Mark Planner, 2015

Tell us a bit about your professional background.

When I began my performing career in the early 1970s, I was fortunate to have had the right kind of voice and look for the “contemporary” musicals of the day. I made my professional debut as part of the original New York production of “Godspell” in 1971, followed by my Broadway debut in the original production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1972. As you might imagine, both were amazing experiences.

At the same time I was studying singing with the brilliant Paul Gavert who somehow got the idea that I would make a good voice teacher. After a great deal of cajoling from Paul, I taught my first lesson in 1979, fell in love with the process and have been teaching ever since. Gradually, performing gave way to teaching full time.

In addition to training professionals in Manhattan, I have been on the faculty of the prestigious Hartt School of Music since 1996, training future generations of Broadway singers.

When and why did you become involved in Broadway Direct Concerts?

Among my many wonderful students in New York is Rich Flanders. When we began working together many years ago, he had recently begun singing with Broadway Concerts Direct. His love for his BCD colleagues and the concerts themselves was infectious. Knowing my performing history and the fact that I had not sung in public for many years, Rich insisted that I belonged in that group, many of whose members had a similar history. He arranged for me to meet Sarah (Rice, artistic director of BCD) and simply on the basis of Rich’s recommendation, Sarah invited me to join the group. I said “yes”, did my very first concert on February 11, 2012 and it changed my life. I will never be able to thank Rich and Sarah enough for the opportunity to rediscover my love for singing and performing.

How do you pick songs?

I tend to gravitate toward theater and pop songs from what is generally thought of as the golden age (1920-1950); songs by Berlin, Arlen and especially, Gershwin. But whatever the style or period, if I love it, I’ll sing it. At the BCD November concert, I recently had the thrill of singing Stephen Schwartz’s “Morning Glow” backed by an amazing chorus from Middletown High School and the honor of premiering a brand new song by Brad Ross and Vivien Wolsk at our holiday concert in Blooming Grove.

How do you prepare?

For several years I worked every week with a brilliant pianist named Steve Bocchino, who helped me find a jazzy spontaneity that I’d never experienced before. Since Steve’s untimely death in 2013, I have been incredibly lucky to work with accompanist, arranger, composer Brad Ross, who has helped add his unique musical touches to all of my arrangements.

What do you like about performing?

Just about everything. Period.