When people say you’re good at something,
strive to be the best.”-Marcus Bedinger
As an aspiring tenor opera singer, Marcus Bedinger has something he has to let the world know and speaks openly on his relationship with music. Throughout his career he recalls his words being crafted in the beginning from poems and short stories. Since age 11, singing in church played a part of discovering his own unique vocal ability as well as motivating him to attend gospel musical workshops around his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
This creative opera mogul has earned top ratings in the OMEA Solo and Ensemble Competition along years as a member of the Dayton Boys’ Choir which were stepping stones for Bendinger’s acceptance into Bowling Green State University on full academic and music scholarships. After CelebrityXo’s research on the remarkable talent that the world MUST MEET, we knew that an no one could tell his story like the author himself. We were fortunate to get a email interview with Marcus Bedinger himself:
Kimberly Ni’Cole: At what point in like did you develop a love for classical music
It was very early on- maybe five or six years old- that I remember appreciating classical music specifically. Of course, it’s hard to recall exactly but it was probably an orchestral performance on PBS or a clip in a movie that stood out to me. I say an orchestra— as opposed to a vocal performance—because I have always loved what I now call a “Ballet of Bows” that happens when the string section plays their part. It’s one of the things that I fell in love with when I first saw a classical performance. Even when you see an opera, the orchestra is integral to the story and you can usually see them from the audience, so it’s something I still love today.
KN:What was one of the first songs you learned?
MB: Well, one of the songs that I first remember learning is Pass Me Not, a church hymn. I don’t remember why I had to learn it, but I still sing it to myself sometimes. Then there’s the song that I remember being deeply touched by at the time that I first learned it. I was singing in my high school Varsity Choir, and we learned an arrangement of the hymn Ubi Caritas. Roughly translated, it means where there is charity and love, God is there. So you can imagine how a message like that made a young, sensitive artist feel—particularly when the music carrying the message was absolutely beautiful.
KN:What was the defining moment when you realized that you wanted to become a tenor opera singer
MB: That moment came for me while I was studying at Bowling Green State University. Originally, I wanted to be a music teacher, and had enrolled in the Music Education program. As I went through my first year of courses, I started to notice all that I was missing from the Vocal Performance track: diction courses, theater workshops, full private voice study, etc. And so I switched my major to Performance in the second year. I started familiarizing myself with opera repertoire and I started to seriously train my voice. I also dove into the trove of famous classical singers throughout history. There was a lot to learn and I felt so behind!
KN:Who are some of your music inspirations?
MB: My biggest musical inspiration is my mom’s sister. I used to ride in the car with her- mostly shotgun- and she would sing along to her music—always Aretha Franklin, sometimes Janet Jackson or Mahalia Jackson. HA! But whatever it was, she always sang with such power and depth. She never really belted out in the car. It would be years later in church and at other events that I actually heard her full voice and saw her really perform. But her performances in the driver seat of whatever car she had at the time, they were always moving. They were so motivated that I was always left with the sense that she could have easily been a singer if she wanted.
If you’re asking about inspirations from the opera world, I look to people with unique voices that I personally love. Luciano Pavarotti comes to mind, and who doesn’t love him? But I also think of Fritz Wunderlich, a German tenor. Wunderlich is a case where his voice both inspires and haunts me somewhat, because he died a tragic death at such a young age—maybe 35 years old.
Last but certainly not least, I look to the multitude of Black classical singers who achieved international fame for inspiration. Marian Anderson, who accompanied Dr. King at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and desegregated the Metropolitan Opera. Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry, Shirley Verrett, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Denyce Graves, George Shirley….so, so many!
Oh! And then there’s Beyoncé. Enough said!
We wanted to get a little deeper with Marcus and find out what lessons were taught to him on his musical journey.
“I’m finding that this takes time. By this, I mean everything. All of it! Preparing the voice, getting the business aspects correct, learning the music. Everything requires an amount of patience that I’m pleased to learn I have…at least for the time being. And that feels good. It’s enjoyable for the added benefits that come with patience, too— like motivation and determination and execution. Patience is not about sitting around waiting. It’s about allowing time for the work to pay off. So it’s a great lesson I’m learning!”
KN: Recently we learned about your career debut recital in Harlem, NY in
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. What feelings came over you while you were
MB: I’m hot! Literally! I don’t know what the temperature was exactly, but it was a lot of degrees in the church! And I had the great idea to sport a full tuxedo. I’ll never forgive myself for that.
Aside from that, I felt extremely grateful to have an audience. I only moved to NYC in February of this year, the recital was in June—essentially 3 months of preparation—and I had an audience full of smiling, eager faces. It was and is an incredible feeling to have people support your dreams. And many of these people I had never met! So it felt special and I definitely thanked God a few times on the occasion.
I was surprised to be mentally at ease for much of the program, as well. I had not performed a full recital in a while, so I expected many more nerves. Nerves can cause tension in the voice, and nobody wants that. So I had to thank God for that comfort up on stage as well.
KB:You also held a show on July 18th entitled We, Too, Sing America. What
is the concept of “American songs brought beyond the veil”?
MB:The meaning of “American Songs Brought beyond the Veil” references two of our amazing Black forefathers: Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois. Hughes often wrote about Black patriotism and how it is almost a paradox…finding ways to love and improve a country that does not welcome you. Du Bois wrote eloquently of “the Veil” that falls between Black Americans and the white spaces that we must navigate in our daily lives, and how that in turn creates a “double-consciousness” for the Black community in which we view ourselves in two different ways.
So bringing songs “beyond the veil” means to lift the shroud of racism that befalls the American theater, or performing arts generally. During my concert, I spoke about how there are less Black performers who reach high-levels of success, how there are less Black specific roles and shows, how Black performers are less likely to be cast as non-race specific, fictional characters—which then makes the default white, which is so difficult to overcome in casting. Recently, Broadway cast a mostly white “Prince of Egypt,” exhibiting that even in 2016, Black people are less likely to be cast in roles the reflect their own culture or heritage. I also pointed out how Black performers often use concert music to make up for the disparity of opportunity in theater. We’ll arrange a concert of jazz standards, Negro Spirituals, classical art songs, Gospel music…what have you. Anything to create a platform for our artistic expression, which is historically the truest form of art in America—the soul of the Black person.
“The Veil” is a message that I think needed to be heard. It’s an experience that I’m certain is shared by other Black performers. And I intend to continue speaking about it and exploring it further in my work.
So what’s next for Marcus?
Next up for me is a lot of preparation! I am planning a Christmas recital in Brooklyn, so I’m figuring out soon what music I want to sing for that program. I also have a special love for art song—basically, poems set to music—so I am learning a song cycle composed by Franz Schubert about a young man who searches for love, but is heartbroken after he finds someone who has no interest in him. It’s a very dramatic story that presents a musical challenge as well as an acting challenge, which is exciting. And I’m learning some new operatic repertoire that I will use to audition for Young Artist Programs and vocal competitions in the coming months.
I’ve also been toying with some original music. At least lyrically, and I want to push myself further into writing a solo album or EP project. Lots of singing to do!
Beyond opera and music, I am searching within myself to find how I can become more of a social activist. I have many very strong opinions, and I’m often disheartened by what I see going on in the world. But I also want my approach to action to be organic and to feel right, even though it may be uncomfortable at first.
WE look forward to having a face to face interview with Marcus in the near future with hopes of hearing of a EP project coming from the mastermind himself!