In demand on the world's top stages


Philip Cutlip ’88 (with son Max)

Professional Baritone
Bronx, New York

I enrolled at Puget Sound with every intention of completing a degree in math, then going on to grad school to eventually earn a Ph.D.—following in the footsteps of my father, Fred Cutlip. Music was not an afterthought, but I did not aspire to more than singing in the Adelphian Concert Choir and taking voice lessons. I auditioned for the choir director and the head of the voice department, and they were surprised to have a "walk-on" with some talent show up. Over my four years, I went from being a math major who loved music to a music major who loved math, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. There's a correspondence between the beauty and elegance of math and that of music. They both involve analysis and logic, but also imagination and interpretation.

Both the math and music departments were close-knit communities within the larger university community, and maybe because I was a kid from a small town I instantly felt comfortable with these two families. My music theory teacher, Lawrence Ebert, became a mentor and close friend. I remember working in the basement practice room directly under his classroom and always knowing it was 9 a.m. when I saw his Camel cigarette butt drop on the pavement outside my window. A nasty habit, yes, and one he quit, but it still makes me smile. Ron VanEnkevort and Bruce Lind were both thoughtful and friendly figures in the math gang. Of course I'd spent my childhood around mathematicians, so it was a very familiar environment, although nothing could have prepared me for the intensely difficult brain twisting involved in abstract algebra.

Before attending UPS my performance experience was very limited. Singing in front of an audience had always made me nervous. I was lucky enough to sing a lead role in an opera production each year at Puget Sound, starting with Copland's The Tender Land. Between recitals, solos with the Adelphians, and opera roles, I grew far more secure on the stage.

My career as a professional classical singer developed in a typical way: slowly. After Puget Sound I went to the Eastman School of Music for a master's degree. Then I moved to New York City. It took 10 years, more or less, before I was supporting myself solely as a performing artist. While I was getting to that point I waited tables (I was a horrible waiter), I sang in paid choruses (which actually provided me with a lot of good experiences and taught me a lot about musicianship), and I temped in offices (again, not my forte, unless the job involved computers). What kept me going was a combination of self-confidence and, well, bullheaded stubbornness.

The amount of free time I have is in inverse proportion to the amount of work I have—the life of any self-employed performing artist. My most consistent “hobby” is fitness, in many forms. I love to bike, run, swim, and hike. I'm currently training to run in the N.Y.C. marathon as a fundraising runner for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I use exercise as an outlet—as a form of mediation and as a way to socialize and get to know a new place. There's nothing like a long, bewildering run through Milan to help you get to know the city better!

More About Philip

"The man about whom the drama of Glass's opera is twisted, Orphée, is sung by baritone Philip Cutlip, one of the best among America's generation of talented young singers."
— Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts

"The star of the evening was Cutlip, whose commitment to the tormented character of Maurice Bendrix was moving beyond words, his diction as well as his sweetness and lightness of timbre ideal."
Opera News

"Cutlip is remarkable. He looks more like a movie star than an opera/oratorio specialist. But when he lets the pipes loose, the windows rattle and he shows why he is in demand on stages at the top venues in the world. This guy can sing."
— Walt Amacker, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Photo by Jill Hunter Photography