light bulbs

In my Musical Theatre class, we're learning how to act through singing. To accomplish this, we use a procedure called "the approach to a song." It's a multi-step process that helps us to analyze a song musically, lyrically, literally, and figuratively, all within the context of the musical which it comes from. A key element of this process is creating a parallel situation to help you, the performer, better identify with the character. Sometimes, characters are in such unique situations that you have to make up your own story (consider Sarah from Ragtime or Javert from Les Miserables). But more often than not, musical theatre songs are about love. All kinds of love: romantic love, familial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love. And most people can relate to that in some form or another.

My first song, "I Will Be Loved Tonight" from the musical review I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, is about the excitement of love. And it was easy for me to relate to because of a significant person I met here in New York City. However, the song is two fold. It also talks about the somber acceptance of being alone. That was where I was having trouble. While rehearsing the song, I had felt something was lacking, that I wasn't conveying the true sense of being in love, which can include both joy and sadness. I picked the song apart, revising pages and pages of analytical work I had done, and then one day, something clicked.

I do not allow myself to feel. Before I left for New York, a host of things happened, one of which was completely unexpected. And it was strange and complicated and, worst of all, unresolved. I felt a whole lot of things about it after I left home, wallowing for weeks on end, dreaming about how it could have been different. I was afraid of my emotions, upset that they make me feel so powerless. So instead of dealing with them, I simply stopped feeling them. But after working at this song, I realized that reliving that particular experience could bring humanity and honesty into my performance. I sucked it up and wrote about everything that happened and everything I felt and everything I continued to feel. A huge weight lifted from somewhere inside me. Allowing myself to be vulnerable made it easier for me to emotionally connect to the story I was working on. And I realized that in order for this whole thing to work, in order to be completely invested in the journey I am taking, I must accept myself and how I feel, regardless of how embarrassing or hurtful or ridiculous those feelings may seem.

Because, after all, that's what makes me human.


While I was at Berkeley, it was really important for me to do well. I had this sort of complex about school, where I believed my self worth was reflected in the grades I earned in class, at least in the eyes of my parents. I worked and worked and worked for A's, and in the course of three and a half years, I only earned two solid A's.

This time around, grades are unimportant to me. What I strive for most is understanding and getting each and every concept thoroughly ingrained in my mind and body. So far, so good.

Last week, we had our first demonstration during which we presented proper vocal technique to our instructor. I practiced for nights on end, making sure I really understood what was going on, how I reacted to various alterations of the technique to know when I was doing it right and when I was doing it wrong, and to ensure that I wouldn't be nervous when the day of the demonstration came. That dedicated effort got me an A- on my first try. And considering this is just the beginning, I'm sure to improve in the next few weeks and months.

Wanting to understand taught me the more important lesson, rather than simply wanting to achieve.


I am broke. The kind of broke that is almost unbearable. My weekly budget for food is $15 a week. And that is the largest allowance I am giving myself. Having spent two years working for a large and successful corporation, earning more money than I needed, kept me comfortable, especially since I was so close to home, where I had all the resources I needed to feel secure. I knew that moving to New York would mean making a lot of sacrifices for the sake of the pursuit of my dreams. I didn't know it meant I would be wondering each and every day how I would make it through without much more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a pack of fruit snacks.

I've been trying to work my way around this. I pick up shifts at work when I can, which isn't often because of my class schedule, but I try anyway. I've requested to work longer on weekends, giving up what little free time I have to make the money I need to pay bills, feed myself, and save up money to fly home for Christmas. I'm considering picking up a tutoring job when the fall comes to make a little extra cash on those evenings I get out of class too late to work at the restaurant.

I lamented about my struggles with Lexie the other night, and she kindly redirected my focus to the big picture that lay in front of me: "You have an old soul, but you're not old. You have to remember that. You're a 23-year-old starving artist. Comparatively, you're doing really well."

She's right. And 20 years from now, I'll look back, laugh with my friends and family, and say, "Remember that time I moved to New York with nothing more than a little bit of money and a pocket full of dreams?"


Finally, a shout out to my Auntie Marie. Becky told me you read this, so I thought I'd make it extra special for you this week. ;)


school is cool

I've been studying at AMDA for three weeks now, and to sum in up in three words: it is tough. I am taking Musical Theatre, Acting, Vocal Production and Speech, Sight-Singing/Music Theory, Film Lab, Dance (Tap, Musical Theatre, Jazz, and Ballet), and private vocal lessons. My days are spent in 2+ hour workshop sessions, building skill and technique. And that's just the tip of the ice berg. Outside of class, I spend hours listening to music, analyzing scripts, building characters, observing people and performances, viewing live theatre, rehearsing, rehearsing, and rehearsing. When I'm not doing any of that, I'm working my butt off at my job, trying to scrape enough money together to pay for that coming week's food and, further along, next month's rent. And when I manage to find a free second, I try to cultivate friendships among my classmates and co-workers so that I can feel like I have some semblance to a social life.

At the beginning of semester, the incoming class was divided into groups based on criteria such as age, experience, and training. My group consists of the older students. There are 17 of us. We are all aged between 21 and 35, and almost all of us have undergraduate degrees. I attend all of my core classes with my group. Our classes are conducted in workshop format, where there is more exploration of the artistic material than there is lecturing. This helps to cultivate creativity within a safe space. The remaining classes - dance and sight-singing - are divided based on skill, which was evaluated through placement tests during orientation, so students from different groups are combined for these classes. I have been placed in the second level, of five, for all my dance classes, and in the fifth level, of five, for sight-singing. I really enjoy the people in my group, and I especially like that the school considered separating us by age. There is a high level of commitment and dedication among the students in my group, and we have a lot of discipline when it comes to rehearsing and completing our assignments. I think I would have been frustrated if I was taking classes with students fresh out of high school and living on their own for the first time, in New York City nonetheless. Also, being surrounded by people who have been through the same thing I have - giving up established lives to pursue a performing career - gives me the confidence and support I need to continue with this program.

Despite the incredible amount of time and work that is required of this program, I feel so fulfilled, even though I haven't been here very long. It is the kind of work that I am happy doing, even the most mundane parts of it. It does get grueling at times; the program is physically, emotionally, and intellectually demanding. I have really been challenged to work beyond my limits to develop my potential, and for that, I am grateful. It is something I felt that has been missing in the last few years, and I'm happy for the opportunity to see how much I can grow.

While at Berkeley, I often questioned whether or not I was supposed to be at such a place. I went through the motions and got through the days, but I never truly felt like I belonged there (with the exception of AiR, which was my performing outlet). This time around, I am studying something I love in a place that moves me. I don't regret my college experience. I'm happy I went through that, got my bachelors degree, and acquired the skills to help me live productively on my own. It's just that now I'm finally doing something for myself, rather than because it's the "right" thing to do. And that keeps me motivated.

But... as any New York conservatory student would do, I put aside my homework for one night to attend a not-to-be-missed performance here in the city: Boyz II Men! Having been a long-time fan, I couldn't pass the chance to see them in concert for the first time. It. Was. AMAZING! Check out the photos below of one of the best live performances I have ever seen. Woo!

Motownphilly IS back again!

Shawn, Nathan, and Wanya (Michael no longer tours with the group because of his scoliosis)

Me, my roommate, and some friends


happy independence

Living on my own - and I mean really living on my own - for the past two and a half months has been an incredible learning experience.

Well, duh.

I guess I'll elaborate.

When I made the decision to move here, I wanted to start from scratch. No friends, no contacts, no real knowledge of where I was going. All my history was left back home in California. Once I arrived in New York, I had the opportunity to begin the second volume of my life - recreating characters, building new environments, stumbling upon an entirely different set of conflicts. It's amazing to see the kinds of things that can come about when you put yourself in an unfamiliar setting. I am surrounded by strangers, all of which have something to offer and are looking for something to take. As I sift through the unknown to try and find some stability, I begin to understand my strengths and values and what I have to give to this place. The learning in itself is exhilarating.

That being said, I have made some recent and delightful discoveries in the past few weeks:

1) I am more tough skinned than I would have thought. Whether this is something I always had in me or whether this is something New York forced upon me, I can't really tell. Probably a little bit of both. But go ahead and tell me I suck. I can take it. Because what you think of me will not diminish what I think of myself. Besides, I think you suck too.
2) I am not ashamed of my mistakes. I'm human, so I don't know all there is to know about the world. If I mess up, whatever. Now I know what to do in the future.
3) I have a lot to offer in a relationship. And if you can't see that, well, I'll find someone else who can.

Self discovery is a wonderful thing.


I spent the 4th of July sick with a stomach bug, but I managed to host a potluck at my apartment regardless. My new friends from AMDA came over and spent the afternoon barbecuing and taking a much needed break after a grueling first week at school - the program is incredibly intense, but I'll save that for my next post. Afterwards, we headed midtown, where we watched the fireworks on a jam packed street corner in the summer rain. It could have been miserable, but seeing as it was the first fireworks display most of us had seen in New York City, nothing would have diminished our joy and excitement.


Loving the show

Soaked from the rain, but we don't really mind

A few other firsts I have neglected to write about until now:

During my fourth week in New York, I was evacuated off a subway train at 11:30 pm. On my way home from work (at the old job), a suicide jumper got trapped under the train I was riding. I later found out he survived and was treated at a local hospital for traumatic cardiac arrest.

One night, walking home from the subway station, a flash of light zoomed in front of me at about waist level. I stopped dead in my tracks, wondering if I was seeing things, then I realized I had just seen a firefly for the very first time. So peculiar.

I woke up two nights ago, at 3:42 in the morning, to the sound of an incessant car horn, flashing lights, and the smell of smoked. I peeked outside and saw flames ascending from directly below my window. It was a car fire. About 60 feet below me.

Lexie and I joined her roommate and some of his friends to attend our first free summertime event: The Man Who Came to Dinner at Bryant Park, a part of the summer movie series hosted by HBO. It was ridiculously fun.

A good crowd going

Big screen before the movie

Show time

We love it here!

So life in New York continues to be amazing. That's all there is to it, really.