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B i o g r a p h y

Wanda Brister has sung over 700 solo performances in opera, oratorio, and recital from Vancouver to Moscow to Rio de Janeiro. In New York she has performed roles in three operas (Opera Orchestra of NY), been soloist in three oratorios, and given a solo recital at Carnegie Hall (for the American Symphony Orchestra), a joint recital with FSU colleagues at Weill Recital Hall, two quartet concerts at Alice Tully Hall (NY Vocal Arts Ensemble), and was soloist in Handel's Messiah at Avery Fisher Hall. She has performed nationally on CBS (CBS Sunday Morning) and NBC (Perry Como: Spring in New Orleans), PBS television as well as local affiliates in concerts with piano and orchestra, Polish National Television, RAI (Italian Television), NPR, WGBH Boston, WQXR New York, and for the WDR and SDR in Germany. She has sung for dignitaries such as Patriarch Dimitrios I at a Joint Session of Congress in Washington, DC, for Pope Benedict XVI in Munich, and for John Cardinal Egan of New York.

Brister won numerous competitions in the areas of art song (NATS, the Liederkranz Foundation, and Noonday recitals at Saint Paul's Chapel, NYC), oratorio (New Orleans Symphony, Jefferson Performing Arts Society), and opera (Metropolitan Opera (seven prizes), Mobile Opera (two prizes), and Shreveport Opera (prize and roles). She participated in young artist programs with New Orleans Opera for which she sang several performances with orchestra and Opera Company of Philadelphia where she covered the Verdi Requiem (a televised performance featuring Luciano Pavarotti), and covered Regine Crespin in The Medium. She has performed leading and supporting roles with Opera Orchestra of New York, New Orleans Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Lyric Opera of Waco, Shreveport Opera, Pima Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera, New England Lyric Operetta, New World Symphony, Jefferson Performing Arts Society, Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, and New York Chamber Opera among others.

She has sung under the batons of Dennis Assaf, Philippe Entremont, Author Fagen, Laurence Gilgore, Xiao-lu Li, John Nelson, Larry Parsons, Eve Queler, Peter Rubardt, John Rutter, Mariusz Szmolji, and Michael Tilson Thomas. She was also soloist with Krzysztof Penderecki conducting his Credo. Her varied experiences range from singing with Perry Como as a backup singer under Ray Charles, to chorus work with Dave Brubeck to oratorio chorus with Erich Leinsdorf. All of these experiences have informed her artistry and ear for style.

She earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Vocal Performance before attending the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. As a college student she worked as an accompanist in voice studios where she developed her love for vocal literature. She enjoyed several years as a professional singer before changing her focus to teaching. As she guided more and more graduate students, she decided to return to school. Her doctoral work was with vocal literature scholar Carol Kimball at University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she focused on British Composer, Madeleine Dring (1923-77). Over a twenty-year period, she has become the leading scholar on this composer.

Vocal Provenance: Her major voice teachers have been Beverly Bowers, Judith Coen, Enrico DiGiuseppe, Ruth Falcon, Patricia Havrenek, Gerald Landon, Nell Rankin, Patrick Shelby, Nancy Williams, and Beverly Wolff. These teachers studied with Andrew White, Sydney Dietsch, and Madame Jeanne Lorraine (whose teacher was Manuel Garcia, II). Brister's vocal techniques are solidly grounded in the Italianate style. She continues to embrace new research on the voice and brain activity during the process of making music. She has coached with Dalton Baldwin, Eugene Cohn, Phyllis Curtin, Jeffrey Eschleman, Thomas Grubb, Vernon Hammonds, David Holkeboer, Thomas Jaber, Courtney Kenny, Cathy Olsen, Danielle Orlando, Richard Raub, Levering Rothfuss, Jon Spong, and William Vendice. 

She is featured on  Madeleine Dring: Lady Composer (2022), 

Cabaret Songs of Madeleine Dring (2018) (a title that won "Album of the Year" in its category from the British Light Music Society - 2019), The Songs of Madeleine Dring (2013) and a French CD entitled Le premier matin du monde (2006) all for Cambria Music. Works with bassoonist Scott Pool featuring Music of Daniel Baldwin, Emmanuel Chabrier, Lori Laitman, and Beverly McLarry are featured on a CD entitled Vocalise, turned in for Grammy consideration  (2013). Other CDs include Landscapes: The Double Reed Music of Daniel Baldwin  features a cycle written for her voice. (2010),  and a CD featuring a piece composed by Gregory Wanamaker (2006)  with Clarinetist Deborah Bish can be found on Clarikinetics. All of these CDs are released by Mark Records. She is also on Johann Strauss II: Waltes for Singing with New York Vocal Arts Ensemble (Vocal Quartet with piano) (1988) on Arabesque Recordings. All of these discs are commercially available for purchase or streaming on Naxos, Spotify, or YouTube.

She has taught at The Florida State University since 2003 where she presently serves as Professor of Voice. She taught at University of Arizona (2000-2003) and at Baylor University (1999-2000). Dr. Brister was on faculty at the Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy from 2010-2015 and was a member of the Schlern International Music Festival from 2006-2009. In demand as teacher and adjudicator, she has given master classes for many universities and musical organizations in the United States, Europe, and Brazil.

Her former students have won awards from the George London Foundation, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition, the Belevedere International Competition, and Metropolitan Opera Auditions. In one year alone, she had two semi-finalists in the National Classical Singer Magazine Competition, one won the Lieder Singer Prize at AIMS, three current and former students were regional finalists in the Met auditions, and seven won prizes at regional NATS auditions. Her former students have sung at Atlanta Opera, Baltimore Opera, Central City Opera, Chautauqua Summer Festival, Chicago Lyric, Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra, English National Opera, English Touring Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Merola Opera, Mobile Opera, Opera in the Ozarks, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Orlando Opera, Pensacola Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Sarasota Opera, Shreveport Opera, Tanglewood, Washington National Opera, and  Wolf Trap,  as well as houses throughout France (Versailles, Paris, Caen), Italy, and Germany, Czech Republic, and concerts in China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Morocco, Poland, and Romania among others. 

They have taught at elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities in numerous states. Several are Directors or Assistant Directors of Choral Activities. Some of them have become stage directors and others are in Arts Administration, one of whom worked with the Metropolitan Opera for two years.  

Brister's students have performed in master classes with Elly Ameling, Stephanie Blythe, Barbara Bonney, Christine Brewer, Gerald Finley, Ricky Ian Gordon, Ryan Speedo Green, Marilyn Horne, Graham Johnson, Warren Jones, Christa Ludwig, Dawn Upshaw, Pierre Vallet, and Jose Van Dam, to name a few.

She was a NATS teaching Intern with James McKinney in 1997 and contributes to the Journal of Singing (see Cras, Dring, and  Szulc). She presented a lecture: The Songs of Madeleine Dring: An Overview at the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Brisbane, Australia in 2013 and others at the Conference on Women's Music in Columbus, MS in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022 as well as the Women Composers Festival of Hartford in 2019. She recently finished a book on Dring, which was released in October of 2020. It has received wonderful reviews in peer-reviewed journals.

One adventure regarding Dring involved uncovering the composer's grave in London in the summer of 2015 as well as processing 82 of Dring's vocal works that had not been unpublished. A series from Classical Vocal Reprints has remedied that situation with a series of nine Dring song volumes. Dring's one-act opera, Cupboard Love was published in 2017 and the songs were released in 2018, each containing original biographical and performance notes. The opera was performed by FSU opera workshop in Spring of 2018 and was done in the Summer of 2019 at Byre Opera of St Andrews University, Scotland. It is slated for a recording release in Summer of 2024. Brister regularly corresponds with Dring fans and other artists from around the world who have questions and are enthusiastic about this composer.

She coordinated a recital by FSU College of Music students in 2018, celebrating the 95th birthday of Madeleine Dring. The students were enthusiastic and warranted a subsequent concert in January celebrating music of Mozart also organized by Brister. 

After a 21-year battle with pulmonary sarcoidosis, on February 28, 2024 Brister underwent a double lung transplant and is now an advocate for The Sarcoidoisis Foundation and those needing transplants everywhere.

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