John Brancy receives major opera and performance award in New York
A local man’s voice is his gateway to the world. John Brancy of Mullica Hill, like most in the area, climbed the ladder from Harrison Township and Pleasant Valley Schools to the middle and high schools of Clearview Regional. Smitten with music at an early age, Brancy began singing at the age of 9 and has grown into an award-winning, international opera-singing baritone.
In the last 10 years, Brancy has performed opera in the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria, England and more.
Most recently, Brancy became one of three first-place recipients of the Lotte Lenya competition, held in honor of the late singer and actress Lotte Lenya. She is known for her interpretations of music composed by her husband, Kurt Weill.
Brancy received the award in April and from the hands of Tony Award-winning actress Victoria Clark, director Jack Viertel and James Holmes, a conductor from the United Kingdom.
According to Opera News, this award is given to “total package performers” as contestants are required to showcase their opera and theater skills along with their distinct knowledge of musical theater.
The award was presented at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., on April 14. Brancy received $15,000 along with the recognition.
Brancy’s journey to this award and his career as a successful opera singer is full of surprises.
“My dad was a pilot and now teaches pilots, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom,” he said, Brancy is somewhat of a musical anomaly.
Before graduating from Clearview Regional in 2007, Brancy dove into the world of performance theater, participating in shows such as “The Pirates of Penzance”, “Guys and Dolls” and “The Music Man.”
While taking part in theater, Brancy was also interested in making short films. His most memorable character from his films is Tom Clancy, a caricature known for hilarious monologues that replaced school essays and explained topics such as evolution.
“Tom Clancy is somewhat of a Clearview legend,” he said.
However, priorities began to change late in his high school career.
During his senior year, Brancy received two prestigious singing awards.
“I never really focused that hard on singing as a means to a career,” he said. However, stirring up some long-time Clearview choral directors, he mentioned Jack Hill, Anthony Sears and Michael Trotta as individuals who urged him to believe in himself and consider his talents.
He began auditioning for spots in music schools throughout the country, and then one acceptance letter set Brancy on the course of a life dedicated to music.
“It was a surprise and a shock,” he said.
Without hesitation, Brancy accepted the position and set off for the stomping grounds of stars such as Robin Williams, Richard Rodgers and Christopher Reeve.
While at Juilliard, Brancy majored in vocal performance with an emphasis in liberal arts.
“When I was studying there, we learned different languages and how to speak them perfectly. We took diction classes; I had Italian, German, French and Russian diction for multiple years.”
The goal he said is to be “proficient in understanding the poetry and inflections of the language so that when you are singing it you sound like a native speaker.”
During his time at Juilliard and the years since, Brancy has come to see the platform of opera, and the arts as a whole, as a medium that is underutilized to foster connectivity in the United States.
Referring to himself as somewhat of an activist through art, he said, “The spirit of our country is hurting.”
In a time of divisive politics and world views, he feels music is something that should be brought into areas such as the military, schools and underserved areas. Going as far to say implementing art funding into various budgets, including the military budget, U.S. citizens could potentially build cultural connections with each other.
Brancy will soon be embarking on a tour with his friend and music partner Peter Dugan, a fellow Juilliard alumni. Dugan, of Upper Darby, Pa., is a pianist, and together these two men will perform music of composers who lived through, fought in and died in World War I.
By performing this music, it is Brancy’s hope that people will hear and feel the visceral story of people of a period long ago in history that found comfort and purpose in music.
“Artists have the ability to link our country in a time when the spirit of our country is hurting. We have the ability and responsibility to be an agent for this sort of change,” he said.
For more information about Brancy and booking inquiries, visit https://www.asilentnight.com/.