This blog and this website represent a refocusing of my efforts and focus in my professional life. That life, of course, is as a singer of Western art music, a voice teacher, and, most recently, a student. Heh. It still feels weird to write that and I'm at the beginning of my second semester. Well, the student thing is easy to explain. I've wanted to finish my graduate studies in music for a while since starting them and leaving them unfinished at UBC some time ago. Since I live in London, I'm taking advantage of living near Western University and I'm finishing off my Master's degree. It's been a blast and, my friends and profs there are really wonderful and, as I said before, it has been weird to be one of the shall we say more-chronologically-gifted of the students. Haha.
But why school now, you may ask? I was asking myself that last month as I was writing the first paper I had written in about 17 years. Seriously though, I had been singing pretty steadily for a couple years, which means I was away for about 6 months of the year (many of my singer colleagues are away much more than that but my family and I were happy with that balance). At the end of one particularly long stint away about 5 years ago, my wife Anita and I noticed how my son's (I have 2 boys) attitudes were starting to tank in no small part because they were missing their dad. Neither was it particularly easy for my wife to be what we in the biz call an opera widow. Don't get me wrong, email, texting, phone calls and Skype really help but all my time away was really beginning to take a toll on my family.
Now, as an aside, my criteria for success in singing opera have always been threefold: 1) always to sing as best as l could so as to be satisfied with the work as often as possible; 2) to work enough to put bread on the table; and most importantly 3) to do so without my family self-destructing. So, when I noticed my kid's attitudes getting problematic and one of the other two criteria becoming a problem - I'll let you conjecture as to which - I decided to start looking for another way to be musical but to be local for my family.
This was hard. Perhaps it shouldn't have been. After all, family is the most important thing, right? Giving up anything for family should be easy, right? Potentially giving up singing felt inside like setting one foot in the grave. Dramatic? A little, but I'm am opera singer. What did you expect? It is how I felt, though. But, I also kept thinking about not wanting to be 75 and alone with kids who didn't want to know me because I wasn't there for them when they were young. I kept thinking about my dad, who was away for most of my childhood because of his work, asking me if my kids had started calling me uncle yet. Yeah, he really did. He said he had regretted his time away from me, which didn't make his admonishment any easier.
Well, to make a long story short, it was hard, but the "other way" turned out to be four wonderful years spent as music director of West London Alliance Church. The job was a haven for our family really and attending there still is. I was still able to accept singing engagements, though many less. After a couple years I needed to say no to most singing opportunities because it was impossible to balance the needs of my job and the liturgical year with the demands of travel for a singing career. All in all though, I got to have my cake and eat it too. I got to rebuild my family. I got to work a great job with great people in a great community. And now, I'm able to follow my heart fully again and focus on singing.
Going to school has provided a way to focus on technique as my voice has changed and has really solidified over the past five years. It's given me the freedom to explore new repertoire that will be more artistically satisfying. With two engagements this season, the operatic ball is rolling in a great direction. My family's well and my formerly quite young kids are a little more seasoned and independent - enough so perhaps to start accompanying me for portions of gigs. How cool is that?!
All I know is that I'm really thankful for all the good that has come of the last five years. I'm thankful for having found a wonderful community at WLA. I'm thankful for great kids. I'm thankful for my amazing wife who is ever supportive and who is my number one fan. I'm thankful for the chance to re-engage in music and am very excited about the opportunities coming up in the future.