In August of 2001 I moved to my favorite American city, San Francisco. I had visited there frequently while I was growing up, but never thought I would or even COULD actually live there. But fortunately, the opportunity presented itself during my final semester of undergrad at the University of Mississippi. I was getting a Bachelor's of Music with a vocal performance emphasis, and I wanted to continue my studies so that I could get a Master's degree. I didn't have many prospects because I was financially limited when it came to flying around the country and auditioning for graduate programs, but I knew that staying in Mississippi was NOT an option. I hated being there, but I'll save my feelings about Mississippi for another blog. While considering schools, I was looking at the Manhattan School of Music, and had asked my parents to print the application for me because I was having printer problems. When my mother gave me the printed application, she remarked that it was a joint application with other music conservatories in the country. She saw the San Francisco Conservatory of Music listed on the application with several other schools and said, "I'd rather you go there because at least you'd have family near-by." It had never occurred to me to consider SFCM, but I suddenly felt overwhelmed with excitement over the possibility of moving to San Francisco. Anytime someone mentioned that city, chills would rush over my body. It was like an orgasm. I LOVED San Francisco, and now I could live there. Who cared about the Manhattan School of ... whatever it was called. I was going to audition for SFCM and get in. When I expressed my excitement, my mother's eyes seemed to glaze over with regret for opening her mouth. She would have rather seen me go to Indiana University, but that's a story for another blog.
At the point in my life when I called my parents and told them I had been accepted into SFCM, they were glad I was accepted, but they still wanted me to stay close to home (Tennessee). First of all, they didn't understand the opera world so it was hard for them to be supportive. They didn't know how to support me. They only knew how to dictate practicalities such as money, money, and more money. "How will you support yourself?" "How will you get to San Francisco?" How do you expect to pay for school?" "What will you do for work when you graduate?" I didn't find their practicalities very supportive. They were very limiting. I felt like this noose was being tied around my neck, and the messages they were sending me was that if you don't have money, you can't do anything or be anything. I think they were just feeding me fear to keep me from going, but I went anyway. The call of my San Francisco was much louder and stronger than the voice of fear so I followed my heart.
So here is a brief summary of my years in San Francisco. As I said before, I arrived in August of 2001, and for the first time in my life, I felt at home. I made really good friends effortlessly. I did really well at SFCM, and I was well-liked by the student body. I had the freedom at SFCM to grow into myself as a person and as a performer. I got side work at local small opera companies during my first year, and during my second year, I was able to support myself by singing with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. My life felt perfect! Then school ended in May 2003. I thought I'd take my talent and my master's degree and audition in Germany. I was sure that I would get a contract somewhere, but I didn't. When I came back, I felt lost. I had lots of debt, and no job. I had missed the fall auditions in SF so I didn't have anything lined up. I had quit the Symphony Chorus "knowing" that I would get solo work in the Fall. 2004 was an uphill struggle. I had worked 5 to maybe 7 different jobs (2 of which I was fired from for unspecified reasons) ranging from a model scout for a scam company to a collections call agent for a legal software company to a singing waiter position... which I got FIRED from because "it's just not a match." So with more financial debt in tow, and with my morale at an all-time low, I auditioned for the San Francisco Opera Chorus and got in. To say I was elated would be an understatement. I could finally start paying off my debts (which I still have to this day), and I could finally afford voice lessons. Plus, I could get quality professional experience as a performer without all the heavy duty responsibility that comes with being a soloist. BUT being a fast learner comes with a price. During 2006 I started getting restless. My personal work as a performer was improving and I was forming relationships with the "right" people, but by this point, the "right" people saw me as a one of those people who always works to improve, but never actually gets to do. I knew I was ready for the next level. I auditioned for some Young Artist Programs, but I couldn't afford to be everywhere for all the auditions. Plus, I couldn't miss work to fly everywhere too. I didn't get hired for any of the things I auditioned for. I even auditioned for the SF Opera as a soloist. The lack of opportunities began to take it's toll on my well-being. So, I knew I had to go where I could find numerous opportunities.
Leaving San Francisco has been a VERY painful process. But if I had stayed, I would have been miserable. I hadn't had ANY solo work in the past two years, and I had begun to feel my voice being squelched by how others chose to define me as a chorister, or as one who just works really hard, or as one who sings just like everyone else. I wish that the people in San Francisco who had the power to give me solo work could have seen and appreciated the development and progress of my voice, if only so I wouldn't have had to leave to seek out those who would be more than willing to open doors for me. I have pulled the rug out from under myself, and threatened my entire sense of security based on the belief I have in myself.
So, now I am in New York City. I live in Manhattan, and I've been crying or on the verge of crying every day because I miss my friends and family back on the West Coast. I miss walking up and down the hills while the fog rolls in. I miss the Metreon. I miss my game soul-mate. I miss the climate. I miss getting my gourmet burger at Flippers and renting a dvd at the local video store. I miss the energy of SF, the nuts and flakes. I miss my psychic. I miss the New Age bookstore where I'd get my crystals, candles, and books. I miss the wine and liquor aisle at the grocery store. I miss walking two blocks to work at the opera house. I miss the sourdough bread. I miss the view of downtown from driving down Twin Peaks. I miss visiting Comp USA in downtown for the latest computer games. I miss seeing the cable cars. I miss having my voice lessons in a place where there is a view of Alcatraz. I miss going to the beach. I miss the ocean being right next door. I miss the drag queen bar around the corner from where I lived. I miss singing Journey at The Mint (karaoke bar). I miss Gavin Newsom being my mayor. I miss my favorite Japanese, Greek, and German restaurants. I DON'T miss MUNI.
I don't hate it here in New York, and I don't feel lonely or overwhelmed by any of it. I'm a city boy at heart, but my heart is in San Francisco with my people. But my passion is in my career. It is my dream. I HAVE to follow it. This blog is my NY story.