In March of 1998, my life changed forever. This was when I first met Cornelius Reid, the man who profoundly changed my singing voice, the way I sang, the way I thought about singing, the way I taught, the way I thought about and viewed the world, musically and otherwise, gave me a career, a profession and a new passion. I knew it was a momentous event even after my very first half hour lesson with the man. In 30 minutes he had me singing better and more beautifully than I could ever have dreamed in my previous 25 years on earth. Besides the previously discussed “ah” vowel, under his guidance I sang a high Eb for the first time ever and it actually sounded like something worth listening to. And after the three lessons I took with him that week, I knew deep down inside that nothing would ever be the same. I had a new awareness of my voice and had been awakened to its possibilities. But I didn’t know what to do about it. After all, he was THE Cornelius Reid, he lived in New York City, he was out of reach. And then my universe tilted and whirled- my voice teacher at the time, the wonderful, irreplaceable Julian Patrick, came to me with the incredible, awesome, life-changing offer: Cornelius was very impressed with me and very interested in my voice (he said I reminded him of Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940) which is of course very flattering and a remarkable thing all by itself considering he actually saw her sing live at the old Met! Yes, he was that old) and therefore he wanted me to come to New York City and study with him.
I was completely astounded, incredibly flattered and honored, and then quickly added, “but I couldn’t possibly. I can’t move to New York City!” As soon as that was out of my mouth, I knew that in fact I HAD to move to New York City, that I MUST find a way to study with this man, this vocal guru; that THIS was what I had been waiting for all my singing life. I had been taught by so many voice teachers up to this point, ranging from horrible to wonderful, and none of them had ever been able to come close to solving my technical vocal problems. The consensus was that my tremolo (my biggest, most problematic issue) was just how my voice was, that there was nothing to be done about it and people would either love it or hate it and good luck to me. (I must mention here that Julian was my best teacher thus far and an extraordinary one at that, and as one of Cornelius’ protégés, he did in fact help me a great deal. My voice blossomed under his care.) But here was Cornelius saying that, no, it was not “just my voice”, that of course my vocal problems could in fact be solved and he was the man to solve them. The only catch was MOVING TO NEW YORK CITY!
And so I did. I accepted his amazing offer and I began to make my move to New York a reality… Five months later I took a tremendous leap of faith and moved to New York City with $3000, 2 suitcases and one voice teacher. It took every ounce of my courage and resolve, every drop of my desire to be a better singer to get me on that plane and to get me through the days and months that followed.
And was it worth it? Oh indeed, wholeheartedly yes it was. I have never once regretted that decision. A funny thing though- it was never really a choice. It was never ‘should I go?’ but rather ‘how can I make this a reality?’