Chantal Braziel: The dream does not die
Chantal Braziel graduated with a bachelor of arts from St. Vincent College in 2015 and a master’s in music from Carnegie Mellon University in 2020. She has sung in productions of the Metropolitan Opera, Pittsburgh Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She has been awarded more than $17,000 in scholarships from Pittsburgh Foundation funds, including the Pittsburgh Jazz Society/Howard Gendell M.D. Scholarship Fund, the African American Volkswagen Employees’ Scholarship Fund, the Lillian Gorell Scholarship Fund and the Paul J. Baum Fund. Braziel recently shared her passion for opera with the Foundation and how the scholarships she has received have helped her pursue a career in classical singing.
“Singing classical music opera was never in the picture for me. I could always sing — I have been singing since I was a baby. It wasn’t until I received my bachelor’s degree from St. Vincent College that I learned about classical music. I was introduced to opera by my voice teacher during my undergrad. She was the one who really started it all for me. She introduced me to an entire brand-new world of opera. Singing in different languages with your voice being your own natural microphone — there’s nothing like it.”
“Carnegie Mellon University was when many doors opened for me. When I entered my master’s program, I was Countess in the ‘Marriage of Figaro.’ During the time that I was completing my studies, I connected with many other singers. It was because of those connections that I had the opportunity to sing in the Grammy-award winning production of ‘Porgy and Bess’ at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2019-2020 season. ‘Porgy and Bess’ is returning to the Metropolitan Opera this season. That experience alone completely fulfilled and changed my life.”
“When everything shut down [during the pandemic], there was something inside of me that told me that I still needed to continue singing. I continued to perform. I actually had a quarantine concert right outside of my home for my neighbors where I sang all of my favorite selections and songs my neighbors know and love. This pandemic has helped me learn how to create my own opportunity. I learned to create art through the gift that I was given. The dream does not die, even when everything around you seems to be dying.”
“I learned about [the Pittsburgh Foundation’s scholarships] during my time at Carnegie Mellon. I went on Google, I went on Yahoo and I looked up if Pittsburgh had any scholarships. That was when I found the Foundation. The application process was just asking questions about what I wanted to achieve through these scholarships. My goal was simple — to not only focus on my craft, but also to focus on my education, because I knew with my gift and my education that I would go far in life. So that was one of the questions I was asked that I could easily answer. Scholarships have helped me because the more I had scholarships, the more I needed to work hard to keep them.”
“I would say that I’ve always been an overachiever. I’ve always worked very hard to get where I needed to be. My advice is to keep being your best self, and, if you know that you deserve something, then go out there and pursue it. Not just for scholarships, but for all you do. Continue to focus, work hard and hopefully scholarships will help you achieve your goals. Just go for it.”