Young Conductor Makes His Musical Mark

Brett Karlin

At 28, artistic director Brett Karlin is among the youngest musicians in the Master Chorale of South Florida, a semi-professional chorus that performs the great standards of the repertoire in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

But don’t let his age deceive you; he is a serious—and equally accomplished—musician, who is also in his first year as the chorus master of the Florida Grand Opera and an instructor at the Miami Choral Academy. 

“It works for me and against me,” he said of his relative youth. “In the beginning stages of anyone’s career, there is a little trepidation. Do I know what I’m doing? But, it also works to my advantage being the youngest guy in the room,” especially when most of the 90 singers are at least 40 - 45 years old, many with professional musical careers ranging from 20 - 50 years. 

He cites the opportunity to offer “new perspectives from the way we’ve always done things. That’s the most dangerous phrase for any organization, particularly in the arts.” 

Karlin auditioned for the position after teaching at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, where he doubled the college choir. Education remains one of his professional priorities, especially on the faculty at the Miami Choral Academy, which introduces music to some of the city’s most underprivileged youth.

 “I love to get young people excited by music,” Karlin said, “but there is nothing like conducting a professional chorus.” 

In two seasons, Karlin has expanded the chorale’s repertoire to include pop works—the Chorale will accompany tenor Andrea Bocelli at Hard Rock Live on Valentine’s Day weekend—as well as an incredibly popular “Messiah” sing-a-long that attracted nearly 800 participants last December. 

“Master Chorale is a world-class ensemble of stellar musicians, but we are also South Florida’s voice. It’s made up of our audience members’ friends and families, their realtors and their doctors. Together, we make the experience that is the Master Chorale,” he explained. 

Tim Peterson, a chorale board member, thinks Karlin is a natural talent, “Clearly he is such a gifted musician and when you see him conduct, you recognize it immediately. I just hope we can keep him.”

When he’s not conducting or teaching, Karlin has many of the same interests as other 20-somethings: The Sailboat Bend resident loves to kayak around the Middle River and spot manatees, runs regularly, reads sci-fi and fantasy novels and also enjoys an occasional glass of wine at the Naked Grape. (“In my ongoing quest for husband material,” he says.) Oh, and he likes to tune and repair harpsichords, too, maybe not the most common hobby for most gay 28-year-olds. 

If the last two years are any indication, Karlin, who discovered the classics as a boy in Boca Raton, will be making music in South Florida for a long time to come. 

The Master Chorale will perform with Andrea Bocelli on Thursday, Feb. 12, Saturday, Feb. 14 and Sunday, Feb. 15 at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Paradise at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. Tickets are available at MyHRL.com. The chorale will also sing Carl Orff’s classic oratorio, “Carmina Burana,” Friday, Feb. 20 at First Presbyterian Church in Pompano Beach, Saturday, Feb. 21 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, and Sunday, Feb. 22 at the Wold Performing Arts Center on the campus of Lynn University in Boca Raton. For tickets and more information, go to MasterChoraleOfSouthFlorida.com.


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