Praised by the Boston Globe for performing "with skill and directness," baritone and composer Joel Balzun is establishing himself as a mature new voice in the future of music. His multi-faceted career has led him to work with some of the world’s most respected musicians and ensembles.
A recent recipient of the Raphael Bundage Young Artist Award from the Orpheus National Vocal Competition, Mr. Balzun has appeared successfully on both the operatic and concert stages. Since his professional debut in 2011 in Peter Michael von der Nahmer's award winning opera, El canguro with the California International Theatre Festival, Mr. Balzun made his solo debut at the Kennedy Centre in 2014, singing excerpts from Turandot. Highlights of the upcoming 2016-2017 season include his return to Pacific Opera Project for The Rake's Progress and Abduction from the Seraglio, as well as debuts with Independent Opera Company as "Albert" (Werther), and Capitol Opera as "Belcore" (L'elisir d'amore). He also has recital and concert appearances throughout Southern California featuring Robert Denham's Sutter Creek, as well as Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Biola Symphony Orchestra. This summer, he looks forward to singing the titular role of "Joseph De Rocher" (Dead Man Walking) with Miami Music Festival, where he will work with the opera's composer Jake Heggie, and "Prince Yeletskiy" (Pikovaya Dama) with Russian Opera Workshop.
As a 2016 fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Mr. Balzun sang alongside Stephanie Blythe in a concert of American song, and Dawn Upshaw and Sanford Sylvan in Shostakovich's brooding Symphony No. 14. Other past appearances include the title role in Don Giovanni, the Four Villains in Les contes d'Hoffmann, "Dr. Malatesta" (Don Pasquale), "Valentin" (Faust), "Sid" (Albert Herring), "Le gaoler" and "Marquis de la Force" (Dialogues of the Carmelites), "John Brooke" (Little Women, M. Adamo), "Cascada" (The Merry Widow), and "Count Ceprano" and "Marullo" (Rigoletto). On the concert stage, Mr. Balzun has been a featured soloist in Copland's Old American Songs, Dvořák’s Te Deum, Fauré's Requiem, Haydn's The Creation, Peter Maxwell Davies' virtuosic Eight Songs for a Mad King, and numerous cantatas of Bach. His acclaimed performance of Bach's Johannes-Passion with the Rochester Bach Festival was recently broadcast multiple times across the United States.
Also an accomplished composer, Mr. Balzun's “haunting and beautiful” music has received international recognition. In 2014, he was named a finalist for the prestigious ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Awards. Other accolades include winning the Dallas Wind Symphony’s 9th annual “Call for Fanfares”, as well as winning first prize in the Classical Marimba League International Composition Competition. In 2010, Mr. Balzun was also a prize-winner in the National Broadcast Orchestra’s Galaxie Rising Star Composers’ Competition, winning both the Young Composers Prize and the Grand Prize. In 2012, he was the youngest composer invited to participate in the Art Song Lab through the Vancouver International Song Institute. He was a guest presenter and composer at the CBDNA 2013 National Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, as well as the 2014 CFAMC National Conference, where he was also a featured soloist.
Praised as “a composer to watch” by the Calgary Herald, Mr. Balzun has been the recipient of numerous commissions. His music has been performed across Canada, the United States, and Costa Rica, by ensembles such as Alberta Winds, Calgary Civic Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, CCM Wind Orchestra, Dallas Wind Symphony, the National Broadcast Orchestra of Canada, La Orquestra Vientos de Costa Rica, and Windago. Additional performances include those by Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Standing Wave Ensemble, and such luminary soloists as Corey Hamm and Richard Zeller. His music has been broadcast on CBC Radio 2 and Espace Musique. A selection of Mr. Balzun’s music is currently published by C. Alan Publications and Lovebird Music. He is an active member of ASCAP, CFAMC and SOCAN.
Mr. Balzun studied Music Composition and Vocal Performance at University of Calgary, Biola University, and the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his Master's degree under the tutelage of Jan Opalach and Benton Hess. At Eastman, he was the only Master's student awarded an applied teaching assistantship for secondary voice lessons; he was subsequently nominated for the Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching. He has studied composition with Robert Denham, David Eagle, Laurie Radford, and Christopher Wills; and voice with Reid Bruton, William Lock, Michelle Minke, and Richard Zeller. He has had the opportunity to augment his vocal studies through masterclasses with such artists as Andrew Eggert, Renée Fleming, Thomas Glenn, Ricky Ian Gordon, Vittorio Grigòlo, Catherine Robbin, Alan Smith, and Sanford Sylvan. Mr. Balzun currently serves on the voice faculties of Biola University and Fullerton College. In addition to teaching voice lessons at both institutions, Mr. Balzun serves as the vocal coach and rehearsal pianist for Biola Opera at Biola University, where he also teaches and directs the Opera Scenes Workshop.