Weekly Local Biography

  Brook Kitavadhana

Brook Kitavadhana stepped forward on the stage of the beautiful Kad Theater and began to sing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, accompanied by the Northern Symphony Orchestra. Daisy Vogt’s review of the musical performance in the August 19 edition of Chiangmai Mail says that his beautiful baritone voice “left the crowd thunderstruck”. I was in that crowd, and that certainly describes my reaction. His voice is filled with strength, and it resonated throughout the theater. The audience was intensely, appreciatively quiet.

Brook was born in Lampang only 29 years ago, and has packed a lot of music into such a young life. He father is a teacher, and his mother worked as a public relations expert for the government. They saw to it that he began to study music early, and he played the organ from the age of 12. He came to Chiang Mai after elementary school to attend Prince Royals College, and had a defining experience there at age 16. Joan Eubank, the Grande dame of local theater and a veteran of Broadway, performed for the students. Brook was amazed by both her voice and stage presence. He knew he wanted to learn both. He asked her to teach him, but Joan was too busy working on other projects to take on an unknown 16 year old student. Brook set about convincing her that he was serious and would work hard. Eventually, to his great joy and relief, she agreed. He still speaks of her as “my teacher”, although he has had many teachers.

After graduation, Brook attended Chiang Mai University and majored in English. He won a singing contest his first year, but kept his love of music in the background while he studied English. His English is excellent, but by his third year of study he was bored with the subject. He says that he is not the kind of person to work hard on something he doesn’t enjoy, but works very hard on things that are important to him. So he decided to transfer as many credits as possible to the Music Department and start over as music major. But voice was not a popular major at that time at the university. Brook looked around and realized that the music department at Payap emphasized it, so he transferred to Payap. He was delighted to study with the Payap professors whose music we all admire – Bernard Sumner and Bennett Lerner – but says that he had many excellent music teachers and experiences along the way. He also studied with Tianchai Sooktiang, owner of the Voice Studio.

He graduated from Payap and began his local career in music, teaching, and performing. He began to take private voice students before he graduated, and has had over 100 students since he first began teaching. He limits the number of students at his Vocal Fitness Studio, and concentrates on his own musical development when he isn’t teaching. He says that most students like pop music and sing just for fun. Very few are serious. But he also says that some work very hard.

He has performed in several recitals locally, as well as other musical productions. He plans another concert in the fall with an emphasis on classical music. He frequently sings in Bangkok, and has performed in Rangoon and Mandalay. On weekends you are likely to find him singing for an appreciative audience in any number of local venues. He has an excellent accompanist who works with him in the restaurants and at private parties. She plays popular Thai as well as western music. Since many people make many requests, she has to be prepared for almost any type of music. But for concerts, Brook enjoys working with classical performers Bennett Lerner, Bernard Sumner, or David Wilson.

I commented on Brook’s fluency in English and his use of expressions that I associate with American English. Brook referred me back to those people who have been so influential in his life, and with whom he still works. Although they have been in Thailand for a long time, Joan Eubank, Bennett Lerner and David Wilson are all Americans. Then we talked about the Thai influences in his life. Tianchai was certainly one of those, as were many teachers at both Chiang Mai and Payap Universities. He has been blessed by an international education while never leaving Thailand.

He recently had the opportunity of a lifetime, and was invited to perform for a member of the Royal Family. He simply beams as he describes the experience. He was honored and nervous and thrilled and nervous. I’ve no doubt that the performance was excellent.

He just received a scholarship for private study abroad, and is considering his options. He discussed going the United States or England. English-speaking countries would be so easy with his language skills. But he will probably go to Italy. His generous benefactor has offered to pay all expenses, and he is eager to go to “the root of bel canto singing”. Bel canto means, literally, beautiful singing and describes in particular the lyrical quality that Italian opera singers use. The style appears to be dependent on the Italian language for its fluidity, so Brook will have to study Italian as well as bel canto. He has already demonstrated a flair for languages, however. He loves opera and is willing to work hard. He wonders, though, if an Asian could succeed in that art form.

Brook believes that he will eventually have to leave Chiang Mai to further develop his career, and he expresses mixed feelings about making such a move. He says that he loves living in Chiang Mai. It’s an “easy-going city”, unlike Bangkok. It has a relatively low cost of living, the people are friendly, and the weather is good. We agree that the recent weather and floods are exceptions.

Brook is totally focused on his music, and I’ve no doubt that he will succeed in whatever he chooses to do in life.