Jonathan Brenner: BU On Broadway’s Man in Black
For nearly every BU On Broadway production since 2009 that you may have attended, there was probably a familiar face, either in the pit or welcoming you in the lobby. He was most likely wearing all black (indicating both his professionalism as conductor/musician and his personal wardrobe choice) or perhaps, in the case of one very special night of The Producers, in lederhosen.
This man is Jonathan Brenner, a graduating senior from the College of Fine Arts. Jonathan has been involved in the BU theatre community from day one as a freshman. Since working on Hair in the spring of 2009 as assistant musical director, he has served as the music director for a BU On Broadway mainstage virtually every semester. The list includes:
- The Rocky Horror Show (Fall 2009)
- Seussical (Spring 2010)
- Rent (Fall 2010)
- Sweeney Todd (Spring 2011)
- The Producers (Fall 2011)
- Spring Awakening (Spring 2012)
In addition, he has various credits as a pit musician for Stage Troupe and BU On Broadway productions.
In his four years with BU On Broadway, Jonathan has brought the group to a level of quality that is unimaginable. After his countless hours of teaching, vocal coaching, pit rehearsing, conducting, and not to mention his time on the executive board as both Membership Vice President and Secretary, it was no surprise when Jonathan was awarded “Most Valuable Senior” at On Broadway’s end-of-the-year banquet.
On top of his involvements with BU On Broadway, this lover of fierce belting is a Dean’s List student in the School of Music, majoring in composition and theory. His compositions are always a genuine treat to experience, and this Friday, Jonathan’s senior recital will take place in the CFA Concert Hall. The intimate evening will showcase his musical theatre pieces in a cabaret-style performance, and in the words of Jonathan himself, “will feature mainly people who can belt their faces off.”
In the midst of his preparations, Jonathan was kind enough to answer a few questions:
RM: When did your love for the piano and musical theatre begin?
JB: My love for piano began when I became jealous that my sister was taking piano lessons, so I took them also! My love for musical theatre began at birth… my mother was singing show tunes to me ever since I can remember.
RM: How have you grown from freshman year to now, after music directing so many productions?
JB: It has been a pleasure having the privilege of music directing the amount of shows I have with On Broadway. I have grown as a musician, leader, and creative thinker because of the experiences I have had.
RM: Who are you inspired by as a composer?
JB: As a composer I am inspired by Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, et al.) above all others. His ingenious lyrics coupled with intricate melodies have created hundreds of songs which are nothing short of masterpieces.
RM: How would you describe your musical style?
JB: Although I don’t consider myself first and foremost as a composer, I would say that my style is of the modern musical theatre genre with a pop/jazz influence.
RM: What is the inspiration/source material for some of your compositions?
JB: My favorite way to write a song is to pick someone whose voice I know well and am inspired by. Then I like to create a specific character, and write a song for that character with that voice.
RM: Outside of your studies and BU On Broadway, you also work for My College Audition, a company that prepares high school students for their auditions into musical theatre programs across the country. Can you describe your involvement with this organization?
JB: Working with the My College Audition team has been a pleasure and a great way to improve my skills as a vocal coach. The company helps dozens of high school students achieve their collegiate dreams in the field of musical theatre.
RM: What can attendees expect on May 11?
JB: They can expect a casual and entertaining hour of new music, and wine!
“A Whole Lot of Love,” composed by Jonathan Brenner, during a 2011 Concert of Student Works. Featuring Soloist Tavia Merchant (CFA 2012), Colleen Martorano (COM 2013), Janette Martinez (CFA 2013), Sarah Jill Bashein (CAS 2011), Mia Sommese (CAS 2013), Fiona Bryson (CAS 2013), and Jillian Angelone (CAS 2011).
Jonathan’s senior recital will take place Friday, May 11, at 8:30 in the Concert Hall on the first floor of the College of Fine Arts, located at 855 Commonwealth Avenue.
Ryan McPhee (COM 2012) Indulging in art on the stage, in the kitchen, and everywhere in between. @mchadoaboutryan