2015: The Goals

2015_2When I got the position with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey, I decided that seven weeks out of the city would be a great way to take some time to reevaluate without getting caught up in the day-to-day hustle of my normal NYC routine.  I always make lists of everything I want to accomplish, and have some pretty epic to-do lists, but nothing gets done.  Most of my time is spent just trying to figure out what needs to get done.  So with this much needed break, I decided it was finally time to figure it all out.  And since it just happened to be at the end of the year, the timing was perfect for creating a plan for the New Year.

My achilles heel has always been the fact that I like to do everything, and I’m very driven about everything.  The result is that I’m always busy, always booking something, and I never have time to get bored.  Great, right?  Well, yeah.  But also not so great because I never have a plan.  I submit and audition for everything, and then take everything that I get if there’s any way at all to fit it into my schedule.  The downside is I never have time to really sit down and evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.

Enter 2015!  This is going to be the year that I start to focus and really start thinking about quality over quantity.  Depending on who you asked, in 2014 I was an actor, vocal coach, composer, musical director, organist, choir director, administrative assistant, singer, photographer, teaching artist, and tap dancer.  On the outside, it looks pretty damn impressive; I photographed celebrities, accompanied Broadway stars, acted in a short film that went to Cannes, was on a TV show, and sang in an ensemble at Carnegie Hall twice.

If you look closer, though, I had a little involvement in a lot of big things.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all; I still get giddy thinking about it.  But I’m spreading myself too thin.  If I wanted to stay at this level, then I’d be set.  And it’s already a level I never thought possible.  That being said, I want to climb a little higher.

If I really want to succeed, I think it’s time that I put more effort into fewer things, into bigger things.  While I’m having a blast playing serial killers on Discovery ID, it’s not going to go past that.  No one at Carnegie Hall, except for my roommate, knew I was there.  And while it’s not about recognition, what I’m getting at is I would love to have a bigger involvement in something, take it to the next level.  And in order to do that, I could either create a couple extra days in the week, or I could free up some time but eliminating some things.  And I’m guessing that the more feasible thing to do is free up some time rather than creating some more.

I’m almost done creating some rules for myself which I’ll write about later.  I think the key for me stepping things up is to see how far I can push myself with a plan in place.  I already push myself pretty hard right now, but I’m pushing myself in way too many directions that I always end up back where I started, which is wacky state of sleep depravation and confusion.  Don’t believe me?  Talk to my roommate.

Anyway, it’s after midnight and one of the things I’m trying to change is my sleep schedule.  I’m a night owl but I also work long days so I end up not sleeping enough and from the second I wake up, I start counting down the hours until I can go to bed, which is normally around 18.  So I am going to voluntarily go to bed and wake up with enough time that I don’t have to sprint out the door and see what happens.

Off to bed!

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2015: Looking Ahead

2015So, as I wrote earlier, 2014 was a great year for me.  And the year before.  And the year before.  But that’s because I’m pretty easy to please.  It’s a great problem to have, but it also places me in my own way sometimes.

I’m like a little kid.  It doesn’t take much for me to feel like “this is the most awesome thing ever!!!”  When I’m doing extra work, most of the people around me are complaining about the lack of variety in the catering, or how it’s such a long day.  I just look around and think “but guys, we’re working on a real mooooovie!”  Same for reenactment tv.  And student films.  And shows.  And concerts.  I guess the great news is I haven’t become jaded.  When it comes to focus, though, that’s where I have a problem.

When people get to know me, or at least get me involved in conversation about everything I’m doing, they inevitably ask me what my dream job is.  And I always struggle to come up with an answer.  Again, the good part is that there isn’t only one thing that I’d be happy doing.  The bad part is that with so many options on the table, I never really put enough focus into any one of them.

In a city like New York, if you want to get to the top in any field, you’ve gotta work harder than everyone else around you.  And while a lot of people will tell you that I’m one of the most driven people they know, that drive lacks focus.  What they see is that I’m always on the go, always working, and usually have something fun to post about on Facebook.  But I don’t really have a master plan.  I just submit and apply for everything that interests me, and if I can squeeze it into my schedule, I do it.

I usually only have one day off a month where I’m not running from one thing to the next, and on most days I’m working more than one job.  If you look at the last two weeks before I left for the circus, I worked as an admin assistant for The New York Pops and Actors Equity, I acted in a short film, was the rehearsal accompanist and sang in a concert with Essential Voices USA, recorded a voice for an animated film (which I also composed the theme song for), taught one workshop for Disney and two for A Class Act, directed and accompanied a benefit concert, worked as a church organist and choir director, photographed a press event, and hit up a few auditions.

Insane, right?  That’s literally the two weeks before I left New York.  Was it a blast?  You bet!  Was I sleeping enough?  Not a chance!  Did I get sick because of it?  Of course, silly.  But that’s just what I do!

Now here’s the thing.  I’m finally getting to a point, at the ripe, young age of 35, where I’m starting to realize that I need a plan.  Sure, I’m doing a lot of fun stuff and getting loads of random crap on my resume.  But if I really want to take off, to really excel in one of these areas, I’ve gotta let people know that’s what I do and that I’m damn good at it.  Of course you can do as many things as you want, and I don’t believe that you can only be really good at one thing.  But, it’s a little harder for people to take you seriously if they don’t really know what you do.

Look at it this way, if you were going to hire a wedding photographer, would you hire someone who has a legit wedding photography business with hundreds of weddings in their portfolio, or would you hire a photographer who has shot a couple weddings, some fashion shows, a little bit of travel photographer, who has also catered weddings, worked them as a dj, and baked a couple wedding cakes?  I think the answer is clear, and I think you know I’m the metaphorical photographer/caterer/dj/baker.

The ball’s gonna drop in a few so I’m gonna take a break, but I’ll be back next year with more on my 2015 plans!

Happy New Year!

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2014: The Year In Review

2014-new-yearAs 2014 comes to a close, I can’t help but take a little time to think back on what an awesome year it was.  I always try to be optimistic, so I’ve never looked back on a particular year and said “well, this one really blew.  Let’s hope the next one is better.”  But this year in particular was really exciting.

I had a ton of fun, I got to do a lot of cool things and meet a lot of cool people, and in general, I was just loving what I was doing…most of the time.  (I’m sure if you talked to my roommate, she’d be able to point out a few times where all I did was bitch about what I was doing.)

RIght now, I’m in Ft. Myers, Florida, having a breakfast sandwich and a hot cup of black coffee at Panera Bread, one of my favorite places to just sit and relax.  I was thinking of going through, month by month, with my Google calendar open, but that just seemed obnoxious, so I’ll just shoot from the hip.

To start, I’m a teaching artist!  At this time last year, I didn’t even know what a teaching artist was (or that I had been one without knowing it); I had heard the term thrown around a lot but thought it was someone that had a masters in education who went into schools to do special programs.  Little did I know that a teaching artist could also be someone who dropped their education major after the first day of Classroom Instruments in college (though I don’t advertise that when applying for jobs).  Fast-forward to now and I’m working as a teaching artist for Disney Theatricals, Broadway Classroom, A Class Act NY, and starting in two weeks, The New York Pops, all which happened in 2014.

At the start of the year, I took a little cruise with Jim Brochu, playing piano for his show Character Man, which took us to St. Barths, St. Maarten, Jost Van Dyke, and San Juan.

I got to photograph a ton of celebrities I adore including Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Aaron Tveit, Matthew Morrison, and Debra Messing.  And my favorite shot of the year was at The New York Pops gala honoring Scott Whitman and Marc Shaiman, when I was able to get “the three Tracys” in one photo: Ricki Lake, Nikki Blonsky, and Marissa Jaret Winokur.

With Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA, I had the privilege of singing with the chorus two more times at Carnegie Hall, once in March and once in Novemeber.  A small group of us also spent an evening with John Bucchino, singing through an arrangement of his piece Grateful that my friend Jeremy created.

For film and TV, I shot (acted in) an episode for Discovery ID and another one for The Travel Channel, I did my first voiceover work for Lucky and the Pirates, shot a short film, and recorded a little music for a web series I acted in last year, but finished up with the music this year.

And at the piano, I was a rehearsal accompanist for Broadway Backwards, musically directed Warp Speed for the Midtown International Theatre Festival, accompanied a couple cabarets, and had a blast working with Will and Anthony for several concerts.

And now?  I’ve run away and joined the circus!  I could not be more grateful for everything that’s been going on.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t take some time to be thankful for all of the blessings (and insanity) in my life!

Another reason for this list is to segue into my next post, which will be all about figuring out what my plans are for 2015.  I still want it to be wacky and exciting, but as you can see, I tend to spread myself a little thin.  I think I’m going to hone in a little and put more energy into fewer things.

What will they be?  Patience, my child.  I’m still figuring it out.

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Another murderous rampage on Discovery ID

FatalENcountersLast night my episode of Most Evil aired on Discovery ID.  I’m staying at a studio 6 in West Palm Beach, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the cable package didn’t include the channel.  I also checked a couple of bars we had been going to, and they only subscribe to some ESPN pro package.  Apparently, no one has any class in WPB.  And yes, by class I mean watching trashy true-crime reenactment shows.

We got out of rehearsal a little early yesterday, so I decided to walk around the downtown area and not quit until I found a place to watch the show.  Finally, after two hours, I had a place-Duffy’s Sports Grill on Clematis Street.  They had dozens of TVs, all set to football, but the manager said it wouldn’t be a problem to switch one of them over to Discovery ID at 10:00.  So I had just enough time to walk the hour back to my hotel, eat dinner, and then walk the hour back to the bar.  Sure, I could’ve taken an Uber both ways, but thanks to The World of Beer down on the waterfront, I’m a little over budget and trying to keep expenses down.

So there I was, tucked away in a corner of a packed sports bar, watching myself drag a dead hooker’s body out of my car and leaving it by a dumpster; just your typical Sunday night.  And as if that wasn’t creepy enough, mom suggested that I get a picture of myself watching the show.  So there I was, drinking alone and watching true-crime TV in a sports bar, grinning like an idiot as if it’s the most thrilling movie ever made, and taking selfies of me watching me.

I haven’t uploaded them to my computer yet, but if they’re half as creepy as I’m expecting, I’ll make sure to post one here!

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Confession: I’m A Workaholic

workaholic-career-addictionAnd I mean that in the best way possible. I don’t just work for the sake of working, and it’s not because I have a feeling that I’m not doing enough so I’m constantly trying to get ahead. I just love my job! (or maybe I don’t know how to have enough fun outside of work?)

Today was our first rehearsal for Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey presents Built To Amaze in West Palm Beach. We just finished Winter Quarters, which is the gold unit’s annual rehearsal process. The band rehearses six days a week, from 9-6; not that different from a theatre rehearsal schedule. While people not in “the biz” might say “six days a week for nine hours a day? Are you kidding?” I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Wednesday we traveled from Ellenton, FL to West Palm Beach. Thursday and Friday we were off, which was great. I spent a lot of time outdoors because the weather is beautiful, and I took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to be up at 7. That being said, I had more fun today during our two-hour run-through than I had in two days total of free time. As soon as I step foot in the venue, I light up. Walking through the parking lot I passed a man who was riding on a horse while standing, another guy whizzed by on a unicycle, and two elephants were playing in the stand. Moving into the venue, one performer is practicing with his crossbow, the Russian trapeze guys are doing handstand pushups in the center ring, and a clown was bouncing on a trampoline. And I work here! This is an actual job with an actual salary; a union job at that!

The second the announcement comes over the loudspeaker that it’s our three-minute warning, I just smile. From the downbeat of the ringmaster entrance song to the last note of the exit music, I’m dancing at my keyboards, taking it all in. Sometimes I’m focused on my music because it’s a tricky passage, other times my eyes are glued to the conductor, waiting for an important cue coming up, and other times I’m trying to watch the acts without losing my place in the music. And every second of it is thrilling!

I’m sure some people on the show were lamenting the fact that we were back to work, but me? There is no place else I’d rather be!

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Most Evil on Discovery ID

Most_evil_logoI just got word that my episode of Most Evil is going to air on Discovery ID on Sunday, 12/21 at 10:00 PM.  It’s my first episode of the show, but my fourth on the network.  My first was when I had the privilege of playing Charles Yukl on Fatal Encounters; to this day, it’s one of my favorite experiences!

Second and third was On The Case with Paula Zahn.  I was hired for one episode, and when I got there and we started shooting, I was asked if I’d mind stepping in for the previous episode.  I don’t know if an actor didn’t show up or if the production ran out of time, but they needed to film the boyfriend of the victim.  Clearly, I had no problem saying yes.

And now, Most Evil!  All I have to do now is find a way to watch it.  I’m pretty sure the hotel I’ll be staying in won’t have that channel, since I’m staying at the same chain where I’m currently settled in, and they only have the basic channels.  Maybe I’ll be able to find a bar nearby that wouldn’t mind switching one of their sets to ID.  I’m sure they’ve had stranger requests…I hope.

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It’s Begun: My So-Called Circus Life

circus-life-650After a very early start to the day with very little sleep, I’m finally ready to turn out the lights. I went to bed around 2:30 because, as usual, I didn’t start packing until the last possible second. And I was up at 6:30 for my last Sunday at church before my leave of absence. Anyway, who cares about those boring details? The exciting part is that I’m here, and I start working for the circus tomorrow!

I just got back from a “Welcome to Winter Quarters” band meeting, and by meeting, I mean a bunch of guys sitting around dripping beer and eating their weight in fried awesomeness. So obviously, even though I’ve only known these guys for a couple hours, excluding my buddy Danny, it’s clear we’re going to get along just fine.

It was great for me to at least get to know people a little before diving into six days a week of rehearsals for the next three weeks, and informal gatherings always work better than introducing yourself “at the office.” I think theatre should follow Robbie’s example (Robbie being the conductor). When you start working on a show, you generally go around the table and introduce yourself and the role you’re playing in the production, and away you go. It’s up to you to get to know people on a more personal level. But here, we’ve already shared a bunch of laughs before we even get started. And I’m the only new guy to the group, so they all know each other already, but it’s still a great way to get the ball rolling. And let’s be honest, fried food and beer is really a great way to start anything, so there’s that.

So tomorrow it all starts. Winter Quarters. From what I can tell, we start the process rehearsing in a music trailer while the acts are rehearsing on the floor, and over the course of the three weeks, we start to put it all together, and before you know it, we’re on the road.

I’m gonna drop the mic now, because if I keep thinking about it, I’m gonna get myself too excited to sleep.

Oh, and if you’re ever in Bradenton, Florida, don’t stay at The Sunrise Inn. I’ve been killing bugs in the bathroom all night, and the sink if clogged. But aside from that, and the cigarette burns in the comforter, you couldn’t tell this place from the Ritz Carlton.

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Barking, Growling, Panting, and other things you do as an actor

photo (8)Today was my last day working on Lucky and the Pirates, and as is always the case at Moon Lab studios, it was a blast. We were a little short on time on November 9th, as we were recording the script, so Lane Banning, recording genius, was able to carve out some time today for me to finish up. Basically we just needed to get some more dog sounds so the animators have some more options in the toolbox.

When I got to the studio, I asked Lane to play me The Lonely Pirate song, the piece I wrote for the film, because I was so curious what the finished product sounded like, and it was great! When we recorded a couple weeks ago, we did the instrumental track first; I played accordion and Johnny played banjo. Later, when we were all there, we recorded the vocals, so I was never able to really listen to what everyone else was doing because I had to make sure my own vocals were lining up with the track. And now that I’ve heard it, I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like when it’s set to animation!

After listening to the song, I was telling Lane how I had been watching shih tzu videos on YouTube so I could make sure my barking and growling sounded legit. So just for kicks, he loaded one up while I was in the booth so we could both listen to the real thing, before I started shameless attempt to mimic. And away we went.

I was panting, howling, barking, and growling like a champ. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when I realized I was biting my finger like it was a stick, while growling and playing tug-of-war with myself. If I were doing this anywhere else besides a recording studio, I’d be on my way to an institution. All in a day’s work, I guess.

Hey, mom! Aren’t you glad I went to college for this? (That poor lady. Today her son is imitating a pooch, and in 36 hours, he’s running away to join the circus)

 

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Carnegie Hall: 9th Time’s A Charm

carnegiehallI can’t believe it’s been three years since I auditioned for Essential Voices USA, under the brilliant direction of Judith Clurman. Back in 2011, I saw an ad on Playbill.com looking for singers for a chorus. I used to love singing in choruses so I figured, what do I have to lose? Long story short: I auditioned, I got in, and I’ve loved every second of it.

This time around I have also been the rehearsal accompanist, which has really been great. There’s no doubt I’m a much better pianist than singer, so it’s a real treat when I get to do both under the same umbrella. One part of what the chorus does is perform on the New York Pops subscription series at Carnegie Hall. When I auditioned, I had no idea that was the case. Had I known, I probably would’ve talked myself out of auditioning in the first place, telling myself there are much more capable singers. But ignorance was bliss.

Since I’ve been in the chorus, I’ve had the divine privilege of performing with them in nine concerts at the iconic venue. Even though I add the tiniest piece to the puzzle, there’s still something so magical about every show. You just walk onto that stage and you’re filled with a sense of awe; it’s truly majestic. And not only that, but you can’t help but think of all the people that have walked through that same doorway onto that same stage. The orchestra starts to tune and I just get chills.

Tonight, the concert was “By Special Request: An Evening With The Orchestra.” Most of the concerts on the series have celebrity performers, but this annual concert is all about the orchestra, and the spotlight isn’t shared with anyone else. I’m sure it’s delicious for the orchestra members to be able to dive into this music, selections that a pops orchestra normally wouldn’t play.

For the chorus, we sang O Furtuna from Carmina Burana, Copeland’s The Promise of Living, Bernstein’s Make Our Garden Grow, and Steven Reineke’s Festival Te Deum. Steven is the musical director and conductor of the orchestra, and this concert was the New York premiere of his stunning work. It was really fun–and a little nerve-racking– to be able to accompany the chorus for his piece, while he was there conducting us for our final rehearsal. (Although I wasn’t nearly as terrified as when Jason Robert Brown came to a performance of Songs For A New World that I was conducting, my first show in New York City.)

I’m pretty sick right now, and woke up feeling like complete trash. A part of me was hoping that I’d be sent home as soon as I showed up. Thankfully that didn’t happen because, as expected, as soon our dress rehearsal started and I was sitting on the risers on that stage, I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else!

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Lucky And The Pirates: In The Studio

Kevin B. Winebold at Moon Lab Studios

In the booth at Moon Lab Studios

Today was our recording day for Lucky and the Pirates and I realized something today: I love doing voiceover work!  I only had one experience before, doing a radio play for an NYU student, but today was the real deal.

We were at Moon Lab studios, run by my buddy Lane Banning.  I met him when we were recording the performance tracks for Warp Speed, and we loved him so much that we went back to record a demo of the show when it was finished.  It wasn’t anything the production team had planned on, but working with Lane was so much fun and such an easy process that the producer decided it’d be a shame not to bring in the whole cast to record the show as a keepsake when we were finished with the run.

For Warp Speed, the first day I was at the keyboard all day laying down the tracks, which was great because I was right there in the room where Lane was working, so I could get a little glimpse into the whole process.  And when the cast came, they were in the studio, while I stayed with Lane and just listened and gave notes, since we recorded with the tracks I already played.

Today, I got to be in the studio myself. I had my own little booth where I could just talk, bark, pant, and go nuts, and I loved every second of it.  I had never done any kind of work before where I couldn’t see the other actors, so it was really interesting.  It really makes you listen so you’re truly reacting, because that’s all you can do.  I didn’t get to see the physicality of the other actors because of the setup, so I just had to trust my instincts and it was so much fun!  And I could be as weird as I wanted to in the booth, shaking my ass like I was wagging a tail whenever I spoke, and no one could see me to make fun of me!

Before we dove into the script, I had to lay down the instrumental track for the Lonely Pirate song I wrote.  I played accordion and Johnny, who plays one of the pirates, played banjo.  We did a couple takes of the song, and then brought the cast in to lay down the vocals.  Karen and Lane figured it’d be better to get those out of the way first, so that the remainder of the time could be spent on the dialogue.

I raced from my church gig in Queens to the studio in Brooklyn, recorded the song and the script, and then had to get an Uber so I could race from the studio to a rehearsal in Manhattan with Essential Voices USA, since we have a concert coming up.

Oh, and the Uber driver and I had a fantastic conversation.  He asked where I was coming from and where I was going.  When I mentioned what I was doing with Lucky, his eyes lit up.  Several of his passengers have told him he had an amazing voice and should try and get into voiceover work but had no idea where to start.  And I’ll admit, he did have a fantastic voice.  I told him I was new to it myself, but was at least able to give him a bunch of internet resources that I have used myself.  Just another one of those great NYC moments that happens when you open up and talk to strangers!

I’m about three seconds from passing out, but luckily I’ve got a pretty relaxed day tomorrow with only one class and one rehearsal.

Sleep tight!

 

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