BWW Interviews: Jonathan Estabrooks on his TSO Debut in Some Enchanted Evening
Earlier this year the Toronto Symphony Orchestra announced their first full Pops Season, to be helmed by newly named Principle Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. Steven has planned five exciting concerts for the 2012-2013 Pops Season, and it kicks off this week with Some Enchanted Evening, a night dedicated to Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Steven is well known in NYC for his exciting programming for the New York Pops, and Toronto will get a taste of that in 2012-2013. For Some Enchanted Evening, he is bringing two well known Broadway veterans, Ashley Brown and Aaron Lazar. In addition, Steven is bringing Canadian Jonathan Estabrooks, a baritone who is getting his Toronto Symphony debut with this concert. Jonathan took a few minutes to talk to BWW about how Steven found him, what he thinks about Pops programming, and why a young audience should come experience the Symphony:
Congratulations on your Toronto Symphony debut! How's it going so far?
Really well. I'm in the process of movin right now but getting very excited to come to Toronto and perform with the Symphony.
I heard that you auditioned for Steven via YouTube. Is that true?
It’s an interesting story, I’ve always had a musical background and did classical and theatre. I went the classical music roots after school but as I graduated from Julliard I had been putting it out there with my manager to see what was out there from the Pops world. For about the last year or so I’ve been sending packages out to Pops people all over the United States and nothing was coming back. Then all of a sudden my manager called and said that the Toronto Symphony was interested in booking me for this new season through their Pops conductor. I had my first meeting with Maestro Reineke and asked how they found me and he said ‘well we were doing a Canadian program and I googled Canadian baritones and there you were!’ I have a YouTube show called ‘A Singer’s Life’ where I document my travels and he found that and heard my singing and that was it. 21st Century YouTube life I guess.
Have you worked with Steven yet or is Toronto the first time?
The Toronto show will be the first one. We’ve had an initial meeting here in NYC but this will be my debut with the TSO and with Steven which is pretty cool.
What are you singing on the program?
It’s all Rodgers and Hammerstein and I get some classics. Soliloquy, Some Enchanted Evening, we’re doing an Oklahoma ensemble, some stuff from The King and I. It has gorgeous musical lines and a rich palette of really singable stuff. I fell in love with it, some of which I knew and some of which I’m learning for the first time.
You have a musical theatre and classical background, so what do you think of these Pops concerts as a way of merging both worlds?
I’ve always talked about the collaborative nature of music making these days, whereas it used to be that opera was very standalone and now it all mixes together. You used to finish your undergraduate, finish your masters, get an agent and a record deal and that was it. That’s not the case today, orchestras are struggling, opera companies are struggling and there’s a real need out there. It’s promoted a level of creativitiy and interdisciplinary art-makig that we haven’t seen before. Even social media shows the new way we communicate and collaborate. I think the Pops concerts are a great way to bring people out to an orchestra concert to hear music that they might know, but now they get to hear that full orchestra sound. I find it really exciting to see that cross-collaboration happening.
I think we really need to focus on getting young people out to theatre and to the Symphony, do you agree?
Absolutely. More and more we as artists are competing with the instant nature of gratification in society. Movies, music, cellphones are all wonderful and have their place but I think it makes people forget how much great live theatre is out there. The more ways we can bring younger audiences in to experience live performance the better. I think once they experience it the first time they get hooked, but getting them in initially is always a challenge.
How about you? What do you hope to do next?
Honestly, I think it’s whatever comes my way. Do I see myself as just an opera singer or just a musical theatre singer? No. Most of what I’m doing is new musical theatre, Pops concerts and stuff that really runs the gamut. Last year I did something with my brother that was half big band and half classical. Jian Ghomeshi hosted and it was to benefit Kiwanis of Ottawa. It was a great example of that cross-collaboration of styles. So I would love to do more of that as well. After this Pops concert I jump back into the more ‘classical’ realm as I’m doing a new oratorical for my debut at Carnegie Hall this fall. But even that is a brand new work which is great as it’s a new challenge. I’m very open and I don’t think I will follow a strict route – the journey is what’s fun.
A concern among some singers is that you need to be put into a box – sometimes people think that if you are musical theatre you can’t do opera or vice versa. It shouldn’t even be about commercial versus community theatre. It should be about whether you connect with the text, and are you singing well and singing healthy. That’s what it should be about.
For Some Enchanted Evening what would you say is the main reason for a younger audience to come and check it out?
I think it has something for everybody. It’s Broadway at its best. You can’t go wrong with Rodgers and Hammerstein. We have real solid voices and a full orchestra, it’s a great way to hear this music. It’s a light hearted and fun all-encompassing show. It’s the best way to experience an orchestra for the first time and I think everyone will leave really fulfilled.
When and Where?
The Toronto Symphony presents Some Enchanted Evening
Roy Thomson Hall
Oct 9th at 8PM
Oct 10th at 2PM and 8PM
Tickets range from $29 to $110 and can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416.593.4828 or online at www.tso.ca