A New York City native, Johnathan began performing at age 11 with the world-famous Boys Choir of Harlem. For seven years, he was intensely trained in all forms of music including classical, jazz, hip hop, and gospel. Johnathan experienced a string of unforgettable, inspiring moments as a member of the Boys Choir, which included being awarded the lead tenor role for the choir, singing at the intermission for Luciano Pavarotti's Concert in Central Park, performing in a live show on Broadway for two weeks, and winning second place in the Lena Horne Vocal Jazz Scholarship.
Johnathan graduated from the University of Hartford's Hartt School in May 1998 with a degree in voice performance, and shortly after his graduation, Johnathan was invited to begin his professional entertainment career with the 129th Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey?. Johnathan couldnt refuse the offer and felt his prominent role in the show was an unbelievable dream come true.
Johnathan toured with Ringling Bros.? all around the United States, and his charismatic charm and his incredible voice caught the eye of Barbara Walters, who within a year of his first tour named him one of the ten most fascinating people in 1999. Johnathans continuous passion for performance and his drive for excellence earned him an invitation back to perform with the 131st and 133rd Editions.
After three consecutive tours with The Greatest Show On Earth, Johnathan left to pursue other performance opportunities, but continued to work with Ringling Bros. for special events. Johnathan performed in several off-Broadway productions including Carnival, Showboat, The Magic Flute, and Dreamgirls. He also acted in commercials for Jeep, Six Flags Great Adventure and Casual Male XL, as well as singing with the USO Liberty Bells of New York, voiceovers for the animated feature Eloise, and a bit of freelance journalism under his pen name J. Frederick Baptiste/Johnathan Baptiste.
After touring with the 140th Edition, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents BARNUM 200SM and the 142nd Edition of DRAGONS, Johnathan was filled with joy when he was asked to continue his reign as Ringmaster for another memorable 144nd Edition, LEGENDS. Ringling Bros. is truly The Greatest Show On Earth. It amazes me how every year the producers and the creative team come together to create one innovative circus spectacular after another! exclaims Johnathan. Joining Johnathan on the rails is his wife and fellow performer Priscilla, whom he met and married while previously touring with Ringling Bros., and their children Matthew Felipe and Lila Simone.
We caught up with Johnathan and asked him about his career, circus life and his future.
PA: Hello Johnathan thanks for taking the time to talk with us at The Providence American. Johnathan, I am sure you are asked this all the time, Why the Circus?
JI: Opportunity! I had planned a career in Opera and Theatre but this opportunity opened up, it seemed exciting Ringmaster why Not? It has turned out to be the best decision I could have made at the time.
PA: Would you recommend the circus life for others coming behind you?
JI: Yes absolutely. You know Ringling Brothers (RBBBC) is one of the oldest entertainment businesses still toping the charts. RBBBC has been around before Coke Cola and Baseball. There are other productions like Cole Brothers Circus and the Big Apple circus, just to name a few; but the others do not have the multiplicity of fields that RBBBC has. Disciplines include performers, administrative staff, marketing and promotional teams, live music, animal trainers, light, sound & stage crews. So you see there are many opportunities for people to find rewarding careers in the circus. Not to mention the travel, friendships and personal development working in this business provides.
PA: Has the Ringmaster role been any different for you than your predecessors?
JI: Definitely! Being the first Black man to garner the title Master in itself was unsettling for some; especially since the role of Ringmaster transcends language, culture and natural origin. It is about performing at a high level and leading a team of professionals.
PA: Johnathan after RBBBC is there another plan for you?
JI: You know I stopped planning. I told you my original plan was to perform in opera and theatre, but here I am. I was told once that & Goals are limiting, so live your life to a standard rather than just a goal& Set your objective to be the best you can be at whatever it is you decide to do.
I have thought about maybe becoming a TV/Radio host or becoming a professional writer. In any event my goal is to leave a good legacy here at RBBBC and wherever opportunity drives me.
PA: Johnathan thanks so much for taking time for us. Is there any words of wisdom you might like to pass on to youngsters today?
JI: Yes be serious. Whatever you decide to do, perform at your highest level and be serious. Our society has become so self indulgent that all people have to do today is become infamous for just about anything, then develop a reality show. So what I say is be serious.
PA: Thanks Johnathan on behalf of the readership of The Providence American.