Happy Friday! This week, Cody, an opera conductor, discusses some misconceptions about opera and why it's actually more relevant today than ever. He also talks about his coming out and the joys of being yourself. Let's take a look...
Where are you from? Mascoutah, IL (a very small town right outside of St. Louis)
Where do you live? Pensacola, FL
Instagram handle? @operacodester
On the magic of Arizona: I lived in Phoenix for two years and got to experience all that the state of Arizona has to offer. The southwestern United States is like another world. Just in Arizona, you can visit snow-capped mountains in Flagstaff, gorgeous red rocks in Sedona, beautiful deserts full of saguaro cacti around Tucson, and (of course) the Grand Canyon. I really got into hiking and climbing mountains while I was there.
On his favorite singer at the moment: I've recently discovered and become obsessed with Julie London, an actress/singer popular during the 1950s and 60s. Her sultry, jazzy voice is my latest go-to morning wake-up music. Her "Cry Me a River" is everything.
On being an opera conductor: I've been a pianist since I was 8 years old, and I started working with singers during my undergrad years. Once I discovered the absolute MAGIC that the human voice is capable of, I could think of doing nothing else. The combination of music and text is one of the most powerful ways to make real connections between people. I trained as an opera coach/pianist during my master's degree at Florida State, and I've used those skills as a basis for my conducting career.
On the timely relevance of opera: I think one misconception about opera in general is that it's an old, archaic art form meant to be enjoyed only by rich, snobby people (see: ladies in horned helmets, people in tuxes and fancy ball gowns). This couldn't be farther from the truth! Especially in America, new, unique operas are being premiered every year--with themes relevant to people of all ages and backgrounds. This past season, the most performed opera in the US was a piece called As One by Laura Kaminsky; it is based on author Kimberly Reed's story about discovering and living her truth as a transgender woman. I'm super excited about new opera and all of the stories we're able to tell of people who haven't had a voice in the past.
On current projects: I'm actually conducting two of my favorite pieces this season. In February, I'm leading a production of Three Decembers, a 2008 opera by American composer Jake Heggie that features a gay character who deals with his partner's death from AIDS. Then in March, I conduct Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas, which was the first Spanish-language opera commissioned by a US opera company in 1996.
On coming out: I feel lucky when it comes to my coming out process. I don't remember ever having a formal "coming out" with anybody. I made a decision one day in high school to live my truth, and I was accepted by friends and family from then on. I'm definitely thankful for this experience, since I know a lot of LGBTQ teens don't have communities as supportive as mine were.
On being yourself: For me, it was a matter of just being who I knew I was. It's been great to realize that there is a real, supportive community of LGBTQ people in all walks of life--all with shared experiences and challenges.
On life's ups and downs: Life is like a roller coaster. Just because it's bad now, that doesn't mean things won't get better. There are always hills and valleys.
On his proudest accomplishment: Finishing school and getting my master's degree. Six consecutive years of music school is not for the faint of heart. (I can't imagine how anybody ever becomes a doctor...)
On the joys of mothers: My mother will always be my personal hero. I'm one of five siblings, and she was always the one working so hard to give us a good life growing up. She works now as a personal care aide in a classroom for children with autism; she has such a big heart for those kids.