Michael Stairs Memorial Concert
Artist, producer, and activist Brandon Michael Nase presented a virtual concert of gospel, jazz, R&B, and musical theater songs for the Michael Stairs Memorial Concert on April 28. Nase also reflected on the creation of his musical web series, “The Gospel According to Broadway,” and of his nonprofit organization, Broadway for Racial Justice.
The concert began with selections from “The Gospel According to Broadway,” including “Waving through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen and “Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime. In between videos of song performances, Nase participated in a question-and-answer style session with Chair of the Performing Arts Department Darren Hengst. Nase reflected on his start in music and the performing arts, including one performance in Les Miserables directed by Liesl Tommy, which he said served as the genesis of Broadway for Racial Justice.
“We were performing Les Mis in 2014, during the riots in Ferguson [Missouri], and Liesl created the sets, costumes, and design to have a very present-future vibe,” Nase said. “It felt like we were playing out both past and future stories of revolution, and I carried that with me as I moved on. When the pandemic happened, I realized there needs to be someone speaking truth to power in this industry, especially when it comes to racism and oppression.”
Nase started Broadway for Racial Justice in June 2020, and talked about the services the organization offers, including a financial assistance fund and an anonymous hotline which connects artists with trained advocates. Nase also discussed the BFRJ Casting Directive, a rigorous 9-week training program for casting professionals to understand how people of color can be better represented in the industry. The first cohort of eleven people recently completed the program.
When Hengst congratulated Nase for the success of the organization so far, Nase responded with a performance of “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha, with lyrics that include: “This is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, to fight for the right, without question or pause.”
Nase ended the concert with cover performances of Stevie Wonder’s songs “Evil” and “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and shared advice with students.
“There is a delicate balance to be able to say I need to be able to care for myself and to be able to give a large amount of care to the people around me,” Nase said. “When you strike that balance, you have the ability to let go of a lot of worry and anxiety, and you can exist fully in who you are in a very humble and caring way.”
The Michael Stairs Memorial Concert honors the legacy of the long-time Haverford School music teacher and Philadelphia Orchestra organist, who passed in 2018. The event aims to celebrate music as an academic discipline, and a source of inspiration and joy. At the beginning of this year’s concert, Andrew Helber ’12 and Kevin Madden ’98 spoke of Stairs’s importance at Haverford and discussed the Michael Stairs Concert Fund.
If you are interested in learning more about this concert or making a pledge or gift to the Michael Stairs Concert Fund, please contact Jeff Day at 484-571-7052 or email@example.com.
Established in 2018 by alumni, parents and friends, the Michael Stairs Concert Fund honors Stairs' service to Haverford as an outstanding music teacher and director of the Glee Club and the Notables from 1986-2012. An accomplished organist, Stairs played for Bryn Mawr's Church of the Redeemer, the Wanamaker Grand Court at Macy's, and was appointed as organist of the Philadelphia Orchestra by Riccardo Muti in 1985. This fund is overseen by the chair of the Music Department and supports an annual concert by a performer or composer who evokes the inspiration and admiration of students, just as Stairs did.
The Michael Stairs Memorial Concert brings a renowned musician to perform and spend time in a master class with Haverford students. The event aims to celebrate music as an academic discipline as well as a source of inspiration and joy.
David Kim, Philadelphia Orchestra (2019)
Brandon Michael Nase is an artist, performer, producer, and activist currently based in New York City. Brandon is celebrated for the versatility of his instrument, his powerful vision as an artist, and his commitment to racial justice.
As a performer, Brandon has been seen across the United States in musical theater, pop, R&B, jazz, and classical music venues. His recent credits include Cats (First National Tour; Old Deuteronomy), Show Boat (Bucks County Playhouse; dir. Josh Rhodes), Ragtime (Tulane Summer Lyric; Coalhouse), Evita (Asolo Repertory Theatre; dir. Josh Rhodes), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (3D Theatricals; dir. Mark Kudisch; Judah), Little Shop of Horrors (Sharon Playhouse; dir. Jennifer Werner; Audrey II), and Les Misérables (Dallas Theatre Center; dir. Liesl Tommy; Feuilly). He has also originated roles in new works such as ExtraOrdinary! (American Repertory Theater; dir. Diane Paulus), The Black Clown (American Repertory Theatre; Lincoln Center: Mostly Mozart Festival), and Frozen Live at the Hyperion (dir. Liesl Tommy; Olaf).
Brandon united his love of gospel jazz and musical theater as the producer and creator of "The Gospel According to Broadway," a musical web-series which reimagines musical theater songs in gospel, jazz, and R&B styles. In collaboration with pianist Sujin Kim-Ramsey, Brandon arranged eight different songs from the musical theater canon ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Jason Robert Brown. "The Gospel According to Broadway" filmed eight episodes and premiered with a live concert at The Green Room 42 in New York City. The entire series is available on YouTube and features Broadway performers Tiffany Mann, Rebecca Covington-Weber, Major Attaway, Caitlin Houlahan, and Ryan Vona.
A proudly Black artist and performer, in 2020 Brandon founded Broadway for Racial Justice, a non-profit organization which fights for racial justice and equity in the Broadway and theatrical community at large. As Executive Director of BFRJ, Brandon has spearheaded crucial initiatives for artists of color; including a financial assistance fund for unemployed artists and an anonymous hotline which connects BIPOC artists experiencing racism in the workplace with trained advocates. BFRJ also produces concerts, interviews, and other online content which all seek to amplify the voices and experiences of BIPOC performers and artists. Theatrical institutions and educational programs can enter into community with BFRJ as a resource to better serve artists and students of color through the program Allied with BFRJ, which provides actionable accountability support for organizations attempting to build an anti-racist artistic community.
Before pursuing a career as a performer, Brandon worked in public schools as a choral music teacher in his native Texas. He holds a Bachelor of Music in choral music education from the renowned University of North Texas College of Music and received his Master of Music in Vocal Performance (Music Theatre) from NYU Steinhardt. Brandon has studied voice with Michael Ricciardone, Dr. Jeffrey Snider, and Dr. Linda DiFiore and conducting with Dr. Alan McClung and Dr. Amanda Quist.