My eyes were drawn to the man settling in at the table next to mine, as it became obvious that he was trying to get my attention. He said, “I know we’re scheduled to have lunch next Tuesday, but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t start now!” My mind reeled for a long minute, as I looked at this face that was at once familiar and foreign - it was my music theory teacher from my senior year of high school in Atlanta!
It was true: we do have a lunch date for this week! As I prepare to go to Atlanta in a couple weeks to sing with the Symphony, I’ve been doing a little digging into my past, reconnecting with some friends and teachers in hopes of seeing them while I’m “in the neighborhood.” My search for this teacher, JB, uncovered the fact that he is the music director for an off-Broadway show that happens to run in a theater three blocks from my apartment. I sent an email to the producer of the show, and soon after JB and I were planning our reunion. But the universe seems to be on a different schedule! After the shock wore off, we each shared a few tidbits of the past 15 (!!!) years, whetting our appetites to spend some good time together catching up.
One thing I did manage to get across to him in those brief moments, and part of the impetus behind my seeking out my early teachers, is that there were seeds planted during that year that I feel are directly responsible for my being a performer today. High school was weird for me (wasn’t it for everyone, though?) for several reasons, not the least of which being that my family moved right before my senior year. Fortunately, we landed just down the street from the high school performing arts magnet program, and I spent my senior year doing what I’ve loved since I was a kid: performing. Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes, Marianne in Tartuffe (think Moliere, not Mechem), a couple of solos with the show choir, “By My Side” in Godspell. I was in heaven.
I also took my first theory class, led by the above mentioned JB, and a year-long drama course taught by KN. At the end of the year, my grade sheet for my final monologue assignment included a special note, the first time anyone suggested that I seriously consider “a career on the stage.” He ended with the question: “Broadway someday?” He was close... I’m hopefully going to see him in Atlanta later this month, and I can’t wait to tell him that I have his note still, carefully laminated and stored in my SOJ box (that’s Bird Family Lingo: Sentimental Old Junk). You never forget the first person to really believe in you, the first time you think “maybe I can do this...”