The American soprano, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, began studying the piano at age three. She enrolled in Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, studying piano, organ, voice and violin, already showing a predilection for twelve-tone music (1963-1965). She received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia in 1995. At the behest of Gunther Schuller she turned to vocal studies, first attending the Tanglewood Summer Music Festival (1964-1967); then she transferred to Syracuse University, studying voice with Helen Boatwright, completing her Bachelor of Music Degree in 1967 and Master of Music Degree in Voice in 1969.
Phyllis Bryn-Julson made her debut in 1966 in Alban Berg's Lulu Suite, with Erich Leinsdorf (an early mentor) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston, Providence, RI, and Carnegie Hall in New York. She ultimately sang with this orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra dozens of times.She made her opera debut in the 1976 world premiere of Roger Sessions' Montezuma in the lead role of Malinche. She made her highly successful debut at the proms in London the following year, again in a modern work, this time Henze's The Raft of Medusa. Later at Covent Garden, she performed in both Le Rossignol by Igor Stravinsky, and L'Enfant et les Sortileges, by Ravel. She has performed the role of Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito several times in Germany as well as at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York with conductor Raymond Leppard. At Peabody, she performed the role of Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss.
Known for her lustrous voice and pitch-perfect three octave range, Phyllis Bryn-Julson commands a remarkable repertoire of vocal literature that spans many centuries. She has appeared extensively in Europe in every major city, and at every major festival. She has appeared with every major European and North American Symphony Orchestras, such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Baden-Baden Radio Orchestra, Basle Chamber Orchestra and Münchner Philharmoniker, under many of the leading conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Slatkin, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Gunther Schuller, and Erich Leinsdorf. She performed the opening concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker of Claudio Abbado's tenure. She also did the dedicatory opening concerts of the new hall with the Cologne Philharmonic. In America, she has performed with the major symphony orchestras of New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.)
Phyllis Bryn-Julson is recognized as one of the most authoritative interpreters of vocal music of the 20th century. She collaborated with Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble InterContemporaine for much of her career, taking her to numerous festivals in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, Japan and all of continental Europe and England. She has premiered works of many 20th century composers, some of which were written for her. Included in this list are Pierre Boulez, Messiaen, Goehr, György Kurtág, Holliger, Tavener, George Rochberg, David Del Tredici, Rorem, Carter, Babbitt, Birtwistle, Boone, Cage, Felciano, Wuorinen, Georges Aperghis, and Penderecki.
Her unaccompanied recital has received standing ovations in Paris, at the Warsaw Festival, in Israel, and in the USA. She is particularly known for her interpretation of works of this century, including those of Arnold Schoenberg, Pierre Boulez, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Leonard Bernstein, Carter, Wuorinen, Igor Stravinsky, and Benjamin Britten. Two seasons ago (1997), she premiered compositions by Matthew Burtner, Elliot Carter, Mark Schultz, Henri Lazaroff, William Albright, G. Kurtág and David Conte.
Her engagements during the late 1990's included performances in Los Angeles during the 1996 Boulez Festival and the 1997 Ligeti Festival with Esa-Pekka Salonen, five performances including a celebrated unaccompanied recital at the Tel Aviv New Music Festival, performances in Stockholm, Sweden on two separate occasions, touring with the Peabody Trio in the USA and overseas, and recitals throughout the United States, some of which were with her husband, Donald S. Sutherland. In 1987 she gave highly acclaimed appearances at Covent Garden in I. Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges.
In recent years, Phyllis Bryn-Julson gave performances of G. Kurtág's Kafka Fragments in New York at the Guggenheim Museum with Violaine Melançon, violinist. She took part in the Radical Past series in Los Angeles, giving four performances of the great works of Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Cathy Berberian, and Luciano Berio. She toured with the Peabody Trio throughout the United States and Canada, and recorded works of Samuel Adler for the Milken Foundation in Barcelona. She also toured with the Montreal Symphony, performing the award winning opera Il Prigioniero by Luigi Dallapiccola. Performances occurred at Carnegie Hall, and in Montreal. Following this, she premiered the same work in Tokyo, Japan, where it was staged and televised with conductor Charles Dutoit. With Southwest Chamber Music Society, she has performed and recorded the complete works of both Ernst Krenek and Mel Powell. Last season she premiered and recorded An American Decomeron by Richard Felciano, commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation, and written for her and the Southwest Chamber Music Society. In 2000 she delivered one of her most memorable and critically hailed performances when she sang A. Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire at the Norton-Simon Museum Theater in Pasadena, California. Bryn-Julson continued making many highly successful appearances through 2, the year she announced her retirement from singing.
Phyllis Bryn-Julson has over 100 recordings and CD's to her credit, many of them have won awards and prizes. She was nominated for a Grammy in 1997 for her performance in Dallapicolla's opera Il Prigioniero, which also won the Prix du Monde. Her performance of Erwartung by A. Schoenberg (Simon Rattle conducting), won the 1995 best opera Gramaphone Award. Released on the Arabesque label was her first recording with Leon Fleisher, pianist, of Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben. She received a second Grammy nomination in 1998 as the best vocalist in the classical music category. She has recorded for CBS Masterworks, CRI, Decca, Edici, Erato, London, Louisville, New World, Nonesuch, Orion, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA, Gothic, Collins, EMI and Music and Arts.
In 1984 Phyllis Bryn-Julson joined the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University faculty in Baltimore and serves as Chair of the Voice Department, having already taught at the University of Maryland for thirteen years. In 1987, she performed with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in Moscow, and became the first American ever to give a master-class at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. She is a regular guest artist/teacher at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England, where she has developed her "20th Century Music for the Voice" course. Besides teaching this course over a two-year span at Peabody, she has been invited to teach the same at the summer programs at Yale, Cincinnati, Aix-en Provence in France, the Royaumont School in Paris, and Tanglewood. Her students continue to win prizes and awards, and have made careers in some of the leading opera houses and orchestral venues. They have had contracts in opera houses in Zürich, Düsseldorf, Vienna, Paris, Lyons, London, and Sydney, and in America, the Metropolitan Opera, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Phyllis Bryn-Julson recently received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. In the spring of 1997, she was awarded the Dickenson College Arts Award, which in the past has been granted to the Philadelphia Orchestra, W.H. Auden, and Robert Frost, to name a few. She was the first musician to receive the United States - United Kingdom Bicentennial Exchange Arts Fellowship. She has also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Syracuse University, the Paul Hume Award, the Amphion Award, the Catherine Filene Shouse Award, the Peabody Conservatory Faculty Award for excellence in teaching, and the Peabody Student Council Award for outstanding contribution to the Peabody community. She was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in 2000.