An Ebony Aria

A busy exec finds time to sing

She’s played roles in La Traviata, The Barber of Seville, and Madame Butterfly. She’s always wanted to sing the title role of Carmen, but instead enjoyed stirring up trouble as a gypsy named Frasquita, and also as Chantal, a role she created in Robert Di Domenico’s American opera The Balcony, in which she played a brothel’s sexual revolutionary. Having studied in Austria and toured New England and Europe, Andrea Bradford says the highlight of her singing career was performing at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1991.

Bradford, vice president, client services of Right Management Consultants, an international career-transition and organizational consulting firm headquartered in Philadelphia, originally hoped to be a full-time opera singer, but was turned off by subjectivity of the business side. “It’s all based on opinion and [personal] taste,” she relates. “You get parts based on whether or not a casting director likes you.”

But for Bradford, it was a natural passion to cultivate. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, her dad was a pianist, organist, and head of the music department at Alabama A&M University. Her mother, also a pianist, directed the college choir. Bradford thought she might become a pianist “but I didn’t like practicing,” she laughs. “When I went to high school, the head of the music department, Sister Mary Elise, who founded Opera Ebony, an African American-owned and operated opera company (www.operaebony.org) in New York City. She asked me if I had ever considered singing and taught me piano and voice.”

Bradford performed and toured with the Opera Company of Boston for almost 15 years, joining them in the mid ’70s. She joined Opera Ebony in 1994 and in 2000 performed in The Meetin’, a story about church gossiping, Harriet Tubman, and Opera and All That Jazz.

Getting Started

  • Study music. Particularly piano, says Bradford. Those who study music tend to progress faster because they can practice on their own.
  • Find a good program. “You want a teacher or mentor who will discover your talents,” says Bradford. She advises talking to students for recommendations on good music programs. Bradford says there are a number of good schools such as Oberlin College, The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, and the Manhattan School of Music. “Many state schools have strong programs such as the University of Michigan, Indiana University, and the University of North Texas.”
  • Hang in there. “It’s very competitive and it takes time and devotion,” offers Bradford. “And there’s a lot of rejection. You have to be ready for that.”
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