Justin Birchell is an Alaska-grown musician and educator. For many years, he was passionately active in Anchorage’s performing arts scene. Birchell was the primary music director and singing teacher at TBA Theatre, Inc, an educational arts nonprofit, from 2008 until 2011. He music-directed TBA’s mainstage production of The Sound of Music and composed the live original backing score for TBA’s cirque nouveau spectacle Illusions: Wild Things, among many other projects there. From 2011-2013, Justin served as the choir director at Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, for whom he also composed a number of original choral works. In 2012, he presented the workshop World Music as a Window on the Human Spirit to the Pacific Northwest District Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. As an educator, Birchell also presented workshops, masterclasses, and guest lectures for Anchorage Community Theatre, Palmer Arts Council, Anchorage School District, Mat-Su Borough School District, and UAA. In 2011-2012 Justin was the head Drama, Debate and Forensics coach at West Anchorage High School.
Birchell was also an involved theatre actor during his years in Anchorage, performing with Scared Scriptless Improv Comedy, with whom he was a troupe member from 2008-2010. Favorite roles in musical theatre included LM in Anchorage Community Theatre’s production of Pump Boys and Dinettes, a country-western musical revue, and King in Cyrano’s Bark! A Doggy Musical, for which role the Anchorage Daily News stated, “Birchell, possessed of a particularly fine baritone, sang of his coming death in a way that moistened every eye in the house,” and Anchorage Press wrote, “Birchell’s deep baritone rocks the house.”
Justin is also a passionate lover of wilderness and from 2013-2016 left aside all participation in the performing arts to work in the remote wilderness camp/tour lodge at Coldfoot, 65 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska’s Brooks Range.
As an opera performer, Justin began his career in Anchorage Opera’s chorus in 2005. Along with many chorister engagements, Justin has sung the role of Sacristan in Anchorage Opera’s 2013 Tosca, of which Anchorage Daily News wrote, “Justin Birchell’s Sacristan deserves special mention…it was a pleasure to hear Birchell sing full-voice in a big space.” Other notable opera roles include Figaro in UAA Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro (2008), and Dr. Falke and Herr Frank in Portland State University’s Die Fledermaus (2016).
Birchell is currently blessed to be studying voice and opera at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music under the tutelage of acclaimed director Peter Kazaras and voice teacher Michael Dean. Through Opera UCLA, this spring Birchell will be co-creating two roles in world premieres of new one-act operas, the Emperor in Nicky Sohn’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, and Avraham in Michel Klein’s Akeidah. In May, Justin will be singing Chris the Citizen in Opera UCLA’s production of The Mother of Us All by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein. Justin is still active as a composer; his original song-cycle Three Nocturnes – Words of the Night will be premiered this June by soprano Stephanie Deprez and pianist Victoria Kirsch.