John Buffett


The American baritone, John Buffet [Buffett], obtained his Bachelor of Music and Master of Musice degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and has been a young artist with Utah Opera, Sarasota Opera, Opera Memphis, the Ohio Light Opera and a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Festival. John Buffett has established himself as a versatile musician specializing in repertoire from Monteverdi and J.S. Bach to Puccini and Sondheim. Buffett was praised by the Salt Lake Tribune for his “warm tone and ringing top notes.” Recent engagements include J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass (BWV 232), St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. He has sung with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony and Syracuse Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire (Director: Jeannette Sorrell), the Mark Morris Dance Group and Seraphic Fire. Equally as comfortable on the opera stage, he has sung with the Opera Companies of Utah, Sarasota, Utah Festival Opera, The Boston Early Music Festival and Eastman Opera Theater. He has worked with conductors, Robert Tweten, Christopher Larkin, Patrick Dupré Quigley, Jeannette Sorrell, Craig Jessop, Victor DeRenzi, Barbara Day Turner and Paul O’Dette. Other career highlights include appearances at the Tanglewood Music Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center.


Keeping ‘Messiah’ fresh, new and interesting

Except for a year during the pandemic, John Buffett has sung Handel’s “Messiah” multiple times every year for the past 25. But does it ever get old?

“Not at all,” says the Ohio-born, Los Angeles-based baritone who will be a featured soloist when New West Symphony presents “Messiah” on April 6 and 7.

“Everyone knows what to expect from ‘Messiah,’” he says, “and therein lies the challenge — keeping it sounding new, interesting and full of emotion. And there are so many different tempi, orchestration, tunings and ornaments that it always feels new and fresh to me.”

John Buffett’s ability to make all music sound “new and interesting” permeates everything he performs, from chant and Renaissance polyphony to opera roles and concert solos. Singing everything from Bach and Mozart to Puccini and Verdi, he also brings his warm, rich tones to 20th century masters like Vaughan Williams, Debussy and Copland, and to Hollywood studio sessions.

And while it is a life and career with its challenges as well as rewards, it is something John regards as a privilege.

“When I am working, I never feel like I am ‘working,’” he says. “There are many struggles, but once I get to rehearsal and performances, I feel at home and I realize how lucky I am. The music and the stories that it tells can be such an overwhelming experience.”

John grew up in a musical family in Akron, Ohio, serving as an eight-year-old soprano in a men’s and boys’ choir with his dad and older brother, and he also played trumpet. “As long as I can remember,” he says, “my life revolved around music.”

In 1998, the boy soprano sang solos in Monteverdi’s “Vespers” with Cleveland’s Baroque Ensemble, Apollo’s Fire. “I remember seeing and hearing the full-time professional singers and orchestra players,” John recalls, “and thinking, ‘That seems like a pretty cool way to make a living.’

“And life has come full circle,” he adds, “as I have since worked with some of those same musicians as a fellow professional adult, making my living singing.”

John earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and quickly landed roles in operatic productions throughout the country. His operatic roles include Dandini in “La Cenerentola”, Belcore in “L’elisir d’amore”, Adonis in “Venus and Adonis”, Uberto in “La Serva Padrona”, Marullo in “Rigoletto”, Wagner in “Faust”, and Figaro in “Le Nozze di Figaro.”

As a featured soloist, John sang with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Pacific Chorale, numerous symphony orchestras, and with many leading Early Music Ensembles including Apollo’s Fire, Ars Lyrica, and Bach Collegium San Diego. He also was part of the Grammy-winning recording of Mahler’s “8th Symphony” with the L.A. Master Chorale, L.A. Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel.

Having relocated to Southern California 11 years ago, John has been on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival Vocal Arts program, and he currently teaches voice at Cal State Long Beach. It is a role in which he invests himself as passionately as he does his performing.

“Ultimately, life without music would be terrible, and I think it is important to expose young people to all types of music and art,” he asserts, adding that music education doesn’t have to be just for people who want to make a career in music.

“I have taught many students who may not have pursued a career in music,” he says, “but the ability as a musician to get up in front of an audience and share their soul is an invaluable tool for life. It can help people find and express their true selves.”

Away from music, John spends time with his wife, cat, family and friends, and playing and watching sports, especially Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. “I have retired from pickup basketball,” he adds, “but I still love to run, golf and throw a ball around.”

Clearly, he still loves to sing, even a piece as familiar as “Messiah” which he calls “by far the piece that I have lived with the most in my life.”

“I think it is important for musicians and audiences alike to experience a piece like ‘Messiah,’” he says. “There is something magical in the fact that it is so familiar, but everyone brings different experiences or ideas to the table, and that’s why it is always a joy to sing.”