Broadway’s Capathia Jenkins will kick off the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival with a Patriotic flair
Singer looking forward to singing live again
Broadway singer Capathia Jenkins is ready to perform with the Utah Symphony in front of a live audience.
She is especially happy to do it while kicking off the Deer Valley Music Festival with the “Patriotic Pops” concert this Friday at the Snow Park Amphitheater stage.
“For me to get back on stage, particularly in Utah, for the whole ‘Patriotic Pops’ is so meaningful,” Jenkins said. “I really struggled last year while in the throes of (the pandemic), and I would say to my husband that it does something to your soul when you can’t do what you love to do and you have no idea when you will be able to do it again. So this means everything to me.”
Friday’s performance, which will be conducted by Associate Conductor Connor Gray Covington, will include well-known fanfare songs such as “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” according to Jenkins, who is known for her roles in the Broadway productions of “Civil War,” “Newsies” and “The Look of Love,” as well as off-Broadway productions such as “Godspell” and “(mis)Understanding Mammy: The Hattie McDaniel Story,” which earned her a Drama Desk Award nomination.
“There are high ideals in songs like ‘America the Beautiful’ and ‘God Bless America,’ so to be able to sing those words is aspirational and a reminder for this country to live up to the expectations and promises that it makes to all of us,” she said. “I’m a black woman, and for me, to be able to sing the words for ‘America the Beautiful’ is a reminder to me that there are more good people than bad, particularly coming off of 2020. I get a chance to sing these words to remind myself and the audience, even in upheaval, that this is the greatest country in the world. I certainly feel the weight of the responsibility to say those words, but I also feel the hopefulness, the joy and the pride of it.”
Jenkins also enjoys connecting with the audience through the songs.
“The special thing about ‘Patriotic Pops’ is you look out into the audience and I see that it’s about family,” she said. “I see kids. I see grandpa and grandma. Everybody’s there for this feel-good event.”
Seeing the togetherness is worth the logistical challenges of preparing to perform with an orchestra, Jenkins said.
“One of the things I learned about performing with symphonies, coming from theater, early on is that theater is communal, while symphony work is very much solitary,” she said. “You don’t get together for rehearsals, meets and greets and bagels and coffee. I learn my music on my own, and I need to show up uber prepared because I’m going to stand in front of these musicians who are at the top of their game, and I want to show them that I deserve to be there to share their stage.”
Jenkins has always been enamored by music.
“From as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to sing,” she said. “I was that little girl singing to the mirror with my hairbrush as a microphone, making up songs and singing along with any music that was playing in the house.”
The music she heard daily included Motown hits, soul and rhythm and blues, as well as the gospel choirs on Sunday in church.
“When I was in third grade, my music teacher told my mom to nurture my talent, and my mom did,” Jenkins said.
The singer studied classical music while attending the High School of Music and Art in New York.
“I was singing Italian, German and French arias,” she said. “When I left high school, my teachers thought I was going to go to Juilliard, but I didn’t want a career singing classical music.”
Jenkins reassessed and enrolled in the jazz program at Temple University in Philadelphia.
“That completely broadened my horizons and opened up my ear to what was possible with music,” she said. “It was there that I got interested in theater. I wanted to know what it was like to play a character and I got bit by the bug. That’s when I found musical theater was a home for me.”
In addition to her Broadway and off-Broadway career, Jenkins has also performed with an array of symphonies around the world.
Not only has she performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, but she has sung with the Houston Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch, to name a few.
In 2011 Jenkins performed in the Broadway Ambassadors to Cuba concert as part of the Festival De Teatro De La Habana.
“I got to work with Cuban musicians and see that music really is a unifier,” she said.
Since then, also traveled to Russia, singing the songs from Great American Songbook as performed by Ella Fitzgerald in a string of sold-out shows.
“I don’t speak Russian, and the audience members probably don’t speak a lot of English, but they knew every word from the Great American Songbook, Ella style,” she said with a laugh. “These are all experiences I don’t take lightly, and they are spectacular in their own way. I’ve been fortunate and blessed in my career.”
Jenkins looks forward to her return to the Deer Valley Music Festival, which she last did in 2019 to sing the songs of the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
“The Utah Symphony has been so good to me, and I love that orchestra so much,” she said. “I think it’s amazing to sing with the Utah Symphony, but the sweet spot, to me, is to get invited back.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 2
Where: Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater
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