Pierce Peter Brandt has been performing since he was a kid. Growing up in Palo Alto, he was the lead in Oliver, when TheatreWorks first staged the musical.
He went south to attend USC but left college for his first paid gig as a singer on a cruise ship, followed by similar jobs, both on the high seas and at amusement parks.
In 1994, Broadway beckoned, and with it, a reality check. “I was in the original cast of Martin Guerre and quickly learned you need to be an actor who sings, not a singer who acts.
“I’d memorized one of the songs, but the show’s associate director asked me to perform it as a monologue, not as a song. I recall thinking ‘I can’t do a song without the music.’”
It’s that lesson — and others — that he’s bringing to Menlo Park this summer in two workshops for kids ages 10-18, which will take place at Bridgepoint Music on July 13 and July 27. The workshops — called “Singer’s Circuit Training for Musical Theater” — are a program of Performance Singing, which Pierce runs along with voice instructor Wendy Waller.
“Singers need to make a big investment on the performance side,” he said. “The lyrics of a song only give you 10 to 20% of the story telling that needs to happen. The rest is up to the actor.
“That’s how singers/actors make songs their own. Fifty different people can perform the same song, and it will always be different.
“If you can act a song well, what you do with your voice and your vocal ability becomes less important. True, there are some roles that require a stellar voice, but it’s really more about acting.”
In addition to the upcoming workshops — registration is available online or by calling (415) 683-0455 — Pierce teaches both at the American Conservatory Theater and privately.
“For the most part, the kids I work with really want to be learning and that makes it fun,” he said. “Sometimes there are surprises. I had one student who was really into sports — she ran track — but she’s now switched and wants to pursue a degree in musical theater when she heads off to college.”
Photo by Scott R. Kline