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Broadway Baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell Shares Invaluable Advice to BYU Theatre Hopefuls

Performing arts guru Brian Stokes Mitchell shares his view from the stage and how his many roles have shaped his own role in life

During his visit at BYU, Brian Stokes Mitchell led a masterclass for students in between his evening shows. The Tony Award winner has been recognized for talents in the performing arts ranging from singing to acting to dancing.

Stokes’ theatrical endeavours include involvement in productions such as Kiss Me, Kate, Sweeny Todd, The Prince of Egypt and Glee. His impressive resume has led him to a great deal of personal success.

The American baritone “started singing before remember talking. “I was fascinated by the keyboard, because it had these patterns and notes, but also, I realized putting notes together in a certain way made me feel,” he said during the masterclass.

While his passion for music began at an early age, Stokes has continued his career in the performing arts throughout his life. He taught students that it is not enough to simply have one end goal in mind, but rather work to constantly develop themselves.

“What I do best is I’m a really good student,” Stokes said. He explained that he loves to read and study in order to expand his mind and theatrical abilities. Doing so has granted him unceasing growth throughout his life.

Stokes suggested various tips to help flourish personal and professional potential. For him, a main aspect of this lies within “the spaces.”

“Great art is in the spaces. It's not in the brushstrokes that you see. It's in the brushstrokes that aren't there, in the negative spaces. It's not in the lines that are said, it's in the pauses.” He continued, “Anybody can play the notes; it takes an artist to play the spaces.”

He expounded on this idea of spaces in relation to acting. When performing in a play, Stokes would alter his performance each show, whether it was in the way he moved his body, or in the way he spoke his lines. He realized what a large impact this may have on one’s performance.

Stokes advised that for an individual desiring a career in the arts, one must have an extreme love for it; a need for it. If one is to choose this path, he shared “five T’s” to ensure the best possible outcome when seeking success. These include talent, technique, timing, tenacity and ‘tude (attitude).

Music Dance Theater student Bronwyn Reed appreciated Stokes’ thoughts on being ready for opportunities that may arise. She said, “I really liked that he talked about being prepared, and that you can really never be prepared.” She also admired his suggestion of “following your heart,” finding balance between both heart and mind.

While pursuing his occupational endeavours, Stokes has gained an immense appreciation for being conceptually minded. He expressed the value of focusing on positively influencing others through his work and encouraged others to do the same.

Reed stated, “Something I resonated with is that being a performer, you're a lifelong student constantly learning … and becoming a different person. learning these new things and getting to work with so many amazing new people … allowing yourself to learn in that space.”

When growing oneself and becoming more spiritually conscious, “there’s an art to it all,” Stokes explained. “For me, art is everything in the world that is not nature,” he said.

While Stokes provided students with an abundance of information regarding logistical aspects in the theatrical world, he also inspired students to raise others through their talents. He stated, “You're here to accomplish something. … You can do this through your art understanding the spaces, understanding energy the ability to lift people up.”

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