Do you ever wonder what secret singer sauce you need to be hired? CS Music begins a new series of interviews featuring industry leaders who share what qualities they need most from artists in their employ.
Matthew Michael Brown is a nationally acclaimed organist, conductor, and church musician. As Director of Music at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, he regularly seeks out professional singers to work as leaders in his choirs. Matthew is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Music at St. Luke’s series, which contracts soloists for concerts and recitals. He recently shared his top tips for singers hoping to make music with him:
I always wanted to believe the industry had a standard expectation for professional conduct. In recent years, I’ve learned this term means different things to different people. The ability to work in harmony with others is vital to the success of any ensemble. I place a high value on efficient, honest, and transparent communication. Clarity is kindness. I am always happy for staff singers to further their professional careers with auditions, engagements, and sometimes major contracts keeping them away for months at a time. When these absences are requested, I try my very best to support these significant opportunities. This can only happen when I am notified several weeks in advance, or sometimes months ahead for extended time away. This phrase continues to ring true: “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”
2. Beauty of tone
Many of my choral colleagues tend to shy away from hiring opera singers due to what they perceive as uncontrollable vibrato or the inability to blend. Meanwhile, I think the opposite and enjoy a full roster of opera singers in my choir! I think it was the late Robert Shaw who said, “Vibrato should confirm the pitch, never confuse it.” I believe all great singers possess three attributes: 1) the ability to effectively lead with self-awareness; 2) have flexibility with tone, color, and resonance; and 3) communicate the text. If I have space, I will always make room for a singer who possesses these qualities above an impressive résumé.
I strive to work with people who are dependable, consistent and committed. No one wants to hire a flake or someone who is only focused on the pay. Finding a singer who is consistent with a positive attitude, an awareness of building community, punctual attendance, and thorough preparation is a gold mine.
Matthew Michael Brown frequently concertizes throughout the USA and abroad, and several performances have been heard in radio broadcasts of American Public Media’s Pipe Dreams and the nationally syndicated program, With Heart and Voice. He has performed as a guest artist in Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, London; Barcelona Cathedral, Spain; Washington National Cathedral; Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York; Princeton University Chapel; Assembly Hall of the Mormon Tabernacle; Boston’s Trinity Church on Copley Square; and the Episcopal cathedrals of Atlanta, Charleston, Nashville, San Francisco. For more information about Mr. Brown and St. Luke’s Episcopal, visit stlukesatlanta.org/music.