That Brighton Thomas is establishing a successful career in music should surprise no one who watched her grow up in Burbank, and hearing her sing nearly as often as she spoke.
But that, at age 23, this engaging singer-composer should have not just an affinity but a love for the standards that comprise the Great American Songbook — some of which she’ll be singing at New West Symphony’s “Masters of Melody” concerts October 1 and 2 — may surprise, well, almost anyone.
Not those, however, who have recognized and nurtured this striking young talent, like the members of her arts and music-loving family.
“The Great American Songbook is what my grandfather raised me on,” says Brighton. “Today, I find a very nostalgic element to these songs because it reminds me of spending time with my grandparents. The fact that I started training classically at age 7 has given me a strong technical background. And singing the music of the Great American Songbook requires a lot of that technique; it requires shaping the vocal in a particular way. That influence has steered me in the right direction as I develop musically.”
An only child, Brighton grew up “in a family full of creative artists,” including an uncle who composed music and a grandfather who was a radio DJ. But she was drawn to music by more than family influence.
“As long as I‘ve talked, I’ve loved to tell stories,” she says, smiling. “I’ve been performing all of my life, it seems, and music is my favorite medium for telling stories. When I hear stories with music, that’s when it feels the most meaningful to me.”
Besides her vocal training, Brighton also played piano and attended John Burroughs High School in Burbank, long recognized for having an outstanding youth music program — “a great experience,” she says.
During her junior year in 2016, her ability and affinity for singing standards enabled her to win a competition sponsored by Michael Feinstein’s Songbook Academy. It earned her the title of Youth Ambassador for the Academy, enabling her to spend a year touring the U.S. performing American classics.
“So this music has always been special to me,” she says. “And as a composer, I’ve learned some important lessons from older music, like less is more. Because there is a real beauty in classic sounds.”
As a high school senior, Brighton was a Grand Prize finalist in the non-classical voice division of the Music Center Spotlight Program. She continued her music education at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute, studying studio recording and audio engineering, and has since performed at the Pantages Theater and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and sung for music legend Dionne Warwick.
And she is excited to perform three “Songbook” standards at NWS’ “Masters of Melody” concerts October 1 and 2: Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” George and Ira Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm,” and W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.” She will also participate with Michael Christie, NWS Music Director and Conductor, for “Intermission Insights” at both shows.
Currently, Brighton is working on her first original EP, with five songs she composed, and she hopes to release it by the end of the year. Between musical engagements, she engages in two of her favorite passions: seeing live music performed and working with youth as a substitute teacher.
She’s also learning to play the guitar, an enterprise she calls “challenging, but it opens up a whole new language, another way of expressing myself.”
Her “life’s dream,” she adds, is to be a commercial recording artist and touring musician. “As long as I can make sounds,” she says, “I want to make music, perform as much as I can, and get my music into the world.”