First of all, thank you, Jenna, for allowing me the opportunity to share the story of a man who is an inspiration to me and thousands (if not millions) of others.
Imagine if, in the prime of their career, Celine Dion lost the ability to sing, Thomas Kinkade the ability to paint or Robert De Niro the ability to act.
Sure, the Earth would still turn, but there would be less joy or wonder in the world if any of the above lost their unique talents too soon.
Donald Braswell was a young, professional tenor and a seasoned veteran of the opera world. Groomed to be the next Luciano Pavarotti or Franco Corelli, his star was shooting toward international fame and fortune.
Then, with one simple twist of fate, Donald’s world changed forever when he lost his voice following a gazillion-to-one bicycle accident while on tour in Wales.
Yes, a bicycle.
A Texas native, Donald graduated on a full scholarship to The Juilliard School in 1990. The hit-and-run accident that stole his voice, career and sent his life into a years-long tailspin has never been solved.
However, the story behind how Donald staggered from a cold, Welsh road to jogging under the hot lights of America’s Got Talent in 2008 (where he placed fourth overall) is so inspirational that anyone fighting to keep a dream alive needs to read this memoir.
During his first AGT performance, the crowd booed before he sang a note, but when Donald finished Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up, the shouts of “Vegas! Vegas!” rang throughout the packed theater. Donald was eliminated in the next round, but the loving father to three girls (who married his high-school sweetheart) made a dramatic return when NBC held an impromptu wild card round following an injury to another finalist. (As one of eight returning performers, millions voted the then-45-year-old back on AGT.)
Piers Morgan went as far as saying that Donald was “The Rocky Balboa of our show; you were knocked out, you came back and you could win the title. You could.”
Though the fairytale ended just short of overall victory, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber complimented Donald by saying he “was looking forward to working with” him.
During the thirteen years between Wales and Vegas, the former professional singer worked as a plasterer, sold insurance, swimming pools, as well as new and used cars – anything to help feed his family.
After relearning how to first talk, and then sing, Donald was working at a car dealership when a chance meeting with a homeless-looking man ended later with the release of New Chapter, his first CD in 2007. Since then, he’s released two more CD’s, including Unchained in November.
Three years post-AGT, Donald continues to “pay it forward” by headlining numerous annual charity events, and he inspires thousands via his website and the member-driven international fan club that sprung to life soon after AGT.
Known as “Braswellians” fans represent thirty-six countries, all fifty U.S. states and each Canadian province. (One teenage Iranian, who recently watched the show in syndication, produced a YouTube montage to Braswell’s original song, We Are The Same You And I.)
Donald has performed with the San Antonio Symphony, sings at solo events, and is part of a three-tenor group called Gli Unici (“The Only Ones.”)
I admire much about this humble man – mainly because he knows he has a second shot at his dream – but also because his never-quit attitude was like a beacon of hope that kept him going all those dark, desperate years.
If Donald Braswell, an opera singer, can relearn how to speak and sing, what’s holding you back?
For more details about Donald’s life and music, please visit donaldbraswell.com