Page 35 - Classical Singer magazine 2019 Fall University Issue
P. 35

school. Gri ey was  attered, but not exactly con dent.
“Of course I’d heard of Eastman, but I never thought I’d get in,”
he says. The faculty at Eastman recognized Gri ey’s extraordinary aptitude for classical singing and, in the fall of 1990, he began his graduate studies at Eastman. It wasn’t easy for Gri ey to adapt to a much di erent culture and climate, but his new home provided a gateway for unanticipated opportunities.
During his second year at Eastman, Gri ey sang in a masterclass that proved a major turning point in his life. The celebrated alumna, soprano Renée Fleming, led the class with Rita Shane. Fleming was impressed with Gri ey and encouraged him to sing for her own teacher, Beverley Johnson, at Juilliard.
His colleagues warned him that she likely would not accept him into her
coveted studio, but he boldly decided to take his chances. After Gri ey sang for Johnson, she turned to him and said dryly, “You have a hell of a lot of talent, but a hell of a lot to learn.” She took him as a student and ensured that he won a full scholarship in the artist diploma program at the Juilliard School.
Johnson immediately became a central  gure in Gri ey’s life. He gives her credit for his biggest and earliest successes. “Mrs. Johnson changed
my life forever,” he says. “Everything that could’ve been against me was against me but, thankfully, I had Mrs. Johnson.
“When I began my studies with her she was 87, but she had the energy of a youthful schoolgirl.” He studied with her for nine fruitful years and he was by her side during her  nal days. “When she passed away, it was the end of an era.”
As fate would have it, that pivotal masterclass at Eastman with Fleming was not the last time Gri ey would cross paths with the famous soprano. Their lives became intertwined both in Johnson’s studio as well as onstage. It’s a personal and professional relationship that Fleming clearly cherishes. “Tony and I go way back,” Fleming recalls, “both having studied with our beloved voice teacher Beverley Johnson at Juilliard. We most decidedly share a technical foundation from her.
“I also shared the stage with Tony in André Previn’s A S treetcar
N amed Desire,” she continues, “in its world premiere in San Francisco, and in London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and at Carnegie Hall. Tony has a gleaming tenor voice that is capable of being both powerfully stentorian and heartbreakingly sweet—a rare combination. He’s a brilliant actor 35

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