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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Coming Soon: The Lion King Experience

TheLionKingExperienceHappy Halloween! Now that that’s out of the way, this post has nothing to do with Halloween. Why? Because I had another PD today for Disney Theatricals and what we learned was way more exciting than naughty nurses and candy corn, which is saying a lot. (Especially for those of you who know how much I love naughty nurses candy corn)

If you don’t like geeking out over education or The Lion King, then you shouldn’t read this post. What you should do instead is look in the mirror and try to figure out what’s wrong with you!

The Lion King Experience is Disney Theatricals newest and biggest educational initiative, and it’s incredible. The short version is this: when you purchase the rights to either The Lion King Kids or The Lion King Jr., you get The Lion King Experience FOR FREE! “But what is The Lion King Experience?”

I’m so glad you asked.

The Lion King Experience is an introduction to musical theatre, using the world of The Lion King as its foundation. While it would be incredibly exciting for the most experienced middle school drama teacher to use, it is equally exciting and accessible for someone to facilitate that has never worked on a show, ever!

Each lesson begins with a DVD featuring two actors from The Lion King tour. They introduce the lesson of the day, and the teacher then guides them through a group activity. Students then break into their prides, smaller groups that they will remain in throughout the experience. There is a group lesson, followed by a time of sharing, and then the individual students journal, finishing up the lesson on a more personal level. And each lesson, for lack of a better word, builds upon the last.

Confused? Try this in for size. There’s a unit on the role of the book writer of a show. After the video and group activity, each pride is given a one sentence topic for a scene which they then script together. The next lesson is on the role of the composer. The students go back to the scene they wrote in the previous session and find a moment that could be elevated into song, and the prides work together to write their lyrics. The next lesson? Choreography. You guessed it–the students are choreographing the songs they composed. So in three short lessons, students have written a scene, complete with an original, fully-choreographed song. They also learn about costume design, make-up and masks, sound design, and the list just goes on. And all of it takes place in the world of The Lion King. Can you imagine the knowledge these kids will have when they start rehearsals? And what a great way to get kids who may not be interested in performing excited about the show! One kid might shine when designing masks, and another might find the use and placement of microphones thrilling, and then you’ve got a team of tiny, little helpers ready to lend a hand.

For the PD, we broke into pairs and each group had one lesson to work with. We had twenty minutes to come up with a five minute presentation for the rest of the group, where we could either speed through, show some of the video, activate a group exercise, or any combination of the above. There is too much material for us all to ingest it in one sitting, so this was the best way for us to all leave with a good idea about the program. And I can’t tell you how excited and giddy we all were; a group of adults walking around the room like hyenas, beating djembes, and dancing like hornbills. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love my job!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

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Newsies: The Final Performance on Broadway

Newsies-the-musical_143236This afternoon was the final Broadway performance of Newsies, and man, what an exit these boys made!  If you didn’t get to see the show, you definitely missed something great.  The energy on stage is unsurpassed, the choreography is thrilling, the voices are breathtaking.

Thanks to my friends at Disney Theatricals, all of the teaching artists were invited to the final show; it was a gift I was thrilled to receive. I literally giggled when I got the email invite and ran above ground from the subway platform so I could RSVP instantly before losing reception.

One of the things I loved most about Newsies is it turned these chorus boys into rock stars!  It’s the most ensemble-focused show I’ve seen and the audience goes wild for these guys.  If you just listened to an audio bootleg, you’d think you were at a One Direction concert.  And the autograph line at the stage door is unreal.  A lot of these guys are making their Broadway debuts, while others have been on Broadway since they were in elementary school.  And every single one of them now has a fan base like you wouldn’t believe!

Take that, the daily energy at the show, and multiply that by 50, when the house is packed to the brim with the most dedicated friends, family, and fansies Broadway has ever seen.  I lost track of how many standing ovations there were during the show.  After almost every number, when all the guys hit their final pose, the audience was on their feet, cheering and clapping.  All of the teaching artists were sitting near each other and we would just look at each other and laugh during these ovations because you’ve never seen or heard anything like that before.  And every jump, turn, split, barrel roll, and high note brought screams and applause from hundreds of fans.  Seriously, rock star level.

I brought my friend Arseniy as my +1, and he was in awe.  He’s a Russian cinematographer whose film I was in last year, and it was his first Broadway show.  While it was definitely a great one to start with, I hope he’s not disappointed the next time he goes to a show with expectations that the audience will be be on their feet cheering every seven minutes.  Maybe I should find a production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night to take him to so he can see the other end of the spectrum.

While I’m incredibly sad that I won’t be able to see this show on Broadway again, I am so thrilled that everyone involved with the production got the accolades they deserved, and more encouragement from an audience than they ever thought possible!

Seize The Day!

 

 

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Carrying The Banner with Newsies

newsies“It’s a fine life carrying the banner through it all.”

It’s no secret that Newsies is one of my favorite shows on Broadway, and it was also one of my favorite movies growing up.

Long before I knew Christian Bale as the naked guy running down the hallway with a chainsaw, I knew him as the guy riding a horse and singing about New Mexico.  Talk about versatility!

And now, thanks to Disney Theatricals, I get to work on Newsies.  We teach workshops for Aladdin, Newsies, and The Lion King.  While I absolutely love all of them, Newsies is my favorite.  I mean, how many get to wake up and say “today I’m gonna go to work and teach some excited tourists how to dance on newspapers while yelling ‘Strike! Strike! Strike!'”? (did I punctuate that correctly?)

This morning I was facilitating a workshop with my friend Steven, who is an incredible director, choreographer, and dancer.  After some introductory games and exercises, I teach them the music to Seize the Day, and then Steven teaches them the choreography.  And then for the big finish, we bring out the newspapers, adding that to the choreography.  I don’t know who’s more excited, me or the kids?  And if you’ve seen the show or at least a clip of the number online, it’s even more thrilling because that part of the dance is iconic!

To end the day, I was facilitating a talkback for Newsies after their evening show.  It was for a different group, and they loved the show.  And I love doing the talkbacks.  It’s always fun for me playing talk show host before the cast comes out because I get to ask them about their time in NYC, what their favorite moments were in the show, and get them all excited for the Newsies who are about to come out.  And then during the talkback, I always learn a lot, too.  Sometimes it’s something about the rehearsal process, or a cast member’s audition story, where they went to school, or a challenge they had to overcome.  Whatever is brought up during the talkback, it’s always inspiring.  There isn’t a single member of the cast that isn’t having the time of their life and it’s so infectious.  Seeing these guys living their dreams reminds you of all the reasons why you’re pursuing something similar, and it also pushes you to work a little harder.

And Tommy Bracco, who plays Spot Conlon in the show and is pictured above, is a friend of mine.  I musically directed him in High School Musical for Interlakes Theatre in Meredith, New Hampshire.  I had no idea at the time that it was his first ever musical.  And here he is, just a few years later, shining brighter than ever on Broadway!

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Mickey Mouse said yes!

mickey thumbs upI did it!  I got the job with Disney!  Can I get a “wahoo!”?  (random side note: when I type “wahoo” on my phone, it is auto-corrected to “Wachovia.”)

After writing up a lesson plan and submitting my resume, we moved on to the in-person interviews.  After that, a group of us were then invited to audition, where we taught ten minutes from our full lesson plan.  And now, the job offer!  I have no idea how many of us they accepted, but I’m excited to find out on Friday, when we have our official training.

Sunday I have a great rehearsal with my choir for our next Carnegie Hall concert, and Monday was a tap rehearsal with Ya’el, which is always a good time.  Today I was offered a job with Disney; so far it’s been a pretty awesome week, and it’s only Tuesday.  Hopefully the trend will continue.  Unless you buy into the “things happen in threes” philosophy, which would mean that this is the end of the road for my good fortune and fun.

But until then, I’m going to throw on the Newsies soundtrack and have a celebratory room-cleaning party for one.  Wachovia!

 

 

 

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The Disney Teaching Artist Audition

woodchuckToday was an absolute blast!  It was my audition to be a teaching artist for Disney Theatrical Group, and it couldn’t have been more fun.  It was one of those great experiences where you just get to play and laugh, make music and dance, and say “this is my job!”  (or in our case, “I want this to be my job, so pleeeeease hire me!”)

There were ten of us auditioning, and the group was filled out with some of the current teaching artists on staff.  Right from the start we were told to just relax and have fun, and that’s exactly what we did.  I mean, what’s better than starting your day singing Disney songs for two hours, while playing theatre games and doing some improv?

We were also told not to worry if someone before us did something similar to what we were doing; since there were ten of us, all using Disney songs, it was possible to have some repeats.  I was so glad they had said that as soon as one of the girls started teaching the same song I was going to do.  And then another guy did a great tongue-twister warm-up.  Great minds think alike, right?

For my section, I did what I was planning on when I wrote about getting ready here.  I started off with the warm-up I wrote using “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  I have to admit, it’s a pretty neat, little exercise.  In a matter of minutes, the group is singing in three-party harmony, and just laughing and having a great time.  I’m definitely going to use it in the future.

After the warm-up, I got them moving a little with the interlude that leads into the last chorus of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” which took us right up until the buzzer went off, letting me know my time was up.  Everyone was exceptional, and I learned a lot of great tips and tricks from the other guys auditioning.

I’m not sure how many people they’re looking to hire, and neither are they.  We were told that there wasn’t a set number; it was all up to how many people they saw today that they thought would work well within the company.

Whether or not I get the job, this was one of those auditions where you left knowing that you gave it your all and loved every second of it!

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Audition for Disney Theatrical Group confirmed!

Mickey PianoLooks like I’ll get to test out the effectiveness of my Woodchuck Warm-up next Friday.  The good folks at Disney emailed me to ask me to come in and audition on Friday for the teaching artist position.

Less than 24 hours after my interview, they made their decisions about who they wanted to move on to the next round.  Now that’s what I call speedy.  In an industry where all you can do is give it your all and then wait, I love it when people move so quickly.

They asked that we prepare a 10 minute lesson, which can either be an isolated segment for our full lesson plan, or we can do a fast-forward style lesson, where we can hit all the good parts and skip our way through.  I think I’m going to start with the vocal warm-up for five minutes, and then segue into the beginning of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.”  Since my “class of students” I’ll be teaching to is made up of the other applicants, they’re all musicians and will pick things up quickly.  So ideally, we’ll have a great warm-up and then at least get through the interlude of The Lion King, adding a little choreography.

They have two types of teaching artists from what I can tell: musical directors and choreographers.  While I’m obviously going in as a musical director, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to let them know that I can move a little, especially since I know a lot of musical directors who would be mortified if they were asked to dance.

I have no idea how many other people they’re asking to audition, but I’m excited I get the chance to get in front of them and show them a little bit of what I can do.  While I’ve never been a teaching artist before, at least not with that official title, it seems like it’s pretty similar to the work I’ve done musically directing kid’s shows.

So, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

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Disney Interview? Check.

Mickey_Mouse1I’m thrilled to report that I just got an email asking me to come in for an interview for the Disney teaching artist position I wrote about here.  According the the email, it will be an informal chat to learn more about my experience and skills.  This is exactly what I was hoping for!

While I don’t write the worst cover letters, I definitely fare better when I can meet people face-to-face.  I’m always worried about how I come across in writing because I’m usually way too excited and I’m scared that people will read it and think “this guy just needs to take a deep breath.”  Other times, I start to impress myself with my qualifications, and my letter could read like a manual for narcissism.  So I edit, and then edit again, but am never sure if I’ve then over-edited and lost any sense of genuineness.  (over-thinker, much?)

For the lesson plan, I decided to go above and beyond, and included a PDF of a vocal warm-up that I wrote specifically for this application.  I notated it all in Finale, made it look fancy, and included it with my lesson plan.  You gotta get a gimmick, right?

When I was in Korea, I started to write warm-ups using the text of tongue-twisters.  Not only was it fun for the kids, but I got a sick kick out of hearing little Asian kids try and blurt out a bunch of nonsensical English phrases is rapid succession.  For Disney, I decided to use the ol’ classic “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

If all goes well on Friday with this interview, the next phase is inviting some of us back a week later to audition, teaching a ten-minute segment from our proposed lesson.  Fingers crossed!

 

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It’s a small world after all!

Disney-logoYesterday, I got an exciting Facebook message from my friend Lindsay Luppino, who played Ariel when I was on the Footloose National Tour.  She told me that a friend of hers, Kiara, works as a teaching artist for Disney Theatricals, and they were looking for musical directors to join their teaching artist staff.

She put me in touch with her, and I was just sent the job posting. I’m not one to brag, but after reading the job description, I think they’re looking for me!  Some of the highlights were being proficient on piano, 3+ years working as a musical director, experience working with Special Education populations, and experience with English Language Learners.  I mean, come on!  While I don’t have a graduate degree, which is listed under the preferred qualifications, I’m hopeful that they can look past that, and at least bring me in for an interview.

I’d write more about how excited I am, but I’ve got to get to work on the 45 minute lesson plan they’re asking for, as well as revamping my resume a bit.

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