Like something out of a movie, J’Nai Bridges' senior year of high school she was faced with a dilemma. A choice that would alter the course of her life, she had to decide between music or basketball.
As the caption of her basketball team, her heart was set on a career in sports. Missing an arts elective she decided to sign up for the choir. Her parents loved music and she grew up singing in church, but her teacher noticed a natural talent for classical voice and suggested that she invest in some private training. Soon she had booked her first performance, Tosca at the Tacoma Opera. Up until that point she had found a way to balance the two. Her first opera happened to take place around the time of a major basketball game. She had worked out that immediately after rehearsals she would drive herself 2 hours to the game. She made it on time but her coach was not okay with her splitting her time and decided to bench Bridges.
“That day changed my life because I was kind of forced to choose in a way… I could have kept playing but music was just more important.” Bridges said.
It was then, at that moment that Bridges jumped head first into classical voice. Slightly late in the game she began applying to music schools. Her Junior year in college she began to see herself progress rapidly. Rising up from the bottom of her class. Realizing that she had what it took to really become a classical vocalist. Although still early in her career now her name is recognized and her performances are praised.
Bridges returns to LA this season for the role of Kasturbai in the West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' Satyagraha. She prepared for this performance through a process of translating the Sanskrit text and interpreting the emotions of the character while memorizing the music. For Bridges, this performance is unlike any other.
“This Opera the whole thing is in slow motion, we have spent rehearsals just walking.”Bridges went on to say “My favorite thing [about this performance] is that there are so many people of color on stage, I am usually the only one, or maybe there is two, but because this is about Gandhi they have really done an amazing job at casting Indian people and people of color, because this took place in South Africa. They just did an amazing job at casting this.”
Her art has given her the chance to travel the world and this shows through her personal style and appreciation for food. Having gone to private school, fashion and style were an escape from the mundane uniforms. When she is not on stage sporting dramatic gowns she can be seen rocking trendy outfits and bright colors.
“My mom she has an amazing sense of fashion, she used to buy all my gowns in the very beginning, so she really helped me develop my eye and what worked for my body. I have always loved fashion and now I get to wear gowns for a living.”
As she continues to perfect her art she looks towards a bright future, hoping to collaborate with artists in different genres and merge opera into mainstream music as well as try her hand at acting. Where practice meets opportunity success will follow.
Photos by: Paulette Ely
Interview by: Paulette Ely and Niza Metoyer
Written by: Niza Metoyer