Interview with Director of Vocal Studies, Sarah Brailey

Sarah Brailey headshot credit Miranda Loud

Sarah Brailey, Director of Vocal Studies (Photo Credit: Miranda Loud) 


Sarah Brailey is a GRAMMY Award-winning soprano who has been praised by The New York Times for her “radiant, liquid tone." A prolific vocalist, cellist, recording artist, and educator, she has been the Director of Vocal Studies at UChicago since 2021. Learn more about her life at UChicago and beyond in the following interview!

What do you love most about your job here at UChicago? 

I love the fact that I get to interact with all types of students, not just music majors but undergraduates studying things like economics and statistics, and grad students at the Booth School or the Crown School. There are so many smart, interesting students here who also happen to be wildly talented in music. It’s such a joy! 

What else do you do during a given week besides your role at UChicago?  

I am also on the voice faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I travel all around the world singing performances of everything from Steve Reich’s Desert Music to Handel’s La Resurrezione (coming up at Haymarket Opera this June!) to the Brahms’ Requiem. I am also the Artistic Director of the Handel Aria Competition and I serve on the board of Just Bach. I’m never bored! 

What is your origin story? How did you find yourself on this career path?  

I grew up as a cellist and pianist, but it wasn’t until high school that I became serious about singing. I had the most incredible mentor in my public high school choir program in La Crosse, Wisconsin named Mike Esser. His belief in me was unwavering while also holding us all to such a high standard (including making us sight-read at the beginning of every rehearsal!) He showed me what it could look like to make a life out of music, which I had never considered being anything other than “the thing I always did.” We’re still good buds and he comes to my concerts regularly. It’s humbling to now be at the age he was when he was teaching me and to remember what a huge impact he made on me. Teachers are treasures. 

Dream meal in dream setting? 

Ooh, a meal prepared by Yotam Ottolenghi in a cozy, firelit room, surrounded by my friends and family. 

Last good book you read? 

This isn’t the last good book I read but when I think about a book that consistently inspires me, it has to be Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.