My instagram feed has been flooded with 1st day of school and heading to college pics, and I’m feeling all the feels! I can still remember how excited and nervous I felt to pack up all of my clothes and high school mementos and the loot from Bed, Bath & Beyond and my GIANT bulky computer (ha!) to head from the San Francisco Bay Area all the way out to Valparaiso University. Because it was so far away from home and so different from home, it sort of felt like stepping into Narnia, and that’s still the feeling I get when I return to campus. Those were such formative years for me…so many life-changing experiences and learning about myself and forming friendships that would last to this very day (including meeting my future hubby!) I remember hoping that I made the right choice, and feeling the weight of that choice as holding some kind of destiny that would determine the path the rest of my life would take.
I’ve been thinking a lot about life choices lately, and about where my own journey has taken me. From a young age I always felt that singing was my way of sharing that special something from deep within my soul, that most authentic part of me. And though I'm an introvert at heart, I’ve always loved performing. My first ballet performance at age 3 surprised my parents as they watched their sensitive and shy daughter was suddenly commanding the stage like the Looney Tunes Michigan J. Frog as I danced to “Baby, Take a Bow”.
My musical journey has taken me from piano lessons and singing church solos as a kid, to life-changing middle school honor choir experiences, to self-taught guitar and songwriting and crooning like Joni Mitchell and The Beatles in high school, to finally getting brave enough to audition for my high school musical and getting my first taste of it as Laurey in OKLAHOMA! and Sandy in GREASE! to having my high school choir director introduce me to the mind-blowing notion that I could actually DO THIS for my career, to being immersed in the world of classical music and singing and Bach and college choir and acting classes and Shakespeare and theatre with college peers that were just as passionate and excited about all of this as I was, to a rigorous pre-professional opera track in graduate school, to sitting backstage at the IU opera house one night and realizing that my heart's desire was Musical Theater, to moving to Chicago and becoming part of the amazing theatre community there, to finally settling here in Wauwatosa, WI.
I never dreamed that this CA girl would end up moving back to Wisconsin as an adult, but it has ended up being the PERFECT place for me to be, where I have been able to take part in a thriving Milwaukee arts community (even through this COVID crisis I've been inspired by such innovative programing and reaching their audiences with powerful messages of hope), where I have a studio full of the most heart-driven and insightful and brilliant voice students, and where I’d be surrounded by an amazing community of family and friends that would help raise my family. It’s true what they say about it taking a village.
I can only imagine what some of you are feeling right now knowing the uncertainty of your future at school and if and how this global pandemic will affect your ability to be on campus, to meet new friends, to participate in ensembles and shows. So many emotions and overwhelm as we all try to prepare for a very different kind of school year--I know we're really feeling it at our house with our kids. Those of you who are gearing up for college musical theatre program auditions (and the daunting application process!) know it’s likely that all these auditions will be online, and it must be unsettling to know the precarious future the performing arts faces when this industry that depends on human-togetherness and mass gatherings has been so hard-hit by COVID-19.
I know there's a lot of heavy stuff going on in the world right now, and that can feel overwhelming. It is indeed a lot to be living through, hearing about and thinking about! I want you to know that I’m feeling all of these hard things with you, and you have all very much been on my mind and my heart these last several months. I don’t have any answers, and I can’t predict the future. None of us can. But what I do know is that you're surrounded by people (including me!) who care about you. And that human beings are capable of pretty amazing things. We have the strength to overcome adversity and the creativity to navigate challenges. One way to look at this time is that it offers possibility. Possibility for change, for making theatre more inclusive, for re-igniting our passion for why we make art, and for making its vital importance known to the world. And if my heart-driven voice students are any indication, I definitely have hope for the future. And just like I had no idea the shape my life and career would take, you can’t possibly dream of the delights YOUR future will hold.
I believe that this time you're living through and your personal pandemic experience will somehow influence your perspective of the world and the person you become. You might find that it in some weird way it even changes you for the better. So in the meantime, my dears, whether you’re on campus, at school in person or at home, put your whole heart into your studies with an eye toward the future. Spend some time outside. Laugh a little bit (or a LOT) and be silly. College students: call your mother…she’s probably going through a rough time as well with you leaving home. Trust your gut about which next steps to take. Breathe. The wisdom of the Universe will show up in you. Take a listen.
With my dad at my orientation weekend at VU.