Someone reminded me recently that last week was the one-year anniversary of CLCHM’s The Pirates of Penzance, and that got me thinking about this past year. Without a doubt, 2010 was a huge year for me, both in terms of personal development, and in major events.
Before August 2009, I wouldn’t have considered myself a singer. Before around January 2010, I wouldn’t have considered myself an actor. And before maybe May 2010, I probably wouldn’t have listed piano among my major skills. And 2010 also saw a big change in my personality, from an awkward, not-very-social, video-game-playing teenager, to a somewhat-less awkward, much more social, and a little more driven young adult who puts a much bigger emphasis on friends and music, and much less on video games. And while I know there’s still a long way to go, I can look back and appreciate how far I’ve come.
The story of the last year, actually begins in August 2009, when I showed up at rehearsal for Central Lancaster County Homeschool orchestra, and yet another year in high school. Truthfully, I should have graduated back in Spring 2009, with others of my age, and while I’m disappointed that I haven’t been disciplined enough to do that, I don’t regret the time I’ve spent with my friends in high school.
But anyway, orchestra rehearsal. Because I played tuba (and have been for 9 and a half years now), the director asked me to consider going on tour in the spring as part of a brass quintet. And since she needed more guys on tour, she also suggested that I should join the tour choir, and, by extension, the concert choir. I decided to go for it, since I’ve always been interested in singing, but had never thought of joining the choir (except for one year, a few years before this, which was awful).
That actually turned out to be a life changing decision for me, because besides trying joining choir, I also decided to try out acting for the first time, something else I’ve always been interested in but never had the nerve to try. So, I joined the cast of The Pirates of Penzance as a pirate, and rehearsals started in December. That was definitely one of the best things that happened the entire year. I had so much fun with that production, and I was told I did a great job as a pirate. That’s also when I started singing better. Why I, a bass/baritone, was cast as a pirate, who frequently sing high, up to an F-sharp at one point, I don’t know, but it helped.
And then came tour. Tour was easily the most life-changing experience of the year. Spending a week with my best friends, singing, and going through what we did, was amazing. That was when I started realizing how hard I was on myself, that I wasn’t as bad at everything as I thought, and I started believing in myself as a talented individual. I still struggle with self-confidence all the time, but not nearly as much as I used to. Tour also taught me how important my friends are to me, and since then I’ve been making more of an effort to be social.
But Pirates wasn’t the end of my acting career, like I thought it would be. The director sent out an email asking some seniors and other talented students if they would like to be involved in her Broadway Choir Camp for kids. I said yes immediately, without even knowing what show they were doing, and ended up playing Horton in Seussical Jr., my first chance to play a lead. As much as I hated that musical, that was easily the most fun I’ve had in all four shows I’ve been in so far. If we could get the cast together and do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. And I was told by many people that I did a very good job with the part.
And that’s when things get crazy. Crazy in a stranger-than-fiction sort of way. There was an actress whose kids were involved in Seussical who offered her time directing us. I really appreciate the help she gave in bringing my character to life. But after the show was over, she encouraged all of us to try auditioning at local theaters, just to see what would happen. It was only that week that I had first learned that the Fulton Theater was holding open auditions for The Sound of Music. So, over-confident as I was from doing Seussical, I decided to go out and audition.
After a couple lessons with Joanne Abrom to get ready, I went in there, sang my song, and left. Simple as that. I didn’t hear anything for a few days, and I didn’t really expect to. But Thursday night of that week, after the CLCHM square dance, I got home to find out that I’d gotten a call from the artistic director of the Fulton, asking me to be an extra in The Sound of Music. You have no idea how excited I was to be involved in a professional theater, even if it was for free. Honestly, the money didn’t matter, the experience of it was more than enough. Though I imagine looking German was the main reason I got cast.
For a few months, until right before rehearsals started, I had no idea what I would even be doing in the play. It was when I went in for the costume fitting that I found out I would be playing a Nazi… and a nun. I really didn’t know how to take that. But after a month of performances, I quickly stopped caring about it, and even brag about it now to my friends. I mean, I dressed up as a woman in front of thousands of people, in a professional theater, for free. How many people get to say that?
The Sound of Music was easily one of the best experiences of my life. There are so many things I could say about the experience, I don’t even know where to begin. I got to be apart of a wonderful cast of friendly, talented people, that really made the experience special. And while some things definitely didn’t go as planned, I hope I represented myself well. And it was this opportunity, for the most part, that convinced me to pursue acting. I love it too much to let it go.
Let me backtrack a bit, and talk about music for a paragraph or three. I believe it was around the beginning of the 2010 that my friend Jay Hoerr, who is a fantastic pianist, started to share with me his love for piano. I remember him telling me all about Rachmaninov, who is his obsession, and especially about Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Over many months I became infected with his enthusiasm. You see, I began playing piano when I was seven years old, and took lessons for many years, first from one teacher for a long time, then another for a couple years when the first moved away. But I hadn’t been taking lessons for a few years when Jay reminded me of how much I loved piano. So, it was in May 2010 when I became taking piano lessons with Jay’s teacher, Randy Day, of the Lititz Academy of Music.
I have learned so much under Mr. Day, and I’ve gotten a lot better since then. And I’ve continued to be obsessed with piano. In fact, in October 2010, I decided to replace our 100 year old upright with a brand new Pearl River baby grand from Reifsnyder’s. Even though it will take me five years to pay off, I haven’t ever regretted it. Now, besides playing for myself, I’m accompanying the CLCHM choir, I have a job as an accompanist at First Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, and in April I will be playing piano in the pit orchestra for EPAC’s Into the Woods. Piano is definitely, and easily, my favorite instrument, and I can’t wait to see where I can go with it.
But besides playing piano, I also play tuba, as I said before. And that led to an opportunity back in October that I wasn’t expecting. Through Lorie LaSala, the director of CLCHM, I got connected to a brass quintet that was seeking a tuba player. I was given a chance to play with them for a few rehearsals, and then they invited me to join their group. For the moment, we are called the Elite Brass, and we’ve been looking around for gigs and other opportunities. This has been an exciting opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this group.
As for singing, I only really started when I joined the choir at the end of 2009. Before that, I never really did anything with it. Since then, at lot has happened, and I’ve learned a lot that has strengthened my voice. Though, like a lot of things in life, the more I’ve learned the more I realize how far I’ve yet to go. Back in December, when I was getting ready for auditions at EPAC (to no avail, unfortunately) I took a couple of lessons with Mike Popovsky. And in January this year, I decided to start taking voice lessons every other week. I know he has already helped me sing better, and being a performer himself, he’s helped me understand the acting business.
And that leads me to another opportunity I’ve had. It was the morning of a lesson in the middle of January that I received an invitation to a charity concert that was being arranged by Popovsky Performing Arts Studios. I recognized many of the soloist’s names, including Michael Popovsky, Michael Austin, and Daniella Dalli, so I was really hoping to get a chance to see the concert. But during my voice lesson that day, Mike asked me if I wanted to be involved in it. He was involving many of his students to fill out some of the acts. I said yes almost right away, and that was an incredible experience. It was a lot of fun to sing and act in a concert, and especially with some incredibly talented people. Though it’s a shame that the rest of my family went to my dad’s concert that same night, and the only people who came were my grandparents.
Where does that leave me? I suppose I’m left with what is going on right now. I am finishing up my last year with CLCHM. I’m in the concert choir, Advanced Chamber Ensemble, and orchestra. Besides singing in the choirs, I’m also accompanying on five or six songs. After our main concert on March 25th, and a week of ACE concerts in April, I’ll be out. That’s going to be a painful thing, I’m sure. I’ve been in that group for 9 or 10 years, and I have a lot of great memories and friends in that group. But I’m absolutely sure that it’s time to move on.
I’m also in the CLCHM musical right now, Jane Eyre, as Colonel Dent. Our shows are March 10-12, and then it’s done. This has been a very fun experience, and it’s hard to believe it’s only my fourth show. I’ll be very sad when it’s over, because it will most likely be my last show with CLCHM. I wish I’d started sooner. But I’ll hopefully be on to other shows.
As for high school, while I still haven’t gotten my diploma, all I need now is composition. I’m sure this humongous post will take a huge chunk out of that, if not finish it off completely. It’ll be nice to get out from under this ever-present requirement.
As for the future, I love acting. I’ve decided to continue pursuing acting for as long as I think I can. I’ll continue auditioning at local theaters, taking acting classes and voice lessons. I don’t know how far this will go, but I’m not too worried about that. If it’s meant to happen, it will happen. I haven’t made any decisions about college. Though if I’ll be acting, I’ll need a job to support it, so with my music background, I’m thinking about getting a music education degree and teaching while I’m not doing shows. Maybe I’ll revive the computer skills I used to rely on so much. I’ll continue with piano, including accompanying when I can. And hopefully after Into the Woods, there will be other opportunities to play in pit orchestras. Plus, the brass quintet I’m in will hopefully keep me occupied much of the time.
Honestly, the future is a scary place. Now I have an idea of what I want to do, but I’m not sure how that will play out. But if the past year has taught me anything, it’s that opportunities will continually present themselves, and all I need to do is take them.
So there you have it: a long, detailed, and honest account of where I’ve come from, and where I’m going. The Short Guide to Me, if you will. If nothing else, at least you should take from this that what we plan may not always happen; that life may go in completely different directions than we would take.
Looking back, 2010 was the best year of my life. Looking forward, as scary as it is, the future is a bright place.