I was born and raised in the small town of Kennett, Missouri (same hometown as singers Sheryl Crow, David Nail and Trent Tomlinson… something must be in the water); population around 10,000 people. I studied Theatre and Organizational Communication at Murray State University and promptly left for the big city of Los Angeles after graduation to pursue an acting career. I took several classes, survived the Northridge quake, got an agent, did some plays and commercials. What started out as a temporary job, while acting, quickly became a career in sales with Arc International. After seven years with Arc, I moved on to Los Angeles Opera, where I am today. (Plácido Domingo is my boss.) I act on occasion, work on scripts for stage, TV and film and write music. I’m a member of the Board of Directors of The Victory Theatre Center in Burbank, an intimate theater that develops and produces original works as well as West Coast premieres.
1. Please tell us a little about your professional background?
It all began in my grandparent’s store, The Rag Barn, at about age 10. I would count back change, measure and cut upholstery fabric and display the junk, ehr vintage furniture out on the front porch. At 16 I began working part-time at Kmart and honed my voiceover magic announcing the blue light special. Upon graduating from college, I moved to Hollywood and did a short stint as an actor, meanwhile building up a career in the tabletop industry with Arc (J.G. Durand) International, the leading manufacturer of crystal in glassware. By the end of my time with Arc, I was managing a three-state territory – Nevada, Arizona and Southern California – working with high-end department stores, as well as manufacturers. For the past 12 years, I’ve been working with Los Angeles Opera. As Associate Director of Marketing, I am involved in pretty much every area of marketing and have developed good relationships with our Education and Development (Fundraising) departments, collaborating on community outreach, corporate sponsorship and promotional efforts.
2. What advice would you give a young person wanting to pursue your profession?
My advice to someone pursuing my current profession would be to really have a love for what you’re doing. Even if you’re not 100% sure you’re where you’re supposed to be, find what motivates you and layer it onto every aspect of your job. Learn as much as you can about business, advertising, public relations, and stay in tune with advances in new technology. It’s important to understand what you’re selling and to know your customer, but at the end of the day, it’s about building authentic relationships and nurturing them.
3. What book had the greatest impact on you and why?
There are several books that have had an impact on me, and for various reasons. But the book that has probably had the greatest impact on me is the Bible. It’s one of the first books I was introduced to as a child, coming from fairly religious Christian roots on my mom’s side. It’s been a source of comfort, inspiration and healing at times, but it has also been a source of conflict and challenge. In the wrong hands, it has been used for manipulation, corruption, greed and malice. That controversy has been a great catalyst for me, sparking an interest in other books on religion, philosophy, science, metaphysics, and history, among other subjects, which have been enlightening and given me a broader perspective on humanity.
4. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
The first book that came to mind was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Chances are he’s read it and chances are he’s applied the principals, but for some reason, is still finding it difficult to win over or influence the Republican Party to work together with the Democrats. Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness has an interesting take on how to manage growth, people and infrastructure. Maybe a simpler approach would do the trick.
5. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
I’ve been grappling with this for some time. I have this feeling inside, as many do, that I want to leave a meaningful mark in the world. I’ve explored why that is and why it’s so important. Is it for vanity, to serve my ego? The conclusion I’ve come to is that I would feel I didn’t do what I was intended to do. That I somehow failed to achieve my life’s purpose. I’m a bit introspective at times, and when I really think about this question, I think it would be unfortunate to know I was meant to do something and didn’t do it. So, I continue searching for what is to be my legacy. At its simplest, I want to be a responsible citizen (that sound’s so boring), I want to experience and absorb as much as I can from life and do no harm to others. I can at least strive to be and do my best, no matter what I do.
6. What advice would you give yourself, if you could go back to age 16?
Save, save, save so you can retire at 40. Volunteer abroad so you can see the world. Really learn Spanish. Do what you want to do and take risks in your twenties. Love more. Date more. Be fearless. Stay fit. Eat healthy. Drink water. Use sun block. Don’t collect stuff, it becomes clutter. Then again… don’t change a thing. You’re journey is unique to you. No one else in the entire world now or ever, will experience what you have experienced in the way that you have experienced it. That, in and of itself, is truly a gift.
7. If you could sing backup for an artist, who would it be?
It would definitely have to be for the band U2. Preferably during the Joshua Tree era, however, now would be good too. Their music, for some reason, has had the most impact on me. Bono’s voice is right in my range (or used to be), so I find it easy to sing along, come karaoke nights. They are amazing in concert and I typically like the messages in their songs. It’s a Beautiful Day…