Tuesday, August 07, 2007

my point is in here somewhere, or, i am my father's girl

I started drafting a post about quitting my job today. But it turned into something much bigger. In fact, I'm still not done writing it. It's getting a little long, so I think I'll have to break it into pieces. Here's the first bit:

My father is an elementary school music teacher. He’s taught music to probably thousands of kids for over 30 years. I’ve always admired Dad for plenty of reasons, and one of them is because of his choice to become a teacher. We’ve all heard the expression: those who can’t do, teach. But for Dad, teaching was not his only option. Not by a long shot. It was a choice.

Dad's a phenomenal horn player. He’s got the richest tone quality; he pierces a note right to its center, and the man is a phrasing genius. Dad won second chair for the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 17. I have no doubt he could have gone on to play for any one of the greatest symphony orchestras, touring all over the earth, and recording with the best conductors in the world. Dad is a true musician, who subconsciously executes those subtle nuances the trained ears pick up on and relish immediately. I love hearing him play. We basically grew up to a second horn part soundtrack - the faint song of a single french horn wafting through the doggie door of the garage, the designated practice room, night after night. He stayed with second chair because first chair would mean more practicing. Dad wasn’t up for that kind of investment, especially if the Giants were on t.v. I remember old colleagues of Dad’s stopping in for a visit, guys who were playing for Chicago Symphony or Houston, expressing their envy for my Dad’s chops. That really impressed me. Up until then, I thought all horn players sounded as good as Dad. I mean, all the horn solos on Clearly Classical were.

So if you were to ask him why he didn’t go the route of performing and travel and glitz, he’ll tell you point blank: he loves teaching. Teaching was more rewarding for him. For one, it allowed for a more stable family life, regular hours, so he could spend more time with us. For two, and more importantly, Dad put it this way: “There’s just something amazing about helping a kid learn to play music. You’re changing him in a way that will positively affect the rest of his life. He’ll be a better student, a better learner, a better listener - - he’ll be a better person. As a music teacher, you have a part in that.”

Most of my life, I never understood someone choosing a classroom over fame. I seriously doubted anyone would honestly do that. I was a theater major in college, and bent on becoming the next Sissy Spacek. Turning down the spotlight, if it was offered to you, made absolutely zero sense to me. If you turned it down it wasn't because you honestly preferred teaching. You were a coward, and nothing else. Everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be known.

There are things I can do, and lots of things I can't. I can’t cook, I can’t geometry, I can’t fix a dining room chair, I can’t sew, I can't win a court case, I can't find my keys, and I can't stop talking - ever. But I can act. I can sing. And I can pass for a dancer on a good day.

Acceptance into Boston Conservatory was huge for me. Boco is a school for performing arts, and it’s understood that when you graduate you will be performing. Not teaching. That’s why the degree names don’t make a difference there, you don’t go there for academic credential. When you graduate, you move to New York and you start working. Most of the top-tiered students find work within a year. And by work I mean national tours, Broadway musicals, television and film. So yeah, to get in is a really good thing for your resume.

By the time I was in my second year, I had scored enough roles, and received enough feedback, telling me I could do this. I had the chops. With hard work, with persistence, I had a really good shot at being anywhere I wanted to be in the performing arts. Since the age of four I’d worked for it. Dance classes, voice lessons, acting lessons, workshops, theater camps, auditions, auditions, more auditions, a whole lifetime of this crap. And finally I was right there - - I had the training, I had the encouragement of all my teachers, I was a top student at one of the best performing arts schools in the country. I don’t know if I ever got to the point of someone actually offering me a chance at fame. But I came close enough. It felt like if I wanted it, it was there for the taking. And to my surprise, in my last semester of graduate school, I pulled a Dad. Well, sort of. What I mean is, I said no thanks.

I really wanted to know if I had the talent to make it as an actor. I think I learned that I did. And once I knew that, I didn’t want it anymore. So what did I want? What do I want to do with my life? What instead? Good question. It’s taken five years and counting to answer it.

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I'm waiting on the edge of my seat...tell us!! You're going to be a Veterinarian aren't you?!
Rachel! You totally spoiled it! Why must you be sooo psychic like that?!
maybe you were born to be a writer...since this leaves me wanting and waiting and...I need more!
Anxiously awaiting your decision. Although I know it won't be that you will be moving back to Fresno. Whatever you decide to do you'll just be great!! Too wait too long to tell us.
Your Dad is phenomenal. Funny too. It's been ages since I've seen your family, but I recall hearing him play on occasion. Such a talented family.

And such a noble choice.
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