Pursuit of a dream
by Craig Emanuel
As a young child growing up in Australia, I often dreamed of either being a classical pianist or being on stage playing with a band in front of thousands of screaming fans. From about the age of 2 or 3, I remember sitting on the piano stool in our living room listening to my father play the piano. Although I may have been strong enough to bang my fingers down on the ivory keyboard of our German made Carlecke piano, I was not quite ready at that age to learn to play a tune.
My father loved to play the “old standards” and accordingly it was over this period of time that I first learned to appreciate some of the world’s great vocal compositions written by the likes of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Rogers & Hammerstein and the great Duke Ellington. Our house was always filled with the sounds of Sinatra, Ella, Sammy and Dean. To this day, it is this kind of music I love the most. Over the next 14 years, I studied classical piano and developed a love for all of the romantic composers including Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.
In 1974, I had been living in New Jersey for a couple of years and I remember my parents taking my sister and I to visit the Julliard School of Music in New York City, one of the best known music schools in the country, if not the world. I was amazed that in virtually all of the practice rooms, Steinway grand pianos could be found. As someone who dreamed of owning and playing a Steinway at that time, this vision was overwhelming to me. I remember talking to one of the teachers at the school who described the daily life of students in the music program. Upon the realization that it was not going to be enough just to practice two or three hours a day, but that there would also have to be hours and hours of learning theory and technique, I realized that studying music and potentially pursuing a career as a pianist was not for me. Perhaps I also came to the realization that despite my ambition, I was not good enough and so my thoughts of being a classical pianist and performing in public went out the door, although I did for a number of years play in restaurants and bars to supplement my income!
When I had two children of my own, I wanted them both to have piano lessons and so at a relatively early age, they had their first teachers who taught very differently than the very strict “Mrs. Hawkins” who taught me when I was a young child. Although my son continues to have a love and appreciation of music, it was my daughter who, from a very early age, showed that she had a love and passion that would prove to stay with her throughout her early years at school and through the end of high school. She learned to play the French horn, the clarinet as well as the tenor saxophone where she could belt out a jazz standard that left me mesmerized.
Throughout high school, my daughter played in lead roles in all of the high school musicals including Urinetown. It had become clear that when it became time to think about college applications, music would be a key component and even though there was a time when I thought she might pursue a career in musical theatre, neither her mother nor I were completely surprised when she announced that she wanted to pursue a career as an opera singer.
The reaction of some of our friends was one of surprise and some expressed concerns about whether or not this was a good choice. I am a great believer that it is hard enough to get up each day and go to work without loving what you do and it can only lead to a life filled with frustration, so we totally supported our daughter’s career choice and accompanied her to auditions to various schools around the country and in Canada.
Any parent can attest that waiting for the letters or emails to arrive with college acceptances is one of the most nerve-wracking times, to say nothing of the anxiety it must create for the child. I can only say that when my daughter called to say that she had been accepted at Carnegie Mellon, we were over the moon with joy, excitement and relief!
This past weekend, my daughter performed in her first opera, playing one of the leading roles in The Beggar’s Opera written by John Gay in 1728, but with music by Benjamin Britten which was added in 1948. To be at the opening night and watch my daughter grace the stage as Lucy Lockit was a night I will never forget.
Everything that she had worked so hard for had now become a reality. The journey of fulfilling her dream had begun.
There are so many times in life that we are scared to pursue our passions and our dreams for fear of potential failure. For those people who are not afraid “to give it a go,” the end result in success is unbelievably rewarding. But even those who perhaps don’t realize their dreams fully initially, are in my mind, better people for at least not throwing in the towel and giving it a chance. For these people, their chance of ultimate success in something that they are passionate about is greatly increased.
I am so proud of my daughter who has chosen not to take “the easy path.” I cannot wait to share in every step along the road and look forward to the next performance!
“You can’t always get what you want. No you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.”
The Rolling Stones