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Christine Brewer

Photo of Christine BrewerDario Acosta

How would you describe your music?

I am a classical singer ... I sing opera, recitals and concerts.

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

I am self-employed and a freelance artist. My managers help me make business and artistic decisions.

Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

One of the most difficult things for me was balancing the role of mother and performer. My daughter Elisabeth traveled with me when she was young and as she got older and involved in sports and music, she didn't want to travel, so my husband took over the parenting duties. Giving up some of those duties was particularly difficult for me. Trying to balance my performing schedule with my family time was always a challenge. I turned down opera roles throughout those years when my daughter was younger and sometimes there was regret on my part. And there were times when I was thousands of miles away from home performing and missing birthday parties at home or my daughter's concerts. Always tugged at my heart and lots of tears. Now that my daughter is grown, it has been easier for me to travel. I am away from home over 2/3 of the year.

Related Themes: Old School vs. New School

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

I think it is difficult for young artists starting out today. So many of the smaller opera companies which are great for trying out roles have folded because of the poor economy. Young artists have more difficulty finding places to learn their craft and also earn a living. I am fortunate, because the type of repertoire I sing is traditionally sung by singers in their 40's and 50's. My career started a bit later, but will also last a bit longer. The more dramatic and bigger voices just develop later. I am looking down the road and planning my next career when my "limited commodity" doesn't work the same way!

Related Themes: Off The Clock

Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

I had so many wonderful mentors in my life ... my mother was probably the first and the best. She was a singer, not of classical and opera music like me, but she told me to always sing with my heart and let myself be vulnerable. I didn't quite totally get that until she became ill with ALS and I watched her young spirit start to die. She was still singing until it was physically impossible for her, and she always sang with gusto and spirit. She took risks and after her death at age 62, I at age 42, finally got what she was always talking about.I also had the opportunity to meet and work with the great Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson. We worked together when I was in my 30's and just getting my feet wet in the business. My mom and I went to Germany and I worked with Birgit every day for several weeks. Birgit and I remained friends and she continued to mentor me until her death just a few years ago. And now I give master classes when I am on the road and quite often meet young women who have budding dramatic voices. I give them the advice that I had early on when my voice was still developing. I tell them to be patient and not to push their voices into the big repertoire too soon. Quite often when this happens the young voices are finished before the age of 40. I try to encourage them to take it a bit more slowly so that they will be singing into their 50's and 60's.

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

I come from a family of singers. My mother sang semi-professionally in a jazz/gospel trio. My mother, brothers and I sang gospel music when I was growing up. I played the violin all through school, but always sang in choirs at school and was in the high school musicals. I went to McKendree College in Lebanon, IL and got a degree in music education. I taught K-12 music for a while, all the time continuing to study singing. My voice didn't start to come into its own until my late twenties and that's when I decided to pursue singing professionally. I got my start in the chorus of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and that company took me under their wing helping to pay for voice lessons and audition tours, etc. After winning the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1989, my career path opened up. I signed with IMG Artists in 1990 and with the London-based management Askonas Holt in 1993. I have remained with these two managements. Alison Pybus is my general manager at IMG Artists and Peter Bloor is my manager at Askonas Holt.

Related Themes: The First Time