by Katherine Luce
Before coming to Yale, bass-baritone Dashon Burton began his professional studies at Case Western Reserve University and graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. After singing with Cantus, a professional men’s classical vocal ensemble, Burton entered the ISM, where he studied vocal literature with James Taylor and was a member of the Yale Voxtet.
He brought home a top prize from the 2012 ARD International Music Competition in Munich, as well as the first prize in Oratorio from the 49th International Vocal Competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. These awards followed his first place wins in both the 2012 Oratorio Society of New York’s Competition and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Competition for Young American Singers.
Most recently, he has sung in Bach’s newly reconstructed St. Mark’s Passion at the Oregon Bach Festival, performed the role of Jesus in the St. Matthew Passion at the Carmel Bach Festival, and joined the American Classical Orchestra as a soloist in Bach’s Mass in B-minor at Alice Tully Hall.
In addition to his work in early music, Burton is an avid performer of new music and has premiered many works by living composers. He is a founding member of 2013 Grammy Award Winning (Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance) Roomful of Teeth, with whom he tours internationally. This vocal ensemble, under the direction of Brad Wells, is devoted to the performance of new compositions using the fullest possible range of vocal techniques.
About his career trajectory after he left Yale and how the ISM helped prepare him for the life of a professional musician, Burton says:
“I am a classical singer, and I travel the country (sometimes even the world) singing with orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, vocal ensembles, or pretty much wherever I can. I’m absolutely in love with the music that I get to sing, and enjoy getting to know so many people and places around the world in this particular way – not to mention eating lovely food in the process!
After graduating from the ISM, I participated in a few different ensembles that raised my profile and put me in a good place to transition from full time school to a full time freelance singing career. I had the opportunity to travel frequently to Europe, singing in many prominent places there and in the United States. I was already used to the kind of work and travel, thanks in part to my time at the ISM. The immense preparation the vocal program provided helped me move fairly easily into singing as a full time career, and I’m happy to say that it still continues to this day!
I have also fulfilled many personal goals of singing beautiful music with great friends, such as my most recent recording project with double bassist Logan Coale: a song cycle entitled Lori Laitman: Holocaust, 1944. The poems chosen for this piece were selected from Holocaust Poetry, edited by Hilda Schiff. As the Holocaust defined the lives of each contributor in this book, their poetry allows us to identify with their collective experience, making the horror of these years seem more immediate and real for us today. Their words teach the lesson of the Holocaust to a new generation, by heroically declaring, ‘never again.’
I am very proud to be a part of Roomful of Teeth with many of my friends from Yale. I would have to say that accepting a Grammy award with my mother in attendance was one of the most satisfying moments I’ve experienced as a professional musician.
My work at ISM helped me collaborate more and not just open my heart to other people’s ideas, but most importantly, to value my own contributions to society as a musician and an artist. Meeting so many people outside of my discipline helped me to truly appreciate the role that we each play in bringing art into the world. I greatly treasure the many wonderful friends and colleagues I met at the ISM who encouraged me and loved me unconditionally along the way.”
More about Dashon’s work and upcoming projects can be found at dashonburton.com.
Photo credit: Ann Marsden