The Hernando-cultivated opera star wins her first Grammy.
At this year’s Grammys, a former Hernando County resident took the stage and won the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. The honor went to Zachary James, whom Playbill called “a Broadway alum” when they honored him and his castmates for winning opera’s top honor for ‘Philip Glass’ Akhnaten “, a modern opera. And before singing and dancing in the Broadway spotlight, James grew up in Spring Hill and graduated from Springstead High School.
Zachary James shared: “At the Grammys, I was on the red carpet, standing next to Joni Mitchell. Then I was in the theater, I saw people like Lady Gaga and I was in a room with people who had dedicated their lives to music. Then I was in my shoes, not quite believing what I was hearing as they called our names. Although this marked James’ first Grammy win, he was named BroadwayWorld Singer and Performer of the Decade 2010-2020, Opera Artist of the Year 2019 by Verismo Magazine, Most Innovative Opera Singer of 2019 by The Classical Post, and he was named an Official Ambassador from Opera America.
And whether he’s playing Abraham Lincoln in “The Perfect American” or Lurch in the Broadway musical version of “The Addams Family,” James finds true happiness and contentment in the power of his bass voice. He has a lifelong love for music and the theatrical arts. James said: “The first time I sang it didn’t sound like my voice. It was like something was going through me. It was Pam Surbaugh, once a music educator at JD Floyd Elementary, who first identified this award-winning voice. James shared, “I started singing in elementary school, when my teacher heard my voice and asked me to do a solo from Michael Jackson’s Heal the World.” James comes from a musical line; His father Frederick Poholek is a recording artist and guitar teacher who still resides in Spring Hill. “I started playing the piano at age 3,” James said. “I was quite a shy and quiet child, looking for some form of self-expression.”
James continued his musical education at Powell Middle School, then found additional mentors in Springstead High School music teachers Richard Dasher and Mark Pennington. As a drum major in the Springstead Marching Band under Dasher, he learned the intricacies of musical theater from Pennington and appeared on stage at Springstead High in productions such as “Grease” and “Once Upon a Mattress”. . James shared, “I love the costumes, the expression and the creativity of musical theater and performance.”
And his instructors loved James’ contributions to their class productions. Richard Dasher said: “Zack was a talented leader and student in his days at Springstead. His father is a musician, and I thought he would become a professional musician, but I thought it would be as a percussionist. He was my drum major in 1998.” Then Mark Pennington shared, “Zachary graduated in 2000. He was an outstanding student of band and choir. He participated in shows like “Grease” and “A Christmas Carol”. One of the most determined and dedicated young men I have had the pleasure of teaching in 30 years.
Today, James credits his artistic upbringing with shaping and developing his talents. He said, “Arts education is everything. It was the gentle influence of my teachers that led to my success. A success that now spans nearly two decades. “I really loved acting and I thought, ‘I’m going to try this, and see if I can do it.’ And this marks my 19th year in the business,” he said. He also cites the positive influence of comedic superstar Nathan Lane, who he says gave him valuable advice and guidance during production. from the musical ‘The Addams Family’ He has also appeared in major productions such as ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, ‘Don Giovanni’, ‘Man of La Mancha’ and many others. He has also had acting roles on TV shows such as “30 Rock” and “Murphy Brown.” He has performed at the Tony Awards, Macy’s Parade, and on David Letterman.
In the Grammy Award-winning opera ‘Philip Glass’ Akhnaton, he plays Amenhotep III, Akhnaton’s father, in a three-act opera based on the life of an Egyptian pharaoh. James is set to reprise the role on May 19 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He will then perform in “The Pirates of Penzance” from July 7 to 10 at the Cincinnati Opera, “Edward Tulane” from October 8 to 16 at the Minnesota Opera and “Tosca” at the LA Opera from November 19. In the meantime, James is relishing his 2022 Grammy win. He said, “The feeling is out of this world. It’s a dream come true.