Performer profile: Bernadette Boerckel
Although raised in New Jersey, Bernadette Boerckel now raises her voice in northcentral Pennsylvania, after producing the glorious sound of music in concert halls and cathedrals around the United States and Europe.
Born in Manasquan, N.J., Boerckel’s first role was in a third-grade musical, “Annie,” playing Miss Hannigan.
Her parents enrolled her in a year-round theater workshop, where she continued to perform through high school and eventually taught during summers in college.
“I performed in every play and musical I could – up to seven or eight musicals a year,” she said. “I lived in a musical theater world through college.”
The theater bug continued to bite Boerckel while at Lycoming College, with her appearing in several musicals, including “Little Mary Sunshine,” “Into the Woods,” “Pippin,” “The Secret Garden” and two productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury.”
After graduating from Lycoming in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Boerckel obtained her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Wilkes University in 2006, and obtained her certificate of supervision in curriculum from Bucknell University in 2009.
An English, journalism and drama teacher at Warrior Run High School for the last seven years and director of curriculum for the past four years, Boerckel has directed school plays “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “The Odd Couple” and “Romeo.”
Boerckel also has directed productions for area high schools, beginning in 2001 with Loyalsock Township’s “The Wiz” and in 2003 directed “Babes In Arms” for the Community Theatre League, having appeared in “Murder, Mystery and Other Musical Mischief,” CTL’s premier production at the downtown theater.
For the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, Boerckel has sung “Die Fladermaus” and directed “Amahl and the Night Visitors (with Jennifer Desmond Wilson) in 2003.
In the last 10 years, Boerckel has really focused more on her classical singing than as a music theater performer. She has been featured as the soprano soloist for the Williamsport Chamber Choir, the Susquehanna Valley Chorale, the Gesang Verein Harmonia Chorus and St. Boniface Church, where she serves as weekly cantor.
Working with Rick Benjamin and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra on concerts and recordings for the last several years has been “nothing but a dream come true,” Boerckel said.
“I think, sometimes, that I was born in the wrong century. I feel very connected to their music and their vision,” she said. She has recorded three albums with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, available through New World Records.
“My favorite collaboration is with my husband Gary Boerckel, of course, whom I still consider my coach and inspiration. We loved working together last year with N.J. Stanley in Lycoming College’s “Three Penny Opera. Talk about a stretch for me! It had been 10 years since I was on that stage.”
The husband-wife team have worked together for WVIA’s Simply Grand Concerts, including “Ragtime: From Barrelhouse to Broadway.”
The couple will perform “Music and the Movies” at noon March 13 at the Mary L. Welch Honors Hall as part of Lycoming College’s Concerts at Noon series. Admission to the concert is free.
With Gary Boerckel as pianist and Bernadette Boerckel as vocalist, the concert’s theme is music composed for the movies from the silent film era (Charlie Chaplin) to the 1960s (Henry Mancini).
Boerckel relished her opportunity to sing a Christmas concert at the White House with the Lycoming College Choir. She also has enjoyed memorable experiences singing in churches and cathedrals, including the Crystal Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, D.C.) and “anywhere in Europe.”
At Bucknell University a year ago, Boerckel was featured with the Rook Chapel Choir’s “Schubert’s Mass in G.” Last month she sang the revolutionary composer Schoenberg’s Pierrat Lupaire, what she described as the most difficult experience that she ever had.
“Learning the German, the sprechstimme (German for ‘speech-voice’ in music), the rhythms and meters definitely stretched me to my limits.
But learning and performing with the faculty of Susquehanna University was a honor and memorable engagement,” she said, adding with a smile, “I also am glad it is over.”
What won’t be over soon is another of Bernadette Boerckel’s favorite performances – that’s singing and dancing in the kitchen with her 7-year-old daughter Madeline, who “… is starting to get into the act.”