By Janelle Gelfand
The Mark Wesley Brax, 23, of Columbia, S.C., a University of Cincinnati student killed over the weekend in a two-vehicle crash in southeastern Indiana, was studying voice at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.
He was “a brilliant young man with a beautiful baritone voice,” who spent the summer at the prestigious Tanglewood Festival in the Berkshires before coming to CCM for his master’s degree.
Robin Guarino, chair of the opera department at CCM, said the aspiring opera singer was “an exceptional artist and an inspiration to all.
“We are heartbroken at this loss, and send our love to his family and all those who knew him.”
The school held an informal memorial on Monday for students, faculty and staff.
Since arriving at the College-Conservatory of Music, Mr. Brax was the baritone soloist in J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in November, participated in the undergraduate production of Handel’s “Serse” and sang with the CCM Chamber Choir and the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati.
“Talented, focused, and dedicated to his craft, Wesley was a joy to work with in rehearsals and performance,” said Earl Rivers, CCM director of choral studies.
He was admired for his “acute intelligence, musical sensibilities far beyond his 23 years, and a truly beautiful lyric baritone voice that was easily produced,” said Kenneth Shaw, associate professor of voice at CCM.
“These, combined with a positive, classy personality, made Wes Brax one of the most beloved and respected students we’ve had at CCM in my 13 years on faculty. His vivacity and personal presence lit every room he entered, and gave depth and nuance to his every performance. His recent performance of Elviro in Opera d’arte’s Serse was both a joy and a triumph. His death is a loss beyond comprehension,” he said.
This quarter, Mr. Brax was working as the assistant director for the May production of “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella), for which he wrote the supertitles.
The opera will be dedicated to his memory.
The accident on Saturday afternoon happened near the entrance to Versailles State Park in Ripley County. The student was eastbound on U.S. 50 just east of the park entrance when he lost control in heavy rain and began to skid sideways. His Pontiac Grand Prix skidded into the westbound lane when a westbound Toyota Highlander driven by Donielle R. Stewart, 35, of Cincinnati, struck the Grand Prix. Mr. Brax was pronounced dead at the scene. Stewart suffered compound fractures to her ankles and leg injuries.
Indiana State Police believe that Brax lost control in the wet conditions and began to hydroplane, which caused the crash.
Bass-Baritone Nathan Stark is currently covering in Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera.
What a thrilling, and terrifying, experience to get a call from the Metropolitan Opera saying, “you’re on today, Mr. Stark – the artist you’re covering is sick and unable to rehearse this evening. Please be here in 30 minutes to begin staging Act 1, scene 1. We’ll also need you to sing through the musical run-through of act 2 this evening.”THANK GOD I was prepared musically, off-book and memorized. I barely had time to take a 5 minute shower, warm up my voice (while in the shower) and jump on the A train to Lincoln Center before I was standing between opera superstars like Nathan Gunn, James Morris and Dwayne Croft singing through Billy Budd – an opera I’d never done before. Everybody from the artists to stage director, the coaches to the conductor congratulated me afterward for being so well prepared in stepping in. They were all so very kind to me and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
5 CCM Students (almuni & current) have won awards at the internationally prestigious Gerda Lissner Competition held this past week in New York City. Congratulations!
Results from the 2012 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition.
CCM Opera is proud to announce the winners of the 2012 Opera Scholarship Competition.
Corbett $15,000 – Yi Li, Returning AD Student
Tajo $15,000 – Jacqueline Echols, Returning AD Student
White $12,500 – Thomas Richards, New AD Student
Seybold/Russell $10,000 – Edward Nelson, Returning MM Student
Alexander $10,000 – Chabrelle Williams, Returning AD Student
Corbett $2,000 – Summer Hassan, New MM Student
In the Competition there were 65 total applicants and 25 semi-finalists, including from CCM:
• Emma Char (AD)
• Jennifer Cherest (MM2 Future AD)
• Karen Ho (AD)
• Eric Jurenas (MM)
• Xi Wang AD/DMA)
• Yi Li (AD)
1st Place ($3,000), plus Audience Favorite award ($500): Yi Li
3rd Place ($2,000): Eric Jurenas
8 Finalists ($750 for those not winning one of the top prizes), including:
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!