From Pennsylvania To Primetime: Baritone Edward Parks

GRAMMY® Award-winning Baritone Edward Parks is the quintessential leading operatic artist for the twenty-first century. He impressed audiences at The Metropolitan Opera in standard repertoire such as La Boheme, La Fanciulla del West and ll barbiere di Siviglia, but he has recently made headlines and won awards for his gripping performances of new classics including The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Silent Night and The Shining. His remarkable talent catapulted him from a quiet town in rural Pennsylvania to The Lindemann Young Artist Program at The Met and a 3rd prize win in Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia Competition. Through each new chapter in his career, he has retained a healthy perspective and a refreshing sense of humility. He recently took time to share his secrets for finding balance in the midst of his hectic journey.

CS: How did you find your path from Pennsylvania to the stage of The Met? 

I was lucky to have the parents that I did. They noticed at a young age that I loved to sing. They found me a wonderful teacher. His name was Leonard DeFabo, and I worked with him until I graduated high school.  I come from a blue collar upbringing in a small town called Indiana in Pennsylvania. It was the hometown of Jimmy Stewart and it oddly had the feel of the town in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

My father was a coal miner, and my mother was a stay at home Mom/teacher/administrator. She wore so many hats.  Singing was always something that was natural in my family. When one side of your family is Irish, you almost always find yourself singing with a group of relatives in the kitchen.  I have a daughter and many nieces and nephews, and it makes me happy to see that musical family tradition continue. Our family has many beautiful voices!


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CS: How did you find your operatic repertoire niche? Do you prefer singing standard or twenty-first century roles?

I think it was a mixture of my voice range and luck.   I love the standards and enjoy performing them, but I have a real interest in the contemporary. I feel a great deal of freedom in it.  It is musically, dramatically and vocally challenging; I find that very exciting.  

CS: How did you discover your talent for working with leather?

About 10 years ago I decided I wanted to make my brother a belt for Christmas.  I bought some leather craft tools and a belt blank and made a belt. It has just grown organically from there. I like to make bags and other items, but I love to put images in leather. It’s a fun hobby. It’s also very easy to travel with the tools. We singers spend a lot of time by ourselves; this is my way to pass time.

CS: What is the most important advice you wish you could’ve received when you began your singing career?

Find people you trust. Surround yourself with them. Seek their advice. No matter what level you find yourself at in your career, you will always need someone to talk to – someone who understands you, and someone who can give you sound advice. 

CS: How do you find physical, mental and vocal balance while working on the road?

This is probably one of the hardest things for me.  I am a family man. I have a wife and young daughter. It becomes more and more of a challenge to find a balance when I’m on the road. I find it very difficult to leave them.  Like them, I find I have to establish my own routine when I’m away.  Without a healthy routine things become very hard. 

Edward’s upcoming performances this season include Jack Torrence in The Shining at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Steve Jobs in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs at San Francisco Opera. Learn more at edwardparksbaritone.com/

CS Music Staff

CS Music is THE community for singers, teachers, and pianists. CS began in 1986 with the first issue of The New York Opera Newsletter and later to the award-winning magazine Classical Singer. Since 2003 CS has expanded to included articles, audition listings, and events for both classical and musical theatre singers worldwide! Free online articles and listings are available at www.csmusic.net.