performance, I’m in there like makeup, beat face, gown has to slay, and everything has to be right as far as aesthetic. So, sometimes I forget to warm up. I have definitely done that before, and I’m like oh my God, I didn’t even warm up. But most of the time, that is what I am doing in my dressing room. I’m just trying to get in there so I can look over the music and make sure I’m okay. I’m nervous, and I would like to be fully prepared. I don’t have any specific rituals, but I make sure I pray to God, make sure he’s doing the singing for me before I go out, and make sure that people are moved and blessed by what I get ready to do.
DP: What do you hope to take away from this performance with SFSO?
BS: I don’t necessarily think about what I can take away, but what I can leave there for the people who are going to hear me. I want people to leave differently from how they came and just feel like they can forget all their troubles for that moment. I think that would be the biggest takeaway. Knowing that someone else was able to take away from what I did. [It’s] my purpose for being there.
For more information and ticket prices, visit www.SouthFloridaSymphony.org.