For The Dreamers

Photo: Chris White

Dreams. Everyone has ’em. If you don’t you’re just weird.

I sat in my living room on Sunday night watching the 70th Tony Awards. On one hand, I wanted to see if Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton could beat the record for most wins. On the other hand, I’ve always had an affinity for the arts, especially Broadway. But not in the way you think. Not acting, or writing, or directing. I’m talking about playing in an orchestra. The pit orchestra, as it’s often called, is a large piece of the foundation of any play or musical. Let’s face it, the orchestra provides the notes, rhythms and melodies that, like their actor/actress counterparts, tell a story.

I began playing clarinet in middle school – can’t believe it’s been more than a decade – and I’ve always had a passion for telling stories to others through my music. My first taste of performing outside of school walls came while in my middle school’s jazz band. The select few of us who were in jazz band played the groundbreaking ceremony for the new location of the North Regional Library, literally up a driveway from school. Who knows what tunes we played that day but I do remember us standing in an empty plot of land sweating like nobody’s business and playing our hearts out for the crowd in attendance. I took pride in that performance, just like I have for the countless others I’ve been a part of in the 10+ years I’ve been at this whole “music” thing.

As I progressed through grade school, my passion only became stronger and, not to brag, I got pretty darn good at it. Not as good as the pros but good in my book. I joined my church’s orchestra in eighth grade although the director really wanted at least a year of high school playing experience. I’ve shared my gift with thousands of people through that opportunity which is incredible to fathom. I also continued to play in school and it was in high school where I got my first taste of Broadway music. My senior year of high school is still the best year of my young life. As I tout in my bio, I won an essay contest that allowed me the opportunity to travel to New York, N.Y. and Washington, D.C. While in New York, I experienced my first ever Broadway show: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, which was fresh off a Best Musical victory at the Tonys that year The show featured an incredible cast and the music, well, “awesome” doesn’t really come close to describing it. I still listen to the original cast album every so often.

A second encounter with Broadway music came back home when I was in the pit orchestra for my high school’s production of The Wiz. That was also my first experience transposing music. Transposing is the practice of changing a musical composition into a different key. This is an especially common practice in theatrical productions that may feature a different vocalist on a song as opposed to the original. Long story short, I realized I loved Broadway music. All music is special but it’s just something about Broadway. It’s challenging yet magical to play.

Why am I telling you all this? Let me go back to Sunday night. I sat there, watching the Tonys and thought to myself: “Man, how cool would it be to play in a Broadway orchestra?” This thought has crossed my mind on several occasions but it seemed particularly strong at this moment. Hamilton producer, Jeffrey Seller, stood on the Tonys stage, accepted the award for Best Musical and spoke these words…

“Alexander Hamilton was a dreamer. George Washington, Eliza Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson were dreamers. I stand on this stage tonight and in this theater surrounded by dreamers. Dreamers like Lin Manuel who had a big idea and worked tirelessly over six years to bring it to life. Dreamers like Tommy and Andy and Alex and the extraordinary company of Hamilton who have showed up at our theater almost every single day for the last year and a half to share their vision of America. To the most supportive, appreciative, and diverse audience I have ever witnessed, Hamilton, An American Musical, embodies the best values, the best impulses that make our nation a beacon to the world. Inclusiveness, generosity, ingenuity, and the will to work hard to make our dreams come true. Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.

We’re all dreamers. Perhaps my dream will come true one day.

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