Donald Braswell II
Donald Braswell II is a classical crossover tenor/composer/actor who is best known for his appearance on America’s Got Talent (he was a Top 5 finalist). A feat which is rather impressive considering he suffered a car accident in 2005 and was left unable to speak for nearly two years. Braswell is a graduate of the Juilliard School. He performs in various genres including classical, soul, and mainstream pop. Donald sings in several languages aside from English, including Spanish,Italian, Neapolitan, French and Russian. His most recent album is titled We Fall and We Rise Again. He can be found working alongside other truly talented artists in the Tim Janis: An American Christmas Carol at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 2nd (which is also a benefit for Little Sisters of the Poor).
Maximum Ink: What was your childhood in Texas like?
Donald Braswell: I had a very good childhood. We grew up in the country just south of my hometown Boerne. It was a simple life full of country values. We were not poor but we were not wealthy either though many thought we were in a community where most had very little at that time.
MI: How does someone from Texas become interested in the classical genre as you have?
DB: My father was a business man in the highway construction business. Prior to settling in Texas he and my mother had careers in the performing arts as professionals in NY. They actually met in the original Broadway cast of “Fanny”. They soon began dating and the rest is history. They decided as their family grew that it was becoming difficult to focus on the needs of a family in NY among all the showbiz craziness so they moved back to Texas and my father went to work for my grandfather and eventually took that company over. They stayed active in performing arts in Texas and so we were exposed to the arts growing up and most music in my house as a child was classical.
MI: Do you ever miss acting?
DB: I don’t think you ever stop. I still do a lot of television commercials and am always looking at possibilities to use those skills.
MI: You and your wife Julie met when you where 11 and have been in love since you where 15. She encouraged you to attend Julliard I believe? What is it like to be married to someone who has known you for most of you life (must be very..comforting)? Do you think any of this would have been possible without her?
DB: Absolutely not! She has been so to speak “The wind beneath my wings”.
MI: Do your children enjoy having the chance to see you at work? Do they share your love of music? How do you think your outlook on life has changed since becoming a father?
DB: My children are very artistic both in performance art and in visual art as well as writing. I have had them as performers in many of my shows especially in raising money for the homeless through concerts. My children have allowed me to be humble and balanced as an artist. One can easily fall into the trap of believing they are special some how when they have success as an artist but with children comes the reminder that being responsible toward the life and growth of another always keeps your footing on the ground and shows you what truly important things are. A family needs that balance. It helps you stay centered.
MI:. If you don’t mind my asking what was running through your mind right after your accident occurred?
DB: Am I bleeding? Should I move? Can I move? What just happened? That was pretty much it.
MI: Did you find it frustrating to not be able to speak for such an extended period of time? What did that experience teach you?
DB: It was terrifying but we are so much more than we think we are and we are capable of so much more than we are doing. Our gifts are not for us. They are for something that can improve the world for others or the world itself. Mine was put on hold so I could realize that. I thought it was for me and all the things I wanted and would gain from it. True success comes from giving of yourself for something greater than you are. This is what I learned from silence and once I understood this the sound came back.
MI: What did it feel like to sing for the first time after that ordeal?
DB: Once again it was terrifying, because now I had to make it mean something the second time around and I was worried as to whether I was worthy of that responsibility. It was also exhilarating and also more important than it had been before because with it I could make a difference or hope to.
MI: What advice would you offer others who are struggling for whatever reason in simply getting through the rough times?
DB: I am strong in my belief of things greater than myself. I am strong in my belief of God and the involvement of God in our lives. My beliefs mean nothing to those who cannot share them so regardless though, of people’s beliefs, life is precious, no matter what one thinks, and we cannot serve anything, each other, God, ourselves, the betterment of the world, if we quit. Life is precious in every form and this incredible vessel, the human body is capable of remarkable things. It can heal in ways medical science cannot explain. But it can never heal if one does not try. Others will tell you the odds are bad but every day you try you change the odds until one day there are no odds.
MI: Did you enjoy working on America’s Got Talent?
DB: Yes, it was a very fulfilling experience and I met some incredible people. What I loved most about the show was that no matter what someone’s talent was they were so focused as people to impact something through this thing that had been part of them their entire life. It was beautiful watching people grow through it.
MI: Can you tell our readers a little about the Tim Janis event coming up at Carnegie Hall? Are you excited to be playing there? What is it like to work with the other cast members and Tim?
DB: First, Tim could be, and I believe he is, one of the most if not the most important composers for the American Classical and Inspirational genres that we have ever had in the world. I’m hoping he will write me an opera. Hint hint Tim. Tim as a man is very humble but as an artist vibrant like a fireworks display. He creates that chill factor that all of us love when we hear great music. He is true to his art and the integrity of the art itself for its pure preservation and he is true to the artists that have the great privilege of performing his music or in his concerts. He is the real deal. His original compositions are comparable to the greatest composers in history from both sides of the Atlantic. Carnegie Hall is a perfect match to the integrity of Tim and his music. It is the natural home for an artist and orchestrator of his capacity. Being able to be at Carnegie for me is overwhelming unto itself but match that to an artist as important to our industry and the improvement of the arts, as Tim is and I have for whatever reason won the lottery as have all the artists he has graced with this opportunity.
MI: Why do you think it is so important for those that have to give to those who don’t?
DB: As a species we are strong when we gather. I don’t believe that we must just give. We must also teach. While we are giving those that don’t have can be taught how to be part of that that makes up the whole. Then we all benefit in that movement forward together. Some of us are weaker or less adaptable but through diligence they can be a part that can benefit them and help others. It starts with giving but it does not end there. Most people claim they don’t have the time or the means but this is the laziness of humanity or the fear of getting involved. And for those with severe physical and mental illness, life is precious, in all forms and we must care for them. Reward comes from this.
MI: What projects are you looking forward to next?
DB: I am working on two CDs and continuing to try the best I can to get people to be proactive in their own live in helping others with struggles and to continue performing as long as God allows me to.
MI: Anything you’d like to say to your fans in closing?
DB: I love you, you are the reason I have a reason.
Donald Braswell II
CD: We Fall and We Rise Again Record Label: Braswell/Bazzani Music Group
• Purchase We Fall and We Rise Again on Amazon
• Download We Fall and We Rise Again on Amazon