How You Found Your First Stage

Dear Caroline,

I guess that moment in late August of 1995 is by now chiseled into family legend. You know the moment I mean.

We’re with the Heymanns in Martha’s Vineyard, at the beach, pretty close to the shoreline, and it’s a gorgeous day of vacation for us all. You’re all of six years old, about three months from turning seven, and the cutest water sprite ever born.

In my memory, you tell Don how much you like to sing.

Oh, really? he says.

Yes, you say.

I’ll sing something for you right now.

Well, then, Don says, by all means please do.

And with that, you in your one-piece bathing suit turn to look for a fitting venue. And right near you, as it happens, is a boulder. How perfect! You clamber onto the boulder as if onto an outdoor stage, the dunes behind you, the reeds rustling in the summer breeze, the sky a sublime blue. Don watches you with no small admiration.

You clear your throat, establish your footing and settle in for your performance. And then the big moment: you start to sing. Your selection is “Colors Of The Wind” from the new Disney movie “Pocahontas.”

I’ve heard you sing it all summer, ever since seeing the movie and buying the CD. You’ve sung this song in your room at home and wherever we go. It’s your favorite song. But I’ve never seen you sing it like this, with a boulder as your stage, taking command of your audience. Your rendition is lovely – your pitch perfect, the emotion heartfelt.

And I can see – the best treat of all – the effect you’re having on Don. He’s listening raptly, mesmerized. No doubt he’s thinking, How well she sings, this little six-year-old girl. But no doubt he’s also thinking – as I most certainly thought – how confidently she assumes her makeshift stage. Such stage presence! Such bravura!

I felt so proud. Now, of course, it’s all well and good for me to appreciate your singing. But for me to see someone else appreciate it, someone of taste, is something else again, something special.

Of course I had no inkling back then, 15 years ago this month, what would come next. I had no idea that you would decide to be a singer.

No idea that you would beg Mom to get you singing lessons until she finally gave in.

No idea that you would learn every song from “Phantom of the Opera” backwards and forwards.

No idea that you would learn to sing so well, so purely and powerfully and truly.

No, I really operated without a clue about what lay ahead for you. Little would I ever have suspected that before you turned 20, you would already have performed the lead in “Kismet,” and in “The Mikado,” and with opera companies in Manhattan, in Brooklyn and in the Hamptons. No idea at all.

But you probably knew even then. I’ll bet you saw that boulder as a steppingstone. I’ll bet by the time you finished singing for Don that day, you were already looking for the next boulder to climb.

P.S. – Profile of Caroline in The New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2010/06/18/2010-06-18_dream_gig_sang_out_loud_overcoming_odds_to_make_her_way_in_the_opera_world.html

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