KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It is the gig of a lifetime for Great Bend native and rising opera star Bryan Pinkall.
Friday, he will perform as part of the gala grand opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. He will also share the stage with operatic legend Placido Domingo and violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.
“I knew for a while that Domingo and other famous musicians would be there, and it was certainly the most exciting opportunity that I’ve ever been offered,”the aspiring Overland Park tenor said.
The Friday opening is part of a weekend of activities inaugurating the new venue in Kansas City, Mo. Broadway and opera will take center stage Friday night in the Muriel Kauffman Theater with assorted vocal selections, and jazz and classical music will fill Helzberg Hall Saturday night.
“I was singing in an opera in Chicago in August and got a phone call asking if I would be interested in the tenor lead (Tony) singing the famous song “Tonight” from West Side Story in the opening night,” Pinkall said. “They are doing many scenes from operas and musical theater as part of the event, and this will be one of them.”
His scene will have about 50 singers and dancers along with the Kansas City Symphony, and all the dancing stops for his solo of “Tonight” at center stage. “It’s still so amazing that it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
They started rehearsals this week and Pinkhall said this part of the country is so fortunate to have a performing arts center like the new Kauffman. “The greatest musicians from all over the world will flood to it – as they already are. I was just so honored to be asked to sing for this event.”
Pinkall was raised in Great Bend, studying voice with Betty Erikson and piano with Connie Schneweis. “I first sang solo as Louis in “The King and I” at (Barton County Community College) in 1997 and shortly after that show, my church, St. Patricks, asked me to cantor,” he said.
“That is what started my whole life in singing,” he said. Pinkall sang through high school and got a scholarship to attend Kansas State University and sang in their choir, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocal performance.
“One thing led to another and now I am in Kansas City getting my doctorate in voice performance (at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance) and I travel all around the country auditioning and singing opera,” said. He has earned numerous awards and performed many roles around the United States.
His parents Gary and Michelle Pinkall still live in Great Bend and his father is a middle school science teacher. “I am very thankful for those who have helped me in music as I was growing up, as it was socially not something that most boys did, let alone for anyone to have a career in,” he said. “But, without my family and teachers in Great Bend, I wouldn’t have had this, the gig of my life, singing in the grand opening of what may be one of the world’s greatest opera houses and singing with one of my childhood opera idols, Placido Domingo.”
Bryan is also a composer and liturgical musician, and has composed and arranged many pieces primarily for sacred settings. Currently, he is a professional musician at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village. He was also a founding member of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Composers Guild.
“We were just speechless,” said his mother Michelle. “We just wish we could be there.”
Their son contacted Gary and Michelle immediately upon learning about the performance, and tickets were already sold out, she said. That may be a good thing – the cheapest tickets were $1,000 and ranged up to $30,000.
“This is just a dream come true for him,” she said. “It is so great to see this happen to your son. We are so proud of him.”
Michell also praised the vocal and music programs and instruction available locally, from Erikson to Schneweis to Susan Stambaugh at Great Bend High School. “There is just so much talent here. I don’t think people realize what we have.”
In 1995, Muriel McBrien Kauffman, civic leader and philanthropist, discussed her vision for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with her family and the community. After her death, her daughter and chairman of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, Julia Irene Kauffman, helped make this vision a reality.
Planning for the half-billion-dollar project started in 1999 and 13 downtown acres at 1601 Broadway were purchased. Construction began in 2007 and concluded this year.
For more information on Pinkall, visit www.bryanpinkall.com.