Follow the Leader, Day 31
“Who is Ariana Chris?” Tweets poured in last night after my friend sang the Greek National Anthem in Vancouver’s Closing Ceremony last night, mostly wondering about the identity of the talented mezzo soprano in white who sang just before Ben Heppner.
Ariana has inspired me since we met at the International Vocal Institute in Tel Aviv two summers ago. I had heard about her talent and beauty from mutual friends but never imagined the extent of her charm or determination. As truly one of the most dedicated opera singers I know, she spent years navigating her career by sending out scores of headshots and résumés, singing for anyone who would hear her, and networking like a very friendly fiend, all without an agent. She participated in and won some amazing competitions and when she was ready, she auditioned for an agent she really wanted, Robert Gilder, who I’m sure at the very least helped to negotiate her contract with the 2010 Olympics.
Nowadays, I have the rare fortune of observing her devotion to her career as a roommate when she’s not in Toronto. Last night, when I saw my inspiring friend on television, I admittedly cried a little out of joy for her and applauded to myself in my apartment when she finished the anthem. Partly because this too often is the stuff of urban legend, it really moved and inspired me to see such a good and talented person rewarded for her hard work and persistence.
Today, in my new-found quest to do likewise, I awoke earlier and returned from a weekend off to the gym and from my cold-inspired vocal rest to a new practice routine. Behind on a couple of due dates already, I decided to suck it up, get cracking, and behave like an inspired artist should, with no excuses. Although I had hoped to bring a friend this time to First Mondays, a new Naked Angels experience for me, I couldn’t recruit someone today and had to attend alone. Thankfully, I then had the opportunity to sit next to Jennifer, an actor from Brooklyn who gave great conversation and some perspective on starting from scratch on the professional acting front.
A decade ago, I needed no such perspective. Fresh out of college and brave enough to finally admit that I want to perform for a living and not teach, I did whatever I could to make money singing, network, and begin to grasp the opera world in which I immersed myself. Even singing and waiting tables at the Victor Café in Philadelphia provided me the opportunity to talk with other singers who told me all about auditions, audition listings, church jobs, chorus gigs, and great conductors like Donald Nally, with whom I would work for several years as a result.
Tonight’s play, The Innocents by Steven Drukman, contained themes including trust and giving into the desires of one’s heart. As I walked to the subway tonight with Jennifer after the play, I caught myself feeling a little nervous about having to starting over in theater the way I did ten years ago with opera. Thankfully, I have no intention of giving up the small successes I’ve already found in opera and classical singing, and theater will hopefully add to my already growing list of opportunities. I need to remember the energy with which I first tackled my interests, going forward with trust and discipline to pursue and live my heart’s desires.
Perhaps beginning a newly disciplined schedule, waking up early, having a productive day with far less distraction, and enjoying the warmth and sun of March all contributed to having a great day today. No doubt the news that my mother had her appointment with her neurologist and feels much better helped immensely. For those of you who read last Friday’s post about her seizure, she has new medication and will head back to driving and to work tomorrow, thanks to my father who took excellent care of her. Thanks for all your prayers and support. Between my mother’s strength and Ariana’s resolve, I have some amazing examples in my life. Regardless of the path each day takes, I finally feel like I have one to follow, thanks to some true inspiration from my wonderful family and friends.