March 29, 2016 | Lizzie McIntosh for The Daily Mississippian
Every time Brady Bramlett steps to the mound, he drops his head and takes a deep breath before winding up to pitch. When Bramlett takes the stage at a choir concert, he prepares himself in a similar fashion— with the drop of his head and a simple breath.
Bramlett has always had a routine. The night before he pitches a game, he shaves his beard and watches Frozen. The day of the game, he showers twice and brushes his teeth twice and checks off a long list of superstitious habits.
At the age of 7, Bramlett started playing T-ball at the same time he started singing in his church choir. The rest of his life followed the same pattern— a coexistence on the stage and the mound.
In addition to starting at pitcher for Ole Miss, Bramlett sings in the university’s Concert Singers, Men’s Glee, and University Chorus groups.
On Monday night, the UM Living Music Resource hosted a fundraiser, “He’s Got Great Pitch,” to highlight similarities between the worlds of sports and music, with Bramlett as the featured performer.
Bramlett was selected to the University of Mississippi’s 2015-16 Hall of Fame earlier this month, which honors students for outstanding accomplishments, academic excellence and community service. Bramlett is the second student-athlete to ever be inducted into the UM Hall of Fame.
Nancy Maria Balach, director of Living Music Resource and associate professor of music, explained that Bramlett approached her with the idea of an event to bridge the gap between athletics and singing on campus.
“The point of this event is to bring music to people where they are,” Balach said. “People are coming to this event who would not normally attend a choir concert. We hope that this night will bring attention to the similarities between baseball and singing, instead of focusing on their differences.”
Living Music Resource is an online video library of interviews with guests with a variety of experience in vocal music. Balach launched the website in 2013 and began filming and streaming its live interviews, also known as “beats”, in March 2014.
The event started with a welcome from Balach and a performance of the national anthem by students from the choral music department. Balach said this would be the first of multiple events by Living Music Resource. The planning of this specific event started in December as a collaboration between the sports and music departments.
The anthem was followed by a video featuring interviews from Bramlett’s parents, head coach Mike Bianco, music professors and teammates Errol Robinson and Matt Denny. Bramlett performed a series of songs before finishing the concert around 7:15, when guests moved toward the buffet dinner. The remainder of the night included musical offerings by students and faculty of the UM Department of Music.
Bramlett is a rare breed in a time when specialization is expected. He shared a story about a boy at his church coming up to him and telling him he took up singing because of Bramlett. He said he hopes kids who want to be a part of both music and sports will feel encouraged by his story.
“Today, society asks kids to choose between sports and music at a young age,” Balach said. “Why do they have to pick? Society needs to embrace variety. Brady is the perfect person to show how much those arenas have in common.”
At 6 feet 4 inches and 250 pounds, Bramlett towered on stage, but sang with a voice that didn’t match his stature. Bramlett is known for singing in a countertenor voice, a rare tone of male singing that matches the range of a female soprano voice.
After singing a Handel piece entirely in a countertenor range, Bramlett said this type of singing dates back to the golden era of classical music when men sang all roles in performances—including the female parts. Bramlett joked about the high pitch of his singing.
“I’m sure some of y’all are glad that is over,” Bramlett said.
Bramlett discussed his ability to divide his personality on and off the mound. He described himself as energetic and yelling on the mound, but other times more reserved. Bramlett has also found a way to divide himself between the two worlds he lives in.
“It’s funny,” Bramlett said. “The field and the music building are next to each other on campus. They are separate worlds, but for me they have the same mindset.”
Balach said singing and baseball both require teamwork, focus and discipline. She said classical singers are athletes of their own kind. Both arenas require timing, rhythm and centered breathing.
Bramlett’s mother, Amy Bramlett, said Bramlett has always had a mutual love for baseball and singing which can be directly traced from her and her husband.
“I love singing,” Amy said. “I’m the singer and his dad is the baseball player.”
Bramlett’s mother said music was her son’s saving grace when he had a superior labral tear from the anterior to posterior in his shoulder in April 2013.
“He hates being stagnant,” Amy said. “Singing kept his sanity when he was injured.”
Throughout his recovery, Bramlett made choir his new prerogative. He said during that time, he made every rehearsal and sang in every song. Not feeling worthy of the baseball field during his injury, he found a new home in the choir department.
“I found people who weren’t a part of my every day before then,” Bramlett said. “I was able to compartmentalize baseball and singing. The practice room and the baseball field.”
Music Professor Bradley Robinson found a way to help Bramlett incorporate what he learned in baseball into the world of singing. He used the fluidity of pitching to help him train in the fluidity of singing.
In the video, Robinson said athletes are easier to train to sing in a way that others are not. When training to sing, musicians have to focus on developing muscles and routine in the same way athletes do.
“Athletes understand process,” Robinson said. “They understand it is not instant gratification like the world wants.”
Coach Mike Bianco mentioned the NCAA commercials where college athletes are referenced for going pro in something other than sports.
“Bramlett will probably have the option to go pro in several things,” Bianco said in the video. “He will be able to sing much longer than he will be able to throw a baseball.”
Unknowingly, Bramlett has connected two different worlds on campus and broken stereotypes along the way.
“I never paid attention to the branding that comes with being a ‘choir boy’,” Bramlett said. “Breaking stereotypes wasn’t a direct priority of mine, but an added benefit.”