Brett Pardue has performed around the world, singing on such hallowed stages as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
But when it came time to find an accompanist for a hometown show at The Reeves Theater in Elkin, he tapped a local connection, Tonya Smith, his music teacher at Elkin High School.
“I still say that to this day, without a doubt, she is the best sight reader that I know,” Pardue said. “And she has a really special capacity for pacing and timing in music.”
Pardue, his wife, Allison, and Smith have performed twice at The Reeves, each time to a packed house. They will return on Aug. 17 for a “Best of Broadway” show that will include songs from “Kismet,” “The Student Prince” and “West Side Story.”
Playing in front of a hometown crowd is special for Pardue, 28. He was educated in the city’s public schools, and his family still lives in his childhood home not far from Elkin’s downtown.
“To know there’s so much support from lots of different parts of my life is special,” he said.
A tenor, Pardue learned to love music while attending Jonesville Pentecostal Holiness Church. The hymnals, the choirs and the organ fascinated him, and he soon began taking piano lessons. As an elementary student, he took music classes from Smith. He remembers being inattentive, a class clown.
Smith, who has taught music in Elkin schools for more than 20 years, had a different recollection of those days.
“He showed incredible giftedness at a very early age. He was a natural musician,” Smith said.
Pardue also had the good fortune of studying voice under Svetlana Royal, a performer with the Russian Penza Philharmonic, who had moved to Elkin.
“I had listened to classical music before, and thought, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ But she really prompted me to study it seriously and more specifically, opera. In so many of her lessons, it wasn’t singing, but listening. That was planting a seed for me to love it from a narrative perspective,” Pardue said.
Under the tutelage of Smith and Royal, Pardue went on to make the North Carolina Honors Chorus and become a drum major for the high school band. He studied vocal performance at Mars Hill Baptist College and later, the University of Georgia.
Some of his career highlights include playing Romeo in a Carnegie Hall production of “Romeo and Juliet” and one of the leads in “La Traviata” at Lincoln Center. Opera Lively, which covers opera news, called Pardue a “name to be followed.”
He and his new wife, Allison, a soprano, recently moved to Raleigh, where he works in music ministry for a church.
Pardue said he has enjoyed playing at The Reeves, which re-opened in 2018 after extensive renovations. Formerly a movie theater, it had fallen into disrepair and was closed for several years.
“I remember hearing stories about its glory days,” Pardue said. “And it was such a great moment when I heard it had re-opened. I genuinely believe there’s a lot of life and passion for arts and culture in Elkin, and the re-opening of The Reeves is an important step for the town.”