When I was a pre-teen, a “tween” and a teenager, I lived to be on the stage. My parents had decided that my brother would be the “sports” kid, and I would be the performing arts child (and my sister would be the visual arts kid).
After my parents divorced and my mother moved us to Skokie, Illinois, less than a block away from the Mayer Kaplan JCC. The JCC had a great tween theatre program and a performing arts summer camp. I auditioned for that first show at 12 years old…and I was hooked. Throughout junior high and high school, I was fortunate enough to work under a number of talented youth theatre directors as I made my way through a variety of shows–from Bye Bye Birdie (twice, both times as Mr. MacAfee) to Grease to Little Shop of Horrors to the seldom-heard-of musical biography of the Marx Brothers, Minnie’s Boys to straight (non-musical) shows like Neil Simon’s Odd Couple, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound (the latter of which was at a community theatre in Peoria, Illinois while I attended Bradley University) and Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology.
The strange coincidence: when I left Peoria to head back to Chicago to get a “real education” in radio broadcasting (my original undergraduate focus)–a performance art of its own–my time in the theatre screeched to a halt. I auditioned and was in the process of preparing for a small role in a community theatre performance of South Pacific, but the drive from my apartment to a small theatre north of Winnetka was too much when combined with a 19 credit hour class schedule and a 40-plus hour per week job.
Over the next 24 years, I would change undergrad majors, change colleges to acquire that new degree (Elementary Education), get married, move nearly 2000 miles from Illinois to Arizona, have two kids, go back to school to get a Master’s degree (Secondary Education), go back to school again to get my Juris Doctor and become an attorney, and become intricately and intimately involved in Arizona youth hockey initially as a means to support Micah’s and his love of the sport.
But the fire to want to perform has never gone out. As a teacher, I got to “perform” daily for my six periods of junior high students. As an attorney, I got to perform in a highly improvisational manner defending my clients in court (until I became an appellate attorney two years ago). Every once in a while, I would look up auditions for the local community theatre, or an audition website–but just come to the conclusion that I did not have the time to pursue that interest. I would be concerned that at my present weight and age, no one would really be interested in me as an actor. I already spent so much time away from home for hockey-related activities and meetings, there was simply not enough time in the day to get back into theatre as well. So, I yearned…and dreamed…and kept doing what I’d been doing for years.
In Spring 2008, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (see what I did there?). While hanging out at the rink where Micah played hockey, I overheard a conversation about ASU moving its hockey team to that rink in the fall. Half-joking, I looked at the hockey director and said, “Hey, feel free to let them know that I’d love to handle their public address announcing duties.” I had tinkered with PA announcing in high school (basketball and baseball), at Bradley (women’s volleyball, men’s soccer and baseball), and even did a little announcing for the Mesa Junior High football team. I was surprised when I got an email a couple months later from the general manager of ASU’s club hockey teams saying he heard I might be interested in handling announcing for their teams. That started a string of eight seasons announcing for ASU’s teams. Along the way, I also became a youth hockey scorekeeper (which included some basic announcing), a Juniors hockey scorekeeper and announcer, and a member of the announcing corps for ASU Softball. Then a big shift…
Early this past summer, word got out that the Arizona Coyotes were making plans to buy an AHL franchise (the top minor league affiliates of all NHL teams) and move it to Tucson, Arizona–about a 95-mile drive from my home. When the purchase and move were confirmed and approved, I contacted a friend that works in the Coyotes community relations department and again threw out there, “Hey, if the new team in Tucson needs a public address announcer, tell them I’d love to talk.” As the season got closer and closer and I heard nothing, I figured this was probably just a case of me sounding too flippant when I made the comment–and I would continue announcing ASU and Phoenix Knights Junior hockey games. Suddenly…
I received an email in late August from someone saying he heard I would be a good person to talk to about the new Tucson Roadrunners public address announcing position. No sooner did I have a really nice phone conversation with Mark, the game day operations guy, I got a second email–from the Arizona Coyotes themselves. As August turned to April, I found myself as one of the two finalists for the public address announcer position for the Arizona Coyotes–the actual professional NHL team. It went down the wire–and I came in second place. So close…as a consolation prize, I was asked to be the backup announcer for the Coyotes, and given the opportunity to announce a rookie game and the final preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.
Hearing that I did not get the Coyotes gig, Mark and the Roadrunners came back into play. I ran down to Tucson to audition and a week or so later, found out that I got the AHL Roadrunners gig. Sure, it would be a nearly 90-minute commute each way–but how often does an appellate attorney that’s been announcing club and Junior hockey get a chance to take the leap into the pros–one step away from the NHL?
It has been those ninety minute drives that has started me back on a familiar path: I found myself doing vocal warmups as I drove down I-10 to Tucson. Musical warmups that I remembered from WAY back in my musical theatre and show choir days in high school. As I started doing these little warmups, my mind wandered to Micah and his warmups for choir. I thought about how Micah had begun to push me towards doing theatre again, doing what I really wanted to do, what would really make me happy.
These were not new thoughts. My mind filled with those thoughts and ideas shortly after Micah passed away. I even spoke of them to a few people I knew that were in or near the business. But at 46 years old with responsibilities, bills, hobbies…how could I make that huge of a leap of faith and make a change? How can I now?
Looking at the “now,” I am still involved in Arizona youth hockey at a relatively high level. I am a trusted part of a hockey tournament committee putting on ever-growing youth hockey tournaments in Arizona. I am still involved in Arizona youth inline hockey. I am the PA announcer for the AHL Tucson Roadrunners–a gig that I love, working with fantastic people that I want to get to know better, and work with for a long time. I am a respected appellate attorney for one of the largest indigent representation offices in the state. I am a husband and father. We have a new home being (somewhat slowly) constructed just a few miles from where we now live. How do I make a drastic change? What part of me do I give up?
I’m already planning to withdraw from some of the remaining youth hockey activities that I’m currently engaged in. That won’t be easy. I have so many friends and acquaintances that have grown accustomed to seeing me around the rinks, taking active part in providing opportunities for Arizona’s kids to play this great sport. I have become part of so many hockey families==how do I decide which family to walk away from?
In a perfect world, I would find a front office job with the Roadrunners or Coyotes that would allow me to make a decent living, perhaps continue to practice law, continue to be the PA voice of the Roadrunners (or maybe the Coyotes) and work with the great friends I’ve made with the Roadrunners (either in Tucson or Glendale–or eventually Tempe), and also continue to be involved with Arizona youth hockey. I can dream, can’t I?
Where do I go from here? In the long range, I don’t know. Maybe someone reading my blog will decide that I would make a great actor (or screenwriter, I suppose) that they must employ immediately. Perhaps something will just pop up that allows me to do the things I truly want to do.
In the short term, I will go to work tomorrow and try my best to help my clients. I will head to Tucson on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to hang out with my Roadrunners friends and announce a couple games against the Bakersfield Condors. I will find myself singing…
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll be together,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.