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Music: Crossing Over to Success

by Cindy Thomsen

Spring 2012The Mind's Eye  |  Share This  |  E-mail  |  Print  | 
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Singer Chris Mann is a finalist on NBC's <em>The Voice</em>.

Singer Chris Mann is a finalist on NBC's The Voice.

Singer Chris Mann, BMus’04, knows what it’s like to have the rug pulled out from under him. Just six weeks before his first album was scheduled to come out, the record company canceled the project.

“I had already recorded the strings in a studio next to where Barbra Streisand was recording,” Mann says. “I had performed at the Sundance Film Festival and at a pre-Oscar event—I thought my ship had come in. Then it ended, and it seemed like my career was over before it started.”

However, Mann made his way back into the studio and into very steady work singing for television shows like Glee and for feature films, including Avatar, Sex and the City II, and the latest version of The Muppets.

“Things I absolutely hated doing in school—like sight reading—gave me the skills to be able to walk into a studio and deliver,” he says. “It’s a very cutthroat industry, and I’ve broken in in a big way.”

Mann classifies himself as a classical crossover artist: Think Andrea Bocelli or Josh Groban, who has sold more than 24 million albums worldwide.

“Once I rededicated myself to the style I love and went with my gut, things really perked up for me,” Mann says.

Mann attracted the attention of legendary singer/songwriter/producer David Foster, who is credited with discovering Groban.

“David discovered Josh Groban and Michael Bublé and started taking them out on the road to sing in his ‘David Foster and Friends’ concerts,” says Mann. “He’s been great and has given me the same opportunity to perform in his shows—the first being at the Horatio Alger Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., singing ‘The Prayer’ with Katharine McPhee. I’m honored and excited to be doing the same concerts Josh and Michael did when they were beginning.”

As exciting as all of that is, Mann’s biggest achievement may be just around the corner. He auditioned for Season 2 of The Voice, last year’s breakout show on NBC, and at press time was a finalist on Christina Aguilera’s team. The singing competition’s new season debuted Feb. 5, right after the Super Bowl. Stay tuned.

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© 2015 Vanderbilt University | Photography: Randee St. Nicholas

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Blair String Quartet premieres Hersch’s Images from a Closed Ward

On Friday, Feb. 17, in Ingram Hall, the Blair String Quartet premiered Images from a Closed Ward by prominent American composer Michael Hersch. It is the composer’s first string quartet in 20 years, commissioned specifically for the quartet as part of “Blair Commissions: Music for the 21st Century,” through funding from the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation.

“I was deeply moved that they approached me,” says Hersch. “[It means] they felt something in my work that they connected with. I assure you that not everybody gets what I do, so when people connect with it, that’s meaningful to me.”

Each member of the quartet had different reasons for choosing Hersch to compose the piece for them, but the opportunity to work with a prominent American composer who had not yet written a major string quartet was among their criteria. Hersch’s use of space, time and silence appealed to the quartet, too, as well as his artistic integrity.

“Michael has that ability to voice for four people in an extraordinary way,” says John Kochanowski, violist with the quartet and associate professor. “He really understands the conversational attitude. We were excited by the possibility that he could be a great quartet composer.”

The Blair String Quartet will premiere the work April 1 at Christopher Cairns Studio in Havertown, Pa., and on April 5 at Weill Recital Hall in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

—Bonnie Arant Ertelt

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