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How to sing with a full heart: Friends that help you find yourself

Updated: Oct 26, 2018

September 17th, 2018

My mom once told me that I get incredibly close (or even blindly attached) to my friends. At first, I was embarrassed by this because of how true her statement really was. Over time, however, I’ve learned that it isn’t always a weakness, but an attribute. In fact, it’s a strength: one that allows me to connect at a deeper level, allowing for a sense of groundedness in a career that sometimes feels like it only has the ability to uproot. And lucky me: I’ve been so fortunate to have had two experiences with some of these friends of mine over the past few months that have helped me find my way back to my roots.

The first occurred this past June. I had arrived at Tanglewood for my second summer. It was another time of transition, and my Tangle-family and I were already rehearsing for our first concert of the summer.

Meanwhile in Buffalo, Dudney Joseph, my best friend of ten years now, was gearing up to host an amazing Broadway-style cabaret for his 30th birthday. I hadn’t been able to see Dudney perform in years, and I was disheartened, ready to write off the possibility of being at this performance too, thinking I’d have a dress rehearsal or coaching in preparation for our concert.

One day, I was flipping through Gary Wallen’s masterpiece of a green schedule book that Tanglewood distributes. It’s basically a rubric for Every. Single. Thing. You. Have. for the entire summer (A dream come true). I looked ahead at the day of Dudney’s show, and realized: I HAVE NOTHING SCHEDULED THAT DAY. (Insert gasping-with-shock emoji here.)

Long story short, this allowed me to drive a few hours to Buffalo for Dudney’s cabaret. He had no idea I was coming (I lied hard once I realized I could actually go, and it was totally worth it). In the end, the experience was most rewarding for ME to actually see my him perform and pour out that enormous heart of his onstage. I was on cloud nine for a solid week afterward, smiling on my drive home and ranting to Scott about how perfect the performance was.

Dudney (far right) and his crew SLAYING the game on his 30th birthday in Buffalo

This special trip led to two subsequent, meaningful visits with Dudney over the summer. We talked life and love and career and strength and adversity and it gave me the courage to face another cross-country road trip knowing that the “Gatekeeper of New York State” will always be there for Scott and me (with muffins, coffee, and delicious side salads from Wegman’s).

Mexican and margs before our (third) stop at Dudney's for a cross-country trip

The other more recent experience like this came over the past few days in Arizona when I began prepping for an audition trip to Los Angeles. When I knew I’d be driving there, I hinted to my bestie and partner in crime at the piano, Mister-Almost-Doctor Jasper Jimenez, “HAY, if you can get a one-way flight to Phoenix from LA, let’s road trip it back together!” And that’s exactly what we did.

Jasper flew out to Phoenix and christened our (studio) apartment by being our first guest. As to be expected, he was conscientious AF and very true to his nature by keeping his stuff confined to inconspicuous little corners of the apartment (like Ravel might have). He worked on his final paper and peered out the window at the ominously hot Arizona sun (which almost killed him when I took him out to do errands with me one day). He and Scott and I made pasta from scratch the first night he was here. He came to the studio artist’s first concert in Tucson, and amidst our catch-up sessions in the car, he gushed about the performances he heard from everybody, which made me really happy and proud.

Jasper (and my teddy bear) re-reading a few of our letters from the past few months

Jasper joined Cadie Jordan and me on our road trip to downtown LA, where I dropped him off so he could head to our best friend Lesley Baird’s apartment for a homemade dinner we’d been planning. After Cadie and I auditioned, I dropped her off in Pasadena and proceeded to Lesley’s in Highland Park (after stopping at Trader Joe’s to pick up some wine - duh). Little did I know, I was in for quite a surprise.

Lesley and Jasper were SNEAKY, SNEAKY HOBBITSES by planning an elaborate dinner party, not just with me, but with some of our closest friends in LA, who just KEPT SHOWING UP with food and wine throughout the evening. I had no idea so many of my friends would be there and it was so good to see everybody. We all laughed until we cried and ate incredible homemade food.

The view from Lesley's "treehouse," aka her Highland Park apartment

At the end of the night when everyone had left and I was alone in Lesley’s living room, a pang of emotion finally hit me when I found myself feeling so thankful for these moments and also wishing I could experience them more often.

When I get to reunite with my extended family of friends in situations that are either highly orchestrated or completely unexpected, my heart is full. As performers, when our hearts are full, we can share that joy on the stage. When it’s aching or longing for something, we can commiserate with our collaborators and with our audience. Sometimes the things we’re feeling don’t directly correspond with the words we’re saying, but those emotions are then magically tied together in the current moment. Despite the joy and the pain, I know that armed with these stories and emotions, I’m more informed in the making of my art.

Don't get me wrong: I have a huge list of friends that I love and want to thank. I've gotten to see and catch up with so many people recently that I haven't gotten to talk to as often. But for now, I'd like to especially thank Dudney, Jasper, and Lesley for talking to me through things, making me laugh, and keeping me grounded. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to feel so “myself” after getting to spend time with some of the people that know me best.

And now, having re-centered and reset, it's time to work on some Mozart. Bring it, Barenreiter!

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