Soulful Sounds with Brooke Aston

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Placentia singer-actor-director-educator Brooke Aston performs Motown hits with Soul3Sixty’s knockout vocalists and musicians at Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton on July 21. A faculty member with The Young Americans singing group who began touring with the troupe at age 16, she’s also an in-demand director and producer of theater and cabaret shows at the Santa Ana-based Wayward Artist, Southgate Productions, and the Long Beach Playhouse.

 

What’s a Soul3Sixty show like?

We mix in a lot of Motown, a lot of pop and soul from the ’60s. We do a Dusty Springfield song. We’re always going to hit “Dancing in the Street.” We’re always going to hit The Supremes, so you’ll get “Baby Love,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” One of my favorite tunes that I sing backup on is “The Tears of a Clown.” Everybody gets up and dances to this stuff.

Is it nostalgia?

It’s not just nostalgia. This is one of the key moments in the American songbook. The 1960s, when Motown was established, everything changed. It became a moment. We got short skirts, we got birth control, we got Twiggy, and we got popular music that was enjoyed across the board. I don’t know how else to say it except white folks started listening to Black music. It’s part of the American musical heritage.

Is this the music you grew up with?

I remember being (younger than) 6 and every weekend, my dad popped on records in the basement of our house in Pennsylvania. It was all these classic Motown tunes. My dad was a big fan of ’70s classic rock and the horn bands like Chicago. I got my musical education from my parents. My mom turned me on to musical theater, my dad turned me on to that real R&B.

Did you know you were going to be a performer from childhood?

Absolutely. I always wanted to perform. My brother is 10 years older (than I am), and as soon as I saw him in the first musical he did, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to keep that dream going. When I was working at a dinner theater in Northern Michigan for an organization that I continue to be with as a faculty member, The Young Americans, there’s a video of me after a show. I’m 17, and I say that someday I want to balance my musical theater career with a family. It’s funny because my now-husband is sitting next to me as I say that.

What helped you develop your skills as a performer?

I would say that The Young Americans and Cal State Fullerton are the basis of my work ethic, my skill. If I have some star quality, both of those organizations built me into the performer and manager that I am today. I was very active in The Young Americans from ’93 to ’98. I toured around the United States. It instilled me with confidence. I was a very shy kid; even though I wanted to do theater, I was very shy. As so many performers are. You know, introvert-extrovert. Give me 7,000 people, but please don’t give me seven strangers. (The Young Americans) instilled a sense of confidence in me and a sense that I can do things that I put my mind to. So when I moved on to Cal State Fullerton, I took this showmanship and was able to learn about the artistry and the craft of it.

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