My journey through life is clearly about following a path that was somehow destined for me. I cannot explain it. I have lived a kind of dicotomous existance, practicing both the visual and performing arts. I don't know why anyone would want to be so motivated as to practice two art forms with so much determination. I offer examples for possible reasons.
- When I was in kindergarten, the students were required to make a colorful chain out of strips of colored paper. It was an Easter project--- something to give to our mothers. A boy commented on how mine was so "good". He said it was the best one. I could barely believe my ears and I even wondered if he was just kidding. He continued to be amazed at the quality of my work. When the project was finished I wondered if he would continue to take notice; I was worried that I might have made the chain look worse and that he wouldn't be impressed. And I thought he was probably just putting me on, anyway. In other words, I was ready for a letdown.
On the contrary, not only did he notice, but he became even more amazed. He went on and on about it! I was finally convinced that he wasn't just joking. At the same time, I remember thinking in my 5-year-old way: "What an interesting fellow he is to show such an interest in something like a pretty, little chain!" Indeed, my self esteem, which for some reason was pretty low, began to improve. I remember proudly carrying that colorful chain home after class, actually admiring it, as I walked with some others who lived near my house. That boy may very well have contributed to whatever else was necessary for setting me on a path of creativity in the visual arts.
- When I was five years old, we had a group of relatives on my mother's side of the family, who came over for some afternoon festivities: uncles, aunts, a grandmother and a grandfather. The men were all in their work clothes, and it became apparent, polite as they were, that they were grudgingly there, stopping the important work they had to do. I also became aware that it was my mother and grandmother who were behind a coercive strategy to get them to stay. I loved and admired these brave men and they loved me, and somehow we made the best of it, largely, I'm sure, because of a song. Here's what happened:
The men as well as the women---the women started it off---tried to get me to memorize a popular song of that era which brought about a kind of common objective among the guests. Community, in the Scott Peck sense of the word, had just been established! Everyone wanted to see if I could learn and memorize that song. I did memorize the refrain, and I've never forgotten it.
- On Easter, around that same time, my sister and I (she was about 16 months younger) were required by our mother to memorize the hit song "Easter Parade." After some hard work we were hoodwinked into performing it in front of a church audience. The reason we had to be duped was because we were both so shy. My mother constantly tried to get us to sing in front of guests, and, I tell you! we were so shy we would hide behind the furniture.
The two of us (after a rehearsal with our mother) were directed, in our Sunday best, to walk to the church. No dawdling! After arriving we were shown through a side door, leading onto a stage with a piano and a podium. My sister---girls first---strolled onto the stage and stopped right behind the podium. As I passed by her, and approached center stage, I found that I was facing a very large audience. And all the people began laughing. I caught the humor just in time; it wasn't about me. It was about my sister who was still standing behind the podium.
That girl was either hiding there, or pretending to be some important person about to deliver a sermon or eulogy. I remember thinking that she must have considered herself so important that she would feel entitled to stand there, even though nobody could see her. She got quite a laugh. But I think she was too young to understand what it was all about. When she was ushered out from behind the podium and came closer to me, near center stage, we heard our cue to sing. Upon finishing the song, we recieved a polite applause, and then went off. We did not bow. Otherwise, we might have brought down the house. We were taught well about the important part of performing, but somebody overlooked a critical part of presentation: the humble bow. Oh! well. More understanding would come later.
That may have been my first formal engagement as a singer. But it was only after many years that I truly began to take singing seriously, which, even then, represented the beginning of a very long journey, with some major detours, before I finally began performing operatic roles on stages in metropolitan areas.
Acting is what any performance is about. Acting is the nuts and bolts of any performance; live, or otherwise. There is what we call vocal acting; we act with our voices as well as with our bodies. Singing springs from a need to communicate. To communicate is to act.