Last night I had the immense privilege of performing for the fourth time with the W. D. Packard Concert Band! The Packard Band is an amazing group of instrumentalists from the Mahoning Valley. Many of them I am very well acquainted with because they teach at The Youngstown State University. In particular I share a great love for the conductor Dr. Stephen L. Gage, a very accomplished music professor in the DANA School of Music at YSU.
I enjoyed myself so much at this concert, it came at a very interesting time and it waas exactly what the doctor ordered. The very first time I performed with the Packard Band was in 2010 with my beloved voice teacher Dr. Nancy Andersen Wolfgang. I was a fresh twenty-one years old and still very early in my training. Since then I headlined future concerts with Nikita Jones and Carly Magnuson. Both ladies were classmates of mine in the school of theater and dance at YSU. These members of the Packard Band have now seen me in all of my stages in my career. The amount of love and encouragement i felt from Dr. Gage and the accomplished band of musicians was overwhelming.
I have recently entered a phase in my career where I felt a little discouraged and in need of direction. Although I have accomplished much in a short amount of time I can't help but fear that the goals I have set for myself are just out of reach. After closing the national tour of FINDING NEVERLAND I found myself in need for a break. My mind, body and spirit are drained from the hustle of this business. Coming back to Youngstown is always the charge that I need. Visiing my home churches, being with my family and my talented friends always helps me to reset and refocus. This time was no different. That's why I jumped at the chance to play Curtis Taylor Jr. and be the featured guest artist in the Youngstown Playhouse production of DREAMGIRLS. I desperately needed home so I could think, pray and refocus. I was afraid life would pile up on me and keep me from moving forward in my career. I'm still dealing with the repercussions of my 2016 ankle injury. Sinus and allergy issues have been an extreme problem, it's like having a different voice every month. Any singer can tell you that not being able to depend on your voice can make you feel extremely depressed. Obviously when you add a 9 month tour to the equation weight fluxuation becomes a huge factor. Needless to say I felt a little beat up and not as confident as I usually am. I work in a business where I'm allowing myself to be judged daily. My look, my sound, my personality, my abilities are constantly on display. I have to accept someone else's opinions of me when it comes to working and not working. Now usually this is something I don't let affect me but it did. While on the road and until recently after I was in the running for multiple shows and tours. I was very tired and very weary but still confident that I would have more jobs lined up for 2020. I booked nothing. As a person who was constantly being overbooked and turning down jobs, this was a hard blow. I started to doubt if I really had what it takes to keep going.
The Dr. Gage reached out to me about the closing summer concert. I immediately accepted because I LOVE performing with the Packard Band. The material that was chosen really challenged me. It challenged ALL of me. I sang in all of my styles and the material reflected the performer I think I am. I was worried about my voice leading up to it because I'm still learning how to handle my midwest allergies. I was also feeling a little like a washed up talent. Despite how well Dreamgirls was going and my recent performance credits. God was with me. I began to feel like myself again when I started to sing. Yes, it was very hard and technical because vocally I didn't feel 100% but I could feel my purpose and my gift doing the work for me. Sometimes yo just need to be reminded that a bad day in your purpose is still ten times better than your best day in a career you never wanted. I'm so grateful to be following my dreams and to have so much support from my hometown. Dr. Gage reminded me what it's all about. He said some very nice things about me but the real blessing was when he said: " You can read his accomplishments in his bio but what is impressive is the kind of person he is". That touched me s much because THAT is my goal. I want to be influential as an artist. Not just by my talent but who I am offstage. If he never said that in my introduction that performance would've beeen completely diferent for me. I felt recharged and I got that refocusing that I came home for.
Thank you so much to Dr. Gage and The Packard Band! LET'S DO IT AGAIN SOME TIME!