Young Singer Has a Wide Range
February 2, 2005
By David Nicholson
Josh Groban was little more than a blip on the pop radar screen in October 2000 when he appeared with Sarah Brightman at Norfolk Scope. Still, when the then-19-year-old mop-headed singer joined the Broadway superstar for "There For Me," his tender yet powerful baritone showed plenty of promise.
Who could have predicted the kind of international stardom that Groban is basking in today? When tickets went on sale Dec. 4 for his appearance on Saturday, again in Norfolk Scope, they sold out in half an hour.
Groban's early decision to pursue a career that straddles pop and classical music dovetails beautifully with the crossover phenomenon currently happening in these two worlds and the rise in popularity of world music.
"When I was growing up, my parents introduced me to a lot of styles, so I was influenced by a range of genres and by people who decided not to settle into just one thing ..." Groban told Interview magazine last year. "I trained my voice classically, but the influence of all those other styles was there."
His smart blend of romantic ballads sung in English, Spanish and Italian fits his warm, passionate delivery. And movie cuts such as "Believe" from "The Polar Express" and "Remember Me" from "Troy" have introduced him to millions of listeners.
Groban's talent has been helped by a few lucky career breaks as well. Born in February 1981 in Los Angeles, he sang as a kid, wrote lyrics and played piano, but became serious about studying music while attending the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan as a teenager.
He studied with Seth Riggs, a California vocal coach who has worked with such other performers as Michael Bolton, Michael Jackson and Bernadette Peters. Riggs introduced him to record producer David Foster. When Foster was looking for a singer to perform at California Gov. Gray Davis' inauguration in January 1999, he heard a tape of Groban and signed up the young singer. Groban was 17 at the time and attending the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
His big break came when Foster asked him to fill in for Andrea Bocelli at dress rehearsals for the 1999 Grammy Awards. There he sang "The Prayer" with Celine Dion. Bocelli made it to the actual awards ceremony, but Groban caught the attention of Grammy host Rosie O'Donnell. She called him "opera boy" and invited him to appear on her show.
By that time, Groban had enrolled in the theater program at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. Later, when Warner Brothers offered him a record deal, he chose not to return to school.
While performing at an entertainment industry function in 2001, Groban was spotted by television producer David E. Kelley. He was cast in "Ally McBeal" as Malcolm Wyatt, a high schooler who sues a fellow student after she reneges on being his prom date. Groban has said in interviews that he'd like to do more acting in the future.
For now, an active touring and recording career keeps him busy. "Closer," his 2003 release that contains the popular single, "You Raise Me Up," sold more than 2.5 million copies last year. His latest release, "Josh Groban: Live at the Greek," was recorded at the Greek Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.
At Saturday's concert, Groban will perform with the orchestra that tours with the show. At least one number will feature the gospel choir of New Calvary Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. Smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti will open the show.