From Classical Singer to Crossover Artist – Toronto Markham Wedding Corporate Gala Singer

Starting off as a chorister at St. Michael’s Choir School was the foundation of my musical upbringing. I knew from a very young age that I loved to sing. However, being at the choir school for 11 years led me to believe that classical music was the only style of music that I was meant to sing. Even though I grew up in the 90s and regularly listened to Pop and R&B artists such as Boyz II Men, Shai, and Brian McNight, singing this genre of music with my friends never seemed like the right fit for my voice.

After graduating from the choir school, I then starting singing at churches. However, many of the songs I would sing during Sunday service were out of the popular hymnal, the Catholic Book of Worship, which I used all throughout my years at the choir school. As a result, this only reinforced my beliefs that my voice was only suited to sing classical music. Now don’t get me wrong, I love classical music and the purpose of this blog is not to belittle the classical music genre, especially since it is the genre that best showcases my voice.

One of the pivotal turning points in my singing career was when my mother had taken me to see The Ten Tenors in concert at Roy Thompson Hall. I was expecting an evening of classical music. However, I was pleasantly surprised when they did a phenomenal rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Throughout the night they would go back and forth between both classical and popular music. The truth is that their performance  had left me feeling truly inspired and helped me realize that my voice was suited for other genres of music. Unfortunately it was rather hard in the early 2000s to get access to instrumental backing tracks as many popular websites with music content such as YouTube and SoundCloud were not around at the time.

However, my biggest source of inspiration came a few years later from hearing artists like Josh Groban, Russell Watson and Charolette Church. These were all singers that sounded as though they were classically trained that were redefining the genre of classical music with their Italian and Spanish based ballads. Fortunately for me, I had started taking vocal lessons around the same time and began to learn as many of their songs as possible. After nailing down a number of classical crossover songs, I began to volunteer my services to select clientele in order to test my capabilities as a singer and to get feedback. I was encouraged by the response I received as many people expressed how they enjoyed the classical crossover genre and diversity of songs.

2011 to 2013 was a very pivotal period in my singing career as during that time, I put out a call out on the Kijiji website to collaborate with a pianist. I connected with a jazz musician and would meet at his place twice monthly (mainly on a Friday morning) and go over music.  We went back and forth trying out different musical pieces and it gave me my first experience of working as a duo performing popular and jazz music. It seems as though the Universe was trying to take me outside my comfort zone because shortly after collaborating with the pianist, an email from a big band orchestra appeared in my inbox asking for singers to audition to be members of their group. At first, I ignored the emails as I never thought of myself as a big band singer but the more the emails kept reoccurring, the more I gave thought to it and finally decided to set an audition date.

The audition went well and I was told that I was one of the only artists to ever have every member of the orchestra unanimously agree to vote me in after my audition. Keep in mind I was completely out of my comfort zone as I was singing Jazz ballads by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. These are all artists that I never thought of emulating  as I had viewed myself as only a classical singer for the longest time.

Today I consider myself a true classical crossover artist. I am comfortable singing Classical, Crossover Classical, Jazz, Broadway, Big Band and Popular music for audiences. When I am hired to provide live music at events, the most common feedback I receive from guests is that they loved the diverse repertoire that I am able to offer them. Not to blow my own horn, but I do consider myself unique as it is not very common that you will find many singers who can have a musical set list  that includes Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Bocelli’s Time To Say Goodbye, Elton John’s Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word, Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon and Bernstein’s Somewhere from a West Side Story.  A sample of the diversity of my repertoire is on my debut album, The Compilation, which can be found on my website (https://www.musicbyjohn.ca/shop/). The next genre I may decide to experiment with is heavy metal…….well maybe not.

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