Interview with Canadian Baritone Jonathan Estabrooks
(Hey guys, this interview features an extremely talented singer who the New York Times called a ‘robust baritone’. Career “highlights have included a 20-city tour of Canada, singing for President Bill Clinton and members of the United Nations and performing at Lincoln Centre and Carnegie Hall. He has appeared with the New York Festival of Song at Carnegie Hall, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and a national broadcast on CBC Television. As a versatile artist his performances range from Opera and concert to Pops and big band.Notable opera roles include Guglielmo in Cosi fan Tutte, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Shaunard in La Bohème, Pelleas in L’impressions de Pelleas, Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia and Smirnov in The Bear.” I enjoyed doing this interview, so I hope you enjoy reading it.)
Derek Kortepeter: Tell me about your early music experiences, like what brought you to the decision to be trained as a singer?
Jonathan Estabrooks: My early years in music were filled with great discovery and a willingness to explore a multitude of musical genres. From about the age of 7 I can remember car rides to school singing three-part harmony with my father and brother, choir practice and the start of private voice lessons singing basic Italian and German art songs. At the same time, I came in contact with a local musical theatre company and was eager to explore the creative process of singing, dancing and acting.
DK: Who are some of your musical influences and how have they shaped you as an artist?
JE: That is a hard one to answer, as many people have shaped who I am today. I of course must give credit to Ottawa, Canada where I grew up, which for a city of only about 750K, was incredible diverse with culture and opportunities for young musical enthusiasts such as myself. Two names stick out for me, my very first vocal teacher Laurence Ewashko and the late Peter Evans (dancer, director and founder of the Company of Musical Theatre which to this day, has led to countless successful careers in the performing arts).
DK: You have had a multi-faceted career, singing classical, musical theatre, and pop music. What are the challenges of switching between these genres and their respective ensembles? Any standout moments from these performances?
JE: When I set out to perform, it was never about one specific genre, but more about simply performing and using my music and voice to connect with others. I tried not to separate them in my mind, because as far as I was concerned, they were all telling stories through music. I do, however, think that by having a solid grounding in classical music and vocal training I possess the tools to switch between genres in a healthy way.
(Jonathan performing at Carnegie Hall)
DK: Music artists read this music site, so I’m sure they’re wondering “how did you get your name out there?” “How did you reach your level of success?”
JE: If only there was a golden rule for being successful or reaching a wider audience. I think each of us artists must define what success is on a personal level, and then shape the ideal career from there. Success to one individual may not be to another. That is the beauty of being an artist and being an individual. I have always strived to connect with others in the hopes that that musical connection can go beyond a language or sonority. That is the true power of what we do as musicians. There are of course the obvious avenues of Facebook, twitter, websites, blogs and PR, but at the end of the day, it is about believing that what you have to offer is valuable and worth hearing and doing all that you can to share that with others.
DK: Your album “These Miles” was recently released, can you tell me about it, like the artistic process and its overall mission?
JE: This was truly a labor of love album that really began as a hobby project. It soon took on a life of its own and I knew then that if I was going to do it, I had to do it the right way. I truly put my heart and soul and piggy bank into this one, but I felt that there was no other way. I wanted the very best and hope that comes through on the record. From working with the Madecodian Radio Orchestra, to the incredibly talented Oran Eldor (Orchestrator and Producer) and David Reitzas (5-time Grammy wining producer) to the 50+ musicians that worked on this project. It was a dream come true and the best way to spend my 30th year on this planet.
DK: Can you describe your experience of studying at Juilliard? I have known people who have studied there, and well, it sounds like a really difficult place to succeed (laughs)?
JE: The Juilliard School was both an incredibly challenging yet rewarding experience. I don’t think I had ever worked as hard for my craft as I did within those walls, but by pushing me to my limits, it taught me what I was capable of. I also was inspired by the actors, dancers and other musicians from all over the world, with a equal passion for collaboration and art making. That network remains with me and continues to drive me even to this day. I know that I am part of this incredible family of creative minds.
DK: OK honest answer, how long do you practice each day (laughs)?
JE: It really depends on what I am preparing for. I would say about an hour a day, though I do skip some days. When I am preparing for a specific show it increases. It is also important to say that practicing for a singer is not just learning the rhythms and notes, but it is translating the text, character research and so forth so again, it really depends from project to project.
DK: Are there any genres of music you have yet to attempt but would like to?
JE: There are many and I am constantly surprised by the possibilities of collaboration. Can’t say I have done much in the R & B, Punk Rock or House scene, or heavy metal, though not sure my voice would stand up to full out screaming. I am seeing more and more that composers are using elements of all genres and coming from a diverse musical background, I remain open to the next adventure.
DK: I always am curious as to where fellow music artists believe the future of music may lead us. So what say you? Where do you, or where would you like to, see music in the years to come?
JE: If only I had a crystal ball right? We are without a doubt in a very volatile place artistically. Opera companies and symphony orchestra are struggling, the old guard is unsure of how to adapt and bring in a younger audience; the recording industry continues to shrink and so forth. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, because connectivity, technology and ingenuity is leading artists to collaborate with finite resources but to do so in incredibly creative ways. Chaos often leads to the most creative times because we are forced to break out of the status quo. It is an exciting time and I look forward to where it takes us. At the end of the day, there will always be a place for music and art. It’s just a matter of finding how you fit into that new landscape.
DK: Are you currently performing anywhere, or perhaps in the near future?
JE: Upcoming performances include appearances with the Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony and Seattle Symphony along with a Brahms Requiem and opera productions. Lots more can be found on my website at http://www.jonathanestabrooks.com
DK: Anything else you would like to say before we close the interview?
JE: Thanks for taking the time to chat. It is always exciting to connect with a wider reader base. Come say hi on Facebook and the web.
Jonathan can be found at