Young singer from Germantown to take center stage at Kimmel Center gala honoring James Earl Jones

Monday night’s Marian Anderson Award Gala Performance has assembled world-class talent to honor this year’s recipient, James Earl Jones.

However, one of the highlights amongst the gathered performers is 18-year-old Christian Eason, a singer originally from the city’s Germantown neighborhood.

Eason will take the same stage as The Philadelphia Orchestra and one of his idols.

“Lawrence Brownlee is someone I really look up to,” Eason said of the operatic tenor during an interview Friday. “I’m really excited to meet [Brownlee], as well as James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and [event host] Terrence Howard.”

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Anxious for Monday

There was a hint of nervous anticipation in Eason’s voice as he mentioned how he’s only put in “about a month and a half to two months” of practice.

Still, gearing up for the Marian Anderson Award Gala is just part of a heavy practice routine to which he has become accustomed.

“I have a lesson every Sunday, and that’s usually an hour; sometimes we go over time. I’m practicing every day,” he said. “I have tons of choir, so I’m basically singing every day. And at home I’m practicing for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

“I can’t practice as much as if I was a violinist or pianist, because the vocal chords, it’s a sensitive instrument. I can’t really stress it out as much.”

A solid support system

Monday night’s gala, featuring Eason’s performance of “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, will offer a chance to showcase what Marian Anderson Award has done for young, aspiring Philadelphian artists, by providing more than $500,000 in programs, residencies, commissions and grants.

“I received [the grant] last year, and I received it again in 2012,” the young singer said. “I’ve used my grant specifically for paying off my vocal lessons. When I first started, I was with Settlement Music School so I had to pay a fee. … I also used the grant towards transportation to and from my lessons, as well as vocal scores, sheet music, and just different necessities to help out with singing and my vocal lessons.”

Eason won’t be without a familiar ally for his performance; his accompanist is his cousin, Jason Rodgers.

“I have other people that I always practice with, but it’s pretty comfortable being with him because I know him, I practice with him a lot, and I grew up around him,” he said. “I know what he’s capable of, and I know that he’s capable of following me, you know? We trust each other.”

As a side note, he added that he “will be wearing a tuxedo that I’m going to pay for with the grant money.”

The Award Gala, to be held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, starts at 8:30 p.m. Monday. Jones is being honored for his contributions to stage, film and television.

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