Catching Up With Viral Starbucks Barista & Tenor Extraordinaire, Jason Berger
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
You might recall a video floating around last February that featured a Starbucks barista singing O sole mio that quickly became viral? The singer in the video is Jason Berger, a highly accomplished tenor who the DC Metro Theatre Arts described as a stand-out performer with a ‘big sound.’
What is he up to these days? How has he been able to make a living during quarantine, COVID, and the cancelation of countless concert series?
Prior to COVID, you were gaining recognition as an up-and-coming tenor. How has the pandemic changed the trajectory of your career?
As of right now I'm still in Wilmington, Delaware, and for the most part, unemployed. I have occasionally been singing at live streams at the church I work at, and I have participated in events called "pop-up" opera with OperaDelaware. Essentially, the company would rent a trailer and we would perform in a brief outdoor concert. We did this for healthcare workers at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, a hospital in Wilmington, and some senior -homes in the Wilmington, DE area.
I have been releasing videos on social media and have uploaded a few to YouTube. Currently, I am looking for work, and am doing my best to get back into the swing of things, one of which is practicing regularly. I stopped singing entirely for awhile as I was really in a funk when the pandemic first started.
I have also discovered that I really enjoy teaching voice lessons. I have a few students that I teach via Zoom and Skype, and this has been an interesting experience! I had not taught voice lessons since taking my vocal pedagogy classes during my graduate studies at the University of Michigan.
What was your last paying gig prior to the pandemic?
I last sang and got paid at Maryland Opera last February, performing in a concert entitled Passion at the Pendry “French Fantasies.” We presented a program of acts from French operas at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel in Baltimore, MD. I sang Pittichinaccio in The Venetian Act of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Nicias in the seduction scene from Thaïs.
This was a great gig because not only was I actually paid to sing, I also worked with some top-notch singers. It was an amazing experience to work with such talented colleagues. I didn't have much to sing in this, but it was enough to make an impression. As the saying always goes, there are no small parts, only small actors.
I was also on board to be a Young Artist with Opera Delaware, but like many singers, that was canceled due to COVID. We had one week of rehearsals before everything was canceled.
And of course, we have to know more about your Starbucks video!
I was working at my side gig at Starbucks, when a regular customer of mine, who knows I'm an opera singer, asked me to sing something. I happened to be in a good mood that morning and I sang about 30 seconds of O sole mio. Little did I realize that his wife was filming me, and she posted the video on Facebook. The video now has over 97,000 views. I had two articles written about me in my local paper, an article in the Baltimore Sun, and an article in The Boston Globe. I was also featured on Today.com and in television segments on my local ABC, NBC, and Fox television stations.
That kind of exposure is something that one would not normally get for a traditional opera or classical music gig, so that’s why it is important to put yourself out there. All you can do as an aspiring artist is get yourself out there as much as you can, even if it is in non-traditional ways. You never know what can happen!
You have also become active in politics?
Yes! Politics and advocacy are my other passions in life, and I had the opportunity to work on two-history making campaigns in Colorado and Delaware. I worked with a team in CO that mobilized 83% of voters in the county.
And despite all the setbacks that has become 2020, you still have a positive attitude.
Absolutely, although I have definitely experienced extreme highs and lows. This has been a rough year for all of us in so many respects, but I still have many things that I am thankful for- having a loving family, friends, and mentors, maintaining good health, and having food, clothes and a roof over my head. I am thankful for the opportunity to work in politics. I'm thankful that over 97,000 people have heard me sing via a viral video, and I am grateful that despite the troubled times there have been people who have still wanted to hire me to sing.