Bryan Taylor, a 1980 graduate of Steelville High School, left his hometown more than 30 years ago to pursue a career in music and that journey has led him down many paths, including one that brought him into a Kansas City choir that was nominated for two Grammy Awards. He and the KC Chorale won the Best Choral Performance Grammy today as well as the Best Engineered Album, Classical. The albums producer also won for Producer of the Year, Classical.
After graduating from William Jewell College with a Music Education degree, Taylor went on complete a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. He taught choral music for 15 years in Karney, Mo., and during that time, Taylor was singing on the side. During one of his rehearsals, nationally acclaimed choral director Charles Bruffy visited one of Taylor’s performances.
“He came to a rehearsal and heard my solo work,” Bryan said. “Afterwards, he invited me to audition with the Kansas City Chorale, and I’ve been singing with them ever since.”
Bruffy is also the conductor of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus made of 150 voices. “His newest concert is one of the most remarkable in the world,” said Taylor. “It is only a couple of years old and has gotten a lot of press. He also conducts the Phoenix Chorale, which is similar to the choir that I am a part of, and they won a Grammy last year.”
The Kansas City Chorale is a 24-voice professional choir based in Kansas City and is currently it its 30th season. The choir was formed for a doctorate program full of choral enthusiasts. Three decades later, the choir is one of the most recognized a cappella groups in the nation.
Taylor joined the Kansas City Chorale in 1992. He has been a part of the choir, singing baritone, for 21 years. During this time, he has been a vocal part of nine CDs and has performed in notable places including Carnagie Hall in New York, the Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., and South Korea.
“We are getting a lot of recognition, and we can’t keep our CDs on the shelf here,” Taylor said. “They’re selling quickly.”
The Kansas City Chorale is currently up for two Grammy awards after being nominated for Best Choral Performance on CD for their song and Best Engineered Album-Classical. Taylor is part of two tracks on the “Life and Breath” CD: Prayer and A New Creation: Set me as a seal. Both tracks can be previewed by visiting the Kansas City Chorale’s website at www.kcchorale.org.
“There is timing in all of this in order to get nominated (for a Grammy), and you have to be recorded at a certain time of year,” said Taylor. “There is a panel of voters, just like in the Oscars, who nominate you. Nominations are up for vote, and there is an entire nation of Grammy members who have a vote. February 10 is the (presentation), and it will all be televised, but you will mainly see the more popular performers on television. You generally don’t see us, but those awards will be announcement down below on the highlight reel. It is a really big deal—as big as it gets.”
Taylor fondly remembers his ties to the Steelville community and the many influences he has here. “When I come home, it’s a sentimental journey for me,” he said.
A huge musical influence for Taylor was Manford and Nancy Rhea, church music directors at First Baptist Church of Steelville. “If it wasn’t for them, I would not have done any of this,” Taylor said. “They were my musical angels. Both of them were very devoted to helping me get my musical training in high school, including private training in voice and piano. I owe them so much.”
Taylor’s nephew, Matthew Gladden, has also been a part of the Chorale for about four years and has a solo on the “Life and Breath” CD. “I am really proud of that,” he added.
Taylor is the son of the late Elaine and Jim Taylor, former owners of Elaine’s Flowers in Steelville. He lives in Liberty, Mo. with his wife Lanette (Mills), also a Steelville High School graduate. They have three children: Lauren, Renee, and Caleb. In addition to singing in the Chorale, Taylor conducts the Liberty United Methodist Church choir and started the Liberty Community Chorus.
Even at 50 years old, Taylor’s love for choral music is stronger than ever before. “I still have a great voice with great health,” Taylor explained. “One of the things we focus on is helping with the voice. As long as my voice and schedule hold out, I’m going to keep it up as long as I can. It is stimulating to me and keeps me healthy. It’s not about the glitter. It’s about performing the best you can.”
The Kansas City Chorale will be singing at the St. Louis Basilica on April 6. For more information, visit the Kansas City Chorale’s website at www.kcchorale.org.