And Knowing is Half the Battle

4 Aug

If you ask me, “Opera and music theater. Huh. How’d you get into that?” (as so many people have, usually when referring to classical music [which, for some reason, is inherently more Zany and Weird than MT]), I will give you an answer. I will tell you. And I’ll look something like this:

except not dr. sue, sex therapist

Because the truth is, I don’t know. I’m pretty upfront about that. It differentiates me from the millions of other performers who have some half-true, half-dreamed story usually involving a childhood experience at the theater that uncovered a hidden, smoldering flame for stardom. You know, the ones where a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kid is sitting in the worn down, plush seats of your Hometown Theater, probably watching the 39th non-equity tour of CATS, when it suddenly just.. strikes the child (in a paranormal, emotional bolt of lightening not at all related to the chocolate-covered nuts this child consumed at intermission) that this is what he/she is made to do.

oh, brother

I don’t doubt the validity of 90% of these claims. I think the other 10% is embellished, perhaps for good “about me” pages and performance biography material.

But as for me, I don’t have a story like that. Well, let me rephrase. I do have lots of childhood stories of sitting in plush seats, watching THE KING AND I, GODSPELL, or any number of other musicals. I was one of those kids, wide-eyed and gape-mouthed at the lights, the scenery, the dancing, the costumes. Ask me about what my mom and I did on the weekends and I will tell you that she’d put the A CHORUS LINE cast recording on our turntable and sing “At the Ballet.” I loved the theater. My entire life I’ve been surrounded by music. (Thanks, Mom!)

And yet? Here I am, almost twenty-one years old, halfway done with my undergraduate degree in vocal performance. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Now how’d that happen?

Four years ago, I was a junior in high school, applying to college. I attended a well-regarded arts magnet school and singing was a Big Deal to me. All-Region, All-State, solo festival–those were the true markers of success. Those numbers mattered. Still, other numbers mattered, too, and even in my zeal for singing, I couldn’t help but be moderately obsessed with my other grades, too. Okay, maybe completely obsessed. I was an overachiever, okay? There is a difference between 99% and 100%.

I applied to college initially thinking I would triple major in literature, political science, and some sort of cultural studies major–preferably third world studies. I was going to be a human rights lawyer.

But something was missing. In the back of my mind, I wanted to sing. Nothing else mattered but singing, truly. Politics was a passion, and changing the world a goal, but I knew that I wasn’t meant to accomplish change through civil service. I was meant to change the world through art. What stopped me from doing it? Honestly? Bear with me here.

Fear. I mean, come on, it’s not like theater (in any form, classical music or MT), for all its acceptance and tolerance, is the easiest world to make a name in.

You’re probably in the throes of lizlemoneyeroll.gif face right now, and I can’t say that I blame you.

you mean to tell me that she "just knew"?

It’s contrived but totally true. At some point, I had to give up the safety and security of a stable career and admit to myself that I wanted to be on stage. And that it didn’t matter whether or not I was good enough, but that I was doing it. When I did, it was like a Carnegie Hall Sized Weight was taken off of my shoulders. I had always known that this was what I wanted to do. Singing was natural for me. From listening to “At the Ballet” with my mom to watching the ballet Coppelia, I have always, somehow, known, that this was for me. This is for me, it is me, it will be me two days from now and two centuries from now.

How’d I get into opera and musical theatre? Well, for all my “not knowing”–

I just knew.

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