It may not be "Shocking" but it's a "Shocker"

My apologies for being a bit late---but---HERE IT IS!!!  To some, this may not be such a “Big Announcement” as you've heard this news already.  To others, this is going to be a bit surprising.  And, yet, to a few, this will be no surprise at all since you may have “seen it coming” for some time. Tuesday, I found myself at one of my favorite places on earth.  I was on the campus of Wichita State University where I was announced as the Ann and Dr. Dennis Ross Faculty of Distinction in Opera.  What an honor!!! Now, please, nobody panic!!!  I AM NOT STOPPING MY CAREER AS AN OPERA SINGER—that career is still going strong.  

I have long felt a strong pull towards academia and teaching.  My career started out in the field of education. I have always hoped to have balanced professions of singing and teaching together.  Often, I give master classes and teach privately during my travels-most notably at Yale University over the past 12 years.  This sharing of my knowledge and experiences in the opera business, as well as offering what I can to young singers by the way of voice sculpting and technical advice, has been a highlight of my career.  I enjoy both of my career paths—singing and educating.  The two professions go completely hand in hand.  We are all called to serve and teach--no matter what we do--every day of our lives

In early October, I was approached by my graduate school alma mater, Wichita State University, to see if I’d be interested in accepting a position on the voice faculty.  After a great amount of discernment, evaluating, and contemplating, it became obvious that this opportunity was too favorable to pass up.  There have been other positions over the years that I’ve considered.  None, however, fit me more perfectly at this point in my career.  WSU is strongly encouraging me to continue performing as well as teach.  It’s the best of both worlds. I’m joining a strong faculty who I look forward to working with, including my singing colleague, Samuel Ramey, who is WSU’s “Artist in Residence”.  Nancy and I will enjoy being back in Wichita, a city we have loved since the very early days of our marriage.  We will be renewing old friendships and establishing new bonds. Our remaining children at home are greatly looking forward to the move to Kansas.  We will, of course, miss so many of our dear friends, not to mention, family, on the east coast. But please--come visit us and see all the many things (including beauty) that Kansas has to offer. 

Wichita State has had, for a very long time, a great record of educating outstanding musicians.  Sam, the most recorded bass in opera history, is, of course, just one of the many WSU graduates who have had an excellent career upon graduation.  WSU is also the alma mater of Joyce Didonato, opera's reigning mezzo-soprano--and so many others.  Gee, I didn’t do so badly myself.  I look forward to having the opportunity to help bring even more great singers from WSU to the fore.  I am thrilled to be part of a major university community and to have the chance to help enrich the life of this institution as well as the arts in the city of Wichita and beyond. 

As I’ve posted many times, I have a strong commitment and dedication to helping develop strong and healthy vocal technic in our young singers.  In fact, there was very recently a discussion on this topic on one my Facebook threads.  In many ways, I feel like, with this position, I’m backing up what I’ve said and will be doing what I can to make these goals more attainable for others.  I’ve also said, many times, that I am a better singer because of my teaching.  Constantly being able to evaluate "what I do and how I do it" has added years to my career.  I plan on that continuing to be the case for some time. I've had nearly 30 years as a performing artist—“Not too shabby" (as my high school band director would say).  Who know?  Maybe I've got 30 more in me. 

And, about that performing career.  As I said, my days as a singing actor are not coming to a close.  Many projects are already at hand and work is planned well into the future.  Ring Cycles await.  Heads are still set to roll in “Salome”.  Waves are scheduled to be sailed as the “Dutchman”.  On top of these roles, however, I’ll be sharing and serving as I can—to a great art form and a great university.  

So, as was said in “The Poltergeist”----"I’M BACK!!!”----and I'm so very excited that this is the case. OH, and to initiate my return to campus, I sang the National Anthem at Tuesday night’s basketball game against Bradley University (my Mom’s alma mater).   GO SHOCKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   

I hate to be a tease....

I’m going to be away from my computer for a few days but please check back on the evening of Wednesday, January 15, for a major announcement. This announcement has been months in the making but years in desire. I hate to be a tease...but it won’t be long. See you soon!

Looking back--Looking Ahead

It’s time for my yearly “look back” at the preceding year of performances and to briefly look ahead to see what awaits. It was a full year in so many ways. I believe I actually had more performances during 2013 than I usually do and less breaks. So many performances stand out in my brain as ones to be cherished. We had a spectacular run of “Tristan and Isolde” in Toronto, a career goal accomplished when I sang Hans Sachs in “Die Meistersinger” in Tokyo, great concerts of Wagner in Cincinnati (with Christine Goerke) and Cleveland (with Christine Brewer), “Salome” in Toronto, great performances of “Peter Grimes” in Toronto and St. Louis, and then a repeat of the St. Louis performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. On top of all this came two trips to Yale to teach and many Masses where I served as the Cantor in our home Church. It’s hard to pick a favorite performance--it’s even hard to narrow down the choices. But, I usually try to name one performance that will always stand out in my mind. Hmmm...........

I always love sing “Peter Grimes”. It is such an ensemble piece. Singing Hans Sachs was a lifelong dream. The concert with Goerke was indeed special. Golly this is hard......Okay---the winner (and there isn’t much of a prize involved) for my favorite performance of 2013 goes to....”Peter Grimes” at Carnegie Hall, November 22, 2013. The performance went well (actually, I had better performances of the opera in Toronto and St. Louis). But, there was something very special about singing the piece on that great stage. In addition, I had many friends in the audience that night. Any time you get to sing for friends helps to make the evening more special for the artist. Thanks for being there, folks. It was a very special evening.

And, if I’m allowed, I’d like to offer another “winner of the year” (hey, it’s my journal---why not?). Singing for my son’s wedding this past week was also a “career highlight”. I didn’t have to sing any big arias or music that was overwhelmingly challenging. But, I did get to be a part of a beautiful ceremony that celebrated a blessed sacrament of the uniting of two very special people. It doesn’t get much better than that.

But, now, 2014 has arrived. This will be a totally different year onstage and off for many reasons. I’ll be making a major announcement soon about some plans that are just being tidied up. But, for now, I look forward to heading to San Antonio later this month for “Rusalka”. I look forward to returning to Minneapolis after a very long absence for performances in March. I am thrilled to return to Munich for two of my favorite roles. The concerts of “Salome” in Philadelphia look to be exciting (the performances have been sold out for months). I will be challenged by “The Cunning Little Vixen” (a new opera to me) in Cleveland with that FABULOUS orchestra. And, I’ll be returning to Vienna for “Salome”--my third run of that production on that matchless set and stage.

It’s been an incredible year. Much lies ahead. Thanks for being on this journey with me. Have a truly blessed and wonderful 2014.