Penn Live Arts Blog

5 Questions with Meg Bragle

Posted October 20, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Early Music Special Features

Photo by Tatiana Daubek
Discover more about Annenberg Center artists and others whom we find interesting in only five questions. Mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle returns to our stage on November 15 alongside lutenist Richard Stone, co-director of Philadelphia’s Tempesta di Mare. Meg also happens to be a Penn Department of Music Artist-in-Residence and we are thrilled to welcome her to our stage for an evening of music by Purcell, Dowland, Encina and other beloved early music composers. But first, read on to learn more about Meg and how she grew up with impactful music experiences.

What first got you into music?

I started playing the violin when I was three years old. I had a kind and elegant Suzuki teacher, Peg Pashler, who I loved. I didn't love to practice (I was three!!) but I did love our group classes on Saturday. The whole studio stood in a circle and played together starting with the easiest pieces. As the music got harder, the older kids kept playing and you sat down in your place and listened. It was pretty great being surrounded by the music and other kids playing.

What is your earliest memory of hearing music?

I've thought about this a lot, but I don't think I can remember anything specific so it might be better to say I can't remember NOT hearing music. As a matter of fact, when my mom was pregnant with me, she was in the chorus for Mahler's Symphony No. 2 with Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra in its summer season in Saratoga, NY. I still love the Philadelphia sound!

What inspires you to create/perform music?

Too many things to mention. Making music has always felt like a gift, and it feels particularly precious these days. The times when we can take notes on a page and create a living moment for the performers and the audience...that is a privilege and a wonder every time it happens.  

Who are your biggest influences?

As a young musician, I loved Itzhak Perelman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Leonard Bernstein. Nathan Milstein's recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin was a revelation and so was Elmar Oliveira's recording of the Barber Violin Concerto. Once I started studying singing, I listened to Frederica von Stade, Jessye Norman, Jan DeGaetani, Dawn Upshaw, Kathleen Battle, Maureen Forrester and Kathleen Ferrier. For non-classical artists, I always loved Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. Once I discovered baroque music, Emma Kirkby, Anne Sofie von Otter, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt and John Eliot Gardiner shaped my early understanding of the style and sound. I could go on and on...

What role does the musician have in today’s world?

I often think of the phrase that is written on the main stage at Interlochen Arts Camp: "Dedicated to the promotion of world friendship through the universal language of the arts." I believe in that statement and saw it in action when I attended the camp in high school. There were kids from around the world as well as the U.S. and we came together through our love of music. Through those shared experiences, deep friendships and meaningful connections were created. That experience and sentiment returns to me time and time again either in rehearsal or performance, in doing outreach programs in schools, or these days, over Zoom. I think musicians (and artists more broadly) play a crucial role in bridging the distance between people and ideas.

Bonus Question: Do you have a lucky ritual or object that inspires you?

I have a little sea otter figure that my son gave me a few years ago to help "miss him less" when I'm on the road. He's either next to the bed in the hotel room or on the dressing table at the hall. It's my lucky charm. 🙂

Bonus Question: Do you sing in the shower?

All the time! Great acoustics...