Charles Bruffy to receive Conservatory of Music and Dance Alumni Achievement Award
Grammy award-winning conductor Charles Bruffy (M.M. ’88) has always known music was his destiny.
“As a child, I realized I had a gift for music and began playing the piano at the very early age of about four, while my feet were still dangling from the bench. I guess I could say I have spent my whole life involved in music somehow.”
Originally from Savannah, Missouri, Bruffy graduated from Missouri Western State University with a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in piano. The call of the city drew Bruffy to Kansas City and he soon connected with the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“My desire to study with Inci Bashar made my enrollment choice at UMKC a no-brainer,” Bruffy said. “Inci Bashar was my voice teacher. It is my work with her, first turning me into a singer, that has perhaps had the biggest impact on the sound of my choirs.”
Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes 16 alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Bruffy and other outstanding alumni at the 2016 Alumni Awards Luncheon April 21 at Swinney Recreation Center. The luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted nearly 600 attendees and garnered more than $141,000 in student scholarships.
Bruffy has worked hard to become one of the most admired choral conductors in the United States. He began his career as a tenor soloist, performing with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in recordings as well as concerts in France and at Carnegie Hall. Shaw encouraged Bruffy’s development as a conductor, and in 1996 he was invited by American Public Media’s “Performance Today” to help celebrate Shaw’s 80th birthday with an on-air tribute. In 1999, The New York Times named him as the late, great conductor’s potential heir.
Bruffy’s career took an even more positive turn when he received a call from The Kansas City Chorale asking him to fill in for their tenor soloist who was ill.
“I was very available back then and boy, was I glad to have had my piano and sight-reading skills,” Bruffy said. He was asked to join the choir the next fall and, soon after, was asked to be the assistant conductor. “Living out the adage of ‘sink or swim,’ I paddled as fast as I could.”
Bruffy has been artistic director of the Kansas City Chorale since 1988 and the Phoenix Chorale since 1999, chorus director for the Kansas City Symphony Chorus since 2008 and music director at Rolling Hills Church since 1994. He conducts workshops and clinics across the U.S., including teaching at the Westminster Choir College Summer Conducting Institute since 2006.
Bruffy is renowned for his fresh and passionate interpretations of standards of the choral repertoire and for championing new music. His eclectic discography includes six recordings with Nimbus Records and seven recordings with Chandos Records. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has recognized four of these recordings with a total of nine Grammy nominations and five Grammy wins.
Bruffy describes a myriad of emotions to having a recording selected for a Grammy award – thrilling, satisfying, humbling, proud and grateful.
“It’s an incredible thing to work with such talented singers and to recognize the trust we have in each other. We just try to do our work and to bring inspiring performances to our audiences. It’s very gratifying then, to be told you’re on the right track and that your work is viable, valuable and meaningful with the stamp of approval of the Grammy awards.”
Today Bruffy is in a unique situation where he leads four very different ensembles and conducts the Independence Messiah Choir for annual performances with the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus. Bruffy also works with young conductors and other choruses. He serves on the advisory boards of the Young Singers of Callanwolde in greater Atlanta and for Women Sing near San Francisco. He also teaches every summer at the Conductor’s Institute in Westminster Choir College in Princeton.
“I am focused entirely on creating the best music possible with those singers,” Bruffy said. “I am driven by excellence in choral performance, and each of my choirs rewards me with just that: excellence and the tenacity, commitment and adventure that excellence requires.”
On a personal level, Bruffy achieved his life-long dream of owning a farm. When he’s not conducting, he’s working with his Saddlebreds and Arabians on his little corner of paradise, Passion Farm.
“My life is blessed and I seem to go from zenith to zenith. The work is incredible and the reward is in direct proportion.”