Dan Callaway Studio

for people who break into song in real life

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Your Bestie, Regret — for all your rewind and edit moments and the YOLO lies 

Do you go back and replay/edit life moments? 

I usually do it around 3:32 AM after our two-year-old loses Kitty in the covers or drops his water cup into the unsearchable crevasse between the bed and the wall. (I never had a water cup in bed, did you? These kids….)

I crawl back in bed, and my mind toggles the tabs like a Netflix menu, and it experiences zero choice paralysis when selecting a series to binge.

I go back to times when my emotions took over or I made a call out of fear instead of faith, and I re-write the scenes like I’m Liam Neeson avenging an abductee’s family. 

I stand stoic and still in the face of conflict, and I let the other party tailspin in my austere presence.

I replace every scene where I flounder, flop, and flagellate with vignettes of steady, stern steel.

I also alliterate when I do deign to dialogue with my scene partner. That vanquishes them utterly. 

Then I’ll take a breath or seven, and I’ll re-accept the way it actually shook down.

I look askance at folks who wave their YOLO flag and declare “No regrets!” in tidy Instagram story form. 

There are lots of things I regret, and if you’re a human paying attention, you won’t walk through a significant chunk of days without racking up a list of woulda coulda shouldas. 

And when I look at the moments I really shat the sheets, there are always gifts there.

🤐 That conversation when I should have stayed silent and let the dishonest party dig their own ditch, I learned to take a beat before I speak and measure words more carefully. (A pretty important skill for teacher folk.)

✌🏽 The time when I should’ve told the industry guests who verbally spewed on my students to take an early Über to the airport–I learned I need to listen to my FIRST instinct that knows what’s right. Still working on that.

❤️‍🩹 The times when I got defensive and triggered with Melissa, I learned to go into the next room and take about twenty seven deep breaths. I also learned that asking for and absorbing forgiveness is one of life’s must beautiful graces. 

The common theme is that I’d never have downloaded the sweet truths if I hadn’t lived through my ability to run background software programed by fear and un-love. 

It’s the same on your path–

You have a clue of what feels good when you sing because you’ve prolly sung in ways that are a lot of work.

You probably know that one tidbit of etiquette because you didn’t know it at one point, and it was embarrassing. (Just ask me about the time I started singing in understudy rehearsal on tour before the conductor brought me in. 😳)

There’s a whole lotta both-and in all the places we wish we’d done better.

There’s the pain of the I-wish, the sweetness that comes with the hard-won lesson, and the compassion that comes with seeing our inevitable blunder-ability.

What’s your main replay/edit? Can you find the sweet take-away? And what can you bring forward?

I once heard Marianne Williamson in a Q&A in LA tell someone that they’d paid tuition to the school of life. That image stuck with me because I redefined things I once called lost as invested.  

You’ve made investments. You may think you took a big loss, but I’d put money on the fact that all that you’ve laid down is accruing terrific compound interest.

If we soften up to what our wish-that’d-gone-another-way experiences have to teach us, there’s a lot of gold there.

Of course, this also means you’ll need to show yourself a little grace and love. I bet you can.

Because we’re waiting to hear all the ways those struggles tenderized your heart. And when you open that heart and share it in your song, folks get healed. I stake my whole work as a teacher on that.

When you let a free sound through your face, folks who hear it get a little freer, too.

Because you know what I’m fixing to say—there’s only one of you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing. 

Love much,
dan

ps We really enjoyed Somebody Somewhere starring Bridget Everett on HBO Max this week. Great characters, great relationships. 

pps Remember your voice is a 360 event–just watch this lil singing froggy for evidence 🐸. Witnessing your sound waves traveling behind you can be a really freeing image. Try it out and let me know if you notice a difference. 

ppps Here’s your me-with-boys-by-the-water pic for the week 💙 Coming atcha from Quincy on a glorious warm day. 

From the toilet seat at the Great Wolf Lodge — I bet you’re doing your best

I write you from the toilet seat in the bathroom of Room 257 at the Great Wolf Lodge of Fitchburg, Massachussetts. 

See?

The boys are snoozin, and Melissa’s off for sibling time with her brother in the bar. You like my Christmas jammies? (They say “Feelin’ Jolly”)

There are some door-slamming children on our floor, and it sounds like the pipes our shower shares with the next room are in need of a lil look-see.

The property here in central Mass is surrounded by hilly New England forest–bare tree sculpture bunches punctuated with chalky birch trees looking like whitewashed coat racks.

We had birch trees in our yard when I was a kid, and when I drove by them on the mower, I’d grab the catkins off the branches and roll them between my fingers. I loved birch bark; it was shiny and bright and special.

After we moved to Mass, I texted my dad a picture of the birches around the Ashland Mill Pond– the ones in the yard had died. 

He texted back and said there used to be a lot more birch trees in NC. 

Over the last month, I’d see a birch tree or a pair of mismatched drum sticks a Berklee kid left in the dining hall (like I did last September, another photo-text),

and I’d think of Dad. I’d feel the impulse to text him but then remember he wasn’t reachable by 4G. 

You hear a lot of folks tell you to make sure you tell your people how much you love them because you never know when they’ll be gone. 

I reflect on that in the moments when I want to shoot my dad the odd communication and I can’t, and I have to tell you–we sure do put a lot of pressure on ourselves. 

When my dad died, there were issues where we no longer shared common ground on sky color or cardinal directions. It was painful. But I loved him and he loved me–both of us the best we knew how to do at that moment. 

I was looking at one of my last little email replies back to him, reading through some of the messages he sent me. I always told him I loved him.

And I don’t know about you, but I believe he knows it more clearly now. 

You got a thing like that? A place where someone’s social media Hallmark card covert guilt trip makes you sink inside?

I wanna invite you to do something. Will you check in to your guts and ask yourself something? Are you doing the best you can do? 

Take a sec.

Are you doing the best with the resources and bandwidth you got right now? 

My guess is you probably are. 

So there you go. Big squeeze for you. 🤗

Next thing to ask you is, “What’s something that’ll help me have more freedom around this situation?”

☎️ It might be a loving phone call that makes your heart rate increase, but you’ve auditioned for stuff before. You can handle adrenaline. 

🍨Maybe a “God, grant me the serenity to go get a fro yo and adapt.”

👏Might be an email to that person you want to work with to tell them you think their work is terrific. That can be a heart pounder, too.

I felt like you needed to hear the wise words my father-in-law Robert Klees says so well in his Rhode Island  basso profundoDo your best. It’s all you can do. 

You’re doing great, I just know it.

And now it’s time for me to wrap this missive up. There’s a reason they say not to sit on the toilet for a really long time. It’s not the comfiest.

But do remember, please, that there is legit only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
dan

ps Friends of ours from NC days, Jimmy and Gayla Renslow, have been in Berlin for the last few years serving the refugee communities in Germany.

They’ve been boots on the ground in the last two weeks helping those fleeing the crisis in Ukraine. They’ve carried supplies to the Polish border and driven refugees west. I believe they’re housing 7 folks in their flat in Berlin now.

If you’d like to donate to their nonprofit, 100% of your contribution will go directly to help refugees. They’re distributing 250-Euro gifts to families in Krakow and Berlin who are hosting Ukrainian families. You can find out what they’re doing here. I vouch for their hearts and badassery personally. 

I’m Sorry and Other Gifts — a theatre moment I’ll never forget, and why you gotta keep singing

I’ve been working with a student on a song from High Fidelity this semester called “I’m Sorry.” Or “Laura, Laura.” I don’t know which is the official title.

The first reminds me of the dramatic strains of The Platters’ 1954 hit. That’s not the one we’re working on. But side note for your own research—The Platters recorded some great tunes.

The song I am talking about, I first heard in a staged reading of High Fidelity back in LA, geez, like 12 years ago produced by Musical Theatre Guild, the terrific company I was a member of.

You may know the film starring John Cusack which was based on a Nick Hornby novel. Musicals and their provenance, I tell you.

Aaaaanyway—By Act 2, the lead guy, vinyl record store owner Rob, has a Damascus Road experience and realizes how his constant side-glance to the bigger better thing took his gaze off of the invaluable love in front of him.

It’s a pretty rock ballad, and my student, Nick, sings it great. I keep yelling at him to take out gratuitous riffs, but if I were as good a riffer as he is, I’d put too many in, too.

I told him how I’d never forgotten this one moment at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.

After all the boollshit this guy puts his ex-girlfriend, Laura, through, he finally sees it, looks right at her, and tells her all he’s done that hurt her and their relationship.

And this is why I’ll never forget the moment in the theatre.

Will Collyer, the actor playing Rob, and Robin DeLano, the actor playing Laura, stood downstage center. Will looked right into Robin’s face, standing profile to the audience and just sang the whole song right to her.

That was the blocking–look at her and sing the song.

I’ll never forget it.

After the lesson teaching the song that day, I had to throw up a social post reminding the director, Richard Israel, how that was such a special two-plus minutes.

It was heartwarming to read all the comments from friends who remembered that moment, too.

You got a memory like that? A sweet-savory morsel of theatre experience that arrives like a surprise chocolate box when you hear a certain song?

That’s soul medicine. It’s beauty. It’s gratitude, and it’s us recognizing us in each other.

Just imagine how things might look different if we were able to do more of that.

All this to say–what we get to do matters to folks.

More than one student has come into the studio this past week wondering how their pursuit of being a musical storyteller matters in the face of the unbelievable suffering happening in the world.

I wonder the same thing.

While we’ve learned in the last 2 years that getting to stand on a stage in front of people depends on a ton of things going well, it doesn’t mean that what we do is frivolous or a luxury.

When Will stood on the Alex stage and sang that ballad to Robin, he opened his heart and shared the deep healing that happens when we tell another human that we understand how our actions hurt them.

To stand in that place with open hands and ask another human to forgive you is a gift.

To hear someone say, “Yes, what you did hurt me, and I’m going to erase that from my ledger over here,” is Tiger Balm for your heart.

And when we forgive each other on stage singing beautiful melodies with stick-to-your-feels images, all that music and poetry psychs out the stubborn, cross-armed bridge troll in our brain, and we start to set our hearts a little freer.

I mean, you’re a musical theatre nerd. Haven’t you asked yourself if you woulda said you gave Valjean the sliver candlesticks like that low-voiced priest did?

This question–do we keep singing while the world burns?–also brings up our universal human need to practice comparative suffering.

I teach another student who received a challenging medical diagnosis just before starting his studies at the BoCo. When I ask, “How you doin’ today?” he’ll often respond, “Aw, could be worse. People are going through much more.”

Yes, both statements are true. 

And then I remind him that just because the guy next to me is a triple amputee doesn’t mean I don’t hit the cut on my hand with peroxide, Neosporin, and a Paw Patrol bandaid.

I’ve been trying to hold my weeping at the news footage of the Ukrainian father sobbing at the head of his 16-year-old-son’s murdered body together with the deep gratitude, guilt, and relief I feel when I tuck my boys into a safe, warm bed at night.

I can’t imagine his suffering, and looking right at it shows me that the grace my life overflows with is something I want to cherish and share.

Telling musical stories matters, and the way you tell musical stories matters. The way you show up to sing one day could be that heart and honesty morsel someone saves for a devastating day. 

Because remember, there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

Dan
 

ps The YouTube algorithm delivered a moment of healing beauty and grace to me this week. I was about to ignore and go to the next doom news video, but it started before I could intervene. 

Take a moment to watch and listen to this Beethoven’s 9th Flash Mob in Tokyo. I may have been shoulder-bounce crying as I packed our picnic lunch yesterday.

pps You wanna learn from a really smart director like Richard Israel? You can! Here’s his website. And here’s where you can find out how to work with him. I recommend. 

ppps You know I gotta hit you with the latest New England cold-ish beach pics. We had a quick day trip out to Nantasket Beach/Hull, Mass. I love being an hour from the water–the ocean’s healing.




pppPs One more thing—I’m prepping for a faculty recital at BoCo Saturday April 9 at 2pm, so mark your calendars if you wanna catch the live stream. Or come to Boston! The school’s open to outside visitors attending performances now. It’ll be the music of Richard Strauss and Stephen Sondheim. I’ll keep you posted!

Vengeance Prayers — magical thinking, deaf virtuosity, and gratitude 🤟🏽

I’ve been tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine this week like when I was a kid counting stair steps, avoiding sidewalk cracks, or ensuring my left foot made the same amount of sneaker taps as my right under my second grade desk.

I assured myself these behaviors directly influenced outcomes in my 8-year-old universe.

I’m refreshing the Washington Post app several times an hour, checking the YouTubes for people who might know what they’re talking about, and praying vengeful prayers.

When I see the video of a Ukrainian woman telling an American reporter that she’s staying in Kyiv because it’s her home, that it’s Russia that needs to leave, I feel justice and shaking fists rise up in my throat.  

I’ve been asking God to supercharge the Ukrainian people like the Avengers and imagining school teachers in Kharkiv taking up rocket launchers and taking out invading tank lines.

I’m so angry this is happening.

I think about the busloads of traumatized, silent refugees disembarking at the borders, crowds of folks who were taking their children to nursery school last week now trying to figure out how to get food and keep it together in front of their toddlers while others stay behind. 

I think about my lucky life–how my direct encounters with war are limited to a family friend lost in Afghanistan and others bearing the emotional toll after making it back home.

I remember singing “War is a Science” in Pippin back in the day with Deaf West Theatre.

Charlemagne broke down the battle plan to his soldiers–human lives reduced to color-coded action figures. Then followed “Glory” with a finale of axed-off limbs falling from the fly space.

Easy to be wry and satirical about war when you’re in costumes under lights in a climate controlled theatre.

When you’re in it, the irony explodes, and you’re left with the realities of demolished lives. 


I’m gonna take a gratitude detour and celebrate the man in the picture above.

That’s Troy Kotsur who just won the SAG Award for Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role. I was telling you about him back in August


Ever since I got to collaborate with Troy in Pippin, he’s been my actor hero. 

He turned words on a page into magic in the air.

​Troy taught me that a script wasn’t a fixed rules-y document, but a terrific sandbox with tons of toys.

I’m a very ear-based singer and actor. I always start with how things sound. I mean, duh, I’m a voice teacher. 👂 So, watching Troy craft visual wizardry out of the printed word was new territory.

He tweaked signs all the way through the run, and he’d wave me down after our scenes to see how the audience responded.

I think we dissected about seventeen different iterations of the line, “Lewis is an asshole.” I had no idea there there were that many versions of an expletive in ASL. 

Troy also had jokes.

One day in rehearsal he caught my attention from across the room and spoke-signed, “Your voice. It’s sooo beautiful. It makes me cry.”

As he traced a sincere tear down his cheek, I began to say, “Awww, thank y….” Doh! 

That wasn’t the only time he got me. Let’s just say he wasn’t one to implicitly trust for ASL education. 

What I loved the most about Troy, though, was his passion and enjoyment of every line of the story. He showed me words were symbols that hold the place of what we really mean, and there are all kinds of ways to paint those pictures.

It’s also terrific to see someone who’s worked so hard and taken so many leaps in an industry that’s not all open doors get much-deserved recognition. (He’s received an Academy Award nom now among many other honors–go Troy!)


So, I just wanna tell you how grateful I am.

I’m grateful I get to write this email to you.

I’m grateful I get to be annoyed by my boys’ shenanigans rather than grasping to figure out how I’m going to keep my family safe in the face of an armed invasion. 

I’m grateful for lungs that breathe, legs that walk, eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that can love.

And I’m believing that anger-filled eight-year-old magical thinking vengeance prayers can get translated into something useful in the heaven-sphere.

And I know for sure that there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much, 
Dan

ps Here’s a link to a WaPo article with links to places you can donate to help Ukraine.  

pps I love this 4-second video of Troy finding out he got a BAFTA nomination. Listen for him laughing at the end :). Here’s an LA Times article about our collaboration on Pippin. And here’s a gorgeous monologue from Cyrano. I’ve always been a fan. 👏🏼🙌

That’s How the Light Gets In — delicious soup, peace lilies 🕊, and Leonard Cohen

Hey Hard Day Hero—

This image encapsulates much of my week.

I made it through the front doors of 8 Fenway Tuesday morning thinking, “Is this what frostbite feels like? I think this is what frostbite feels like.”

I said hello to Chris who commandeers the lobby desk of the Conservatory like a friendly, short-haired mage who drops [r]s and available room knowledge with equal munificence.

I wound my way back to the side of the building where my studio sits on the 4th floor only to see a very able bodied student shouldering their way into the cramped, slow elevator I coulda used that morning. 

The stairs it would be. I climbed and thought, “Why don’t they label the second floor 2.75 because of that extra flight they throw in for funsies?”

I finally completed the ascent to my studio.

Only I couldn’t see through my glasses because mask fog 😷. I popped my specs on top of my head, dropped my two bags, peeled off my coat and unwrapped my scarf.

Only when I did, my muffler caught the temple tip of my defogging lenses, and the next thing I knew I heard the distinctive clack of my Warby Parkers on the tile floor. 

I also cracked my phone screen an hour later that morning when trying to position it on a music stand for a self-tape because, duh, I left my tripod on my desk at home.

All this cracking reminded me of my conversation with Chris that morning. She was reading her new library book, and I asked her what the latest literature was. 

It was a bestseller mystery series about a guy named Inspector Gamache (of course, I thought she said ganache) called How the Light Gets In

 “Oh, like the Leonard Cohen song,” I said.

“Yeah,” said my Massachusetts mystic, “They talk about the song in the book.”

I was referencing Cohen’s song, “Anthem” that says,

“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.” 

Don’t you hate that, too?

I mean, there’s the initial comfort of oh, phew, my busted self gets some light shone in there because I’m banged up like a dragged-across-the-patio-too-many-times terra cotta pot.

Then there’s the part that wants to source my own C batteries for my survival kit flashlight, thank you very much. 

This week I been busted, cracked, and as my British friends say so beautifully, shattered. 

And Mr. Cohen was right. That is how the light gets in, dammit.

Through Cathy, Tom, and Stanley who sent us soup, rolls and cookies with a sage quote from Cookie Monster:

and through my college musical theatre class who sent us this gorgeous peace lily

and the perfect words

Through a seaside therapy day trip to Melissa-Lee’s Little Rhody-

Through more light rays shining into the cracks this week than I can name.

I’m grateful.

Where are some light sources giving you some needed sunshine this week? I’d love for you to notice how that phototherapy feels on those busted up zones. 

I’m finding more and more those are the places of illumination entry.

Sending you my care bear stares today, and reminding you that there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the song that only you can sing. 💙

Love much, 
Dan

ps I have to show you a few more pics from Warwick, RI today.

pps If you ever want to send someone gourmet soup and rolls that’ll make them feel really loved and cared for, Spoonful of Comfort is a great place to look. And the cookies are delish, too. 

ppps Here’s a link to Anthem by Leonard Cohen, Live in London

Thank You, Trauma? 🧳 Your baggage has great news for you.

Hellerrrr You Brilliant Resilient —

I’m a late processor. Late for what? I’m not sure.

I’m a take-my-time processor. That’s it.

When I was in London, 🇬🇧my voice instructor would sometimes pour us both a whiskey and ginger before a lesson (in tea mugs).

I remember the end of one session while another was beginning, she sent me to the corner off-licence for supplies. That’s when 22-year-old me learned what a Moscow Mule was.

At some lessons she was sweet as pie, and other lessons she said things to me that made my throat catch, my stomach clinch, and tears sting my eye corners.

I never knew which teacher I’d be seeing that day. And I wondered why I felt stressed biking down to Brixton every week.

A year after I’d moved to NYC, I was walking down Second Avenue when in an 8-part harmony angel choir theophany moment 🎶, I stopped in my tracks and said out loud, “Sylvia was an alcoholic!”*

I just thought all Londoners drank that much. I did bartend in a pub, so I had plenty of evidence.

But yeah. A little slow in the evidence assimilation there.

As I tell you that, a list of dodged bullets runs like a dang-that-was-close news ticker through my young adult years.

You see, for various reasons in my childhood, my mind learned to file potentially painful information in the “Process Much Later” file. 🗂

While this has caused problems (ask the active paperwork inbox in my still-unpacked studio), it’s also brought benefits.

I’ve navigated scenarios so chaotic that if you proposed them in script form to Lifetime TV, they’d tell you to bring them something realistic.

My brain created all kinds of back door exits in response to life traumas that are very handy escape hatches when I encounter crap-tastic circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong. My lil-Dan coping mechanisms have wreaked their share of havoc.

Thousands of dollars worth of therapy and credit card interest later, I’m here to tell you I’ve come to a spot where I can usually meet my psyche’s brilliant survival tactics with understanding and gratitude.

They even work in my favor sometimes.

Big emotional event?–My mind organizes the ordeal into the deal-with-later file, and I know one day I’ll let the snot and tears dribble. But today I may just have to pay bills.

What are the things that little you did to cope that keep showing up today?

Did you know that your voice tells you about these kid skills too?

👅Tongue tension, for example, is often a belief that you need to press back your expression because you might have run into negative consequences for letting out your feels.

😣Pharyngeal constriction (intense whispery/constrained feeling) can link to earning love through meeting a perfectionistic/impossible standard.

🫁And hypofunctional phonation (not enough breath energy for a vibrant sound) can shine a light on areas where you’ve judged you don’t deserve things.

I remind myself, and I tell my students that these things are all tryina help you.

Your tight tongue is protecting you from the danger your expression got you in in the past.

Your constricting pharynx is trying real hard to keep you doing the things that get you love and acceptance.

And that stingy air flow is keeping that story alive about not deserving nice things so you don’t have to grieve over the years you’ve ID-ed with the deprivation that got shellacked on you as a kid.

I’ll often ask a student to pause and meditate into the spot that’s not doing what they want it to do.

They have a little conversation with their tongue root or their pharynx, and just like when you ask anybody a genuine question with the desire to understand, those parts of the body speak up.

When we can meet the parts of ourselves that seem to be getting in the way with empathy and compassion, we learn a lot.

I guarantee you it’s a lot more effective than shouting, “JUST RELAX!”

This week I invite you to notice the patterns little intelligent you cooked up to survive, and maybe give your baby psyche some props for their resilience brilliance.

When we invite these things to share their stories with us, they can mellow out, and they can even integrate themselves into some healthy adulting if we can partner with them in a gentle and conscious way.

And remember, beautiful you with your intricate assortment of survival skills, there’s only one of you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can sing.

Love much,
Dan

ps *re: my London story, names have been changed, and I still talk out loud to myself on city streets.

pps here’s the bar where I worked in London. The Havelock Tavern. Still there in Brook Green. I enjoyed working there, and it’s where my love of cooking started.

You’re Gonna Get There. 🛤 And THERE is gonna be a terrific surprise, and yeah, you’re gonna get there. 

Hold Up! Wait for Meeeeee!

The thing about the trash and recycling situation in our ‘hood is that we have to transport our household refuse to a far-ish away curb where the town trucks collect it.

When we first learned the ways of the community, I loaded our lil recycling bins and authorized orange trash bags into the Radio Flyer wagon and rattled my way to the aforementioned drop zone. 

Now I make it happen with the seat down and a tarp in our lil green hatchback. 🚙

Last week it was raining.

I’d taught a full day in Boston, we’d put the boys in bed, I’d taught another lesson that evening, and by 9pm, the weather was still BYOArk. 🛶

I’m gonna take the trash to the curb in the morning on my way to the train,” I announced before collapsing on the sofa.

The little Jiminy Cricket voice inside piped up and alerted me that this plan was much like the fabled “I’ll just get gas in the morning,” but I assured my conscience insect that this was a different deal.

Cut to Thursday morning.

I’m leaving the house with my two bags and mug of coffee and speed kisses, and it’s the same chunk of time I always allow to get to the train station, except I have to get the gahbage in the cah.

I sling it in the back and make my way to the dump site. “Flight of the Bumblebee” 🐝plays while I situate the bags and bins among my neighbors’ contributions, and I zoom my merry way toward the station.

Then the school bus intersection-blocks me. 🚌

And the kids are taking their SWEET time getting on.😠

Then there’s the kid who’s waiting in the car with his mom who gets out after the kids get on the bus and saunters to the waiting doors. 😡

(I make up a sad tale of why he’s waiting with his mom instead of with the other kids and say a prayer for him because maybe school sucks right now. But still! I gotta go, kid!)

Everything’s fine. I’m gonna make it. The trees are beautiful. The air is cool. I’m sill catching the earlier train, so there should still be a couple of parking spots on the near side of the tracks. More praying. 🤞

I get to the main road toward the station, and the half a mile stretch that’s usually clear is backed up. 😤

I check the clock.

Still time.

Jesus, take the wheel and get me to the train on time.

The parking lot comes into view.

The train that originates at the Framingham station dings along and stops beside the platform. I’m sitting in traffic surveying the parking sitch while the train sits twenty feet away.

The. Parking. Spaces. Are. Full. 🤬

God grant me the serenity to figure out how to get this Scion to off-road across these tracks and into a spot legal or otherwise that won’t be noticed by traffic authorities.

Such a provision doesn’t emerge.

I must wait in the left turn arrow death lane to make the around-my-ass-to-get-to-my-elbow journey to the north parking lot.

I can still make it.

I drive at a speed that I’m positive will allow me ample braking time for pedestrians while also conveying me to the nearest spot to the track crossover.

I pull in. I park.

Phone ✅ wallet ✅ keys ✅

I jog-sprint up the crossover stairs two at a time, Chariots-of-Fire my way over the tracks, and shimmy down the stairs on the other side doing some clever choreo with my messenger bag and the old Tom’s tote I carry my apples and trail mix in.

I’m on the last landing when I hear the train brakes hiss and the fateful DING DING.

I will not be taking part in this particular train journey.

There she goes without me.

I did play out a running along the platform waving my hands shouting waaaaaaiiiiiiit for meeeeeeee scenario in my head, but I’d already nearly clotheslined myself with my bag strap hurtling down the metal stairs, so I’d already met my opportunities for humiliation quota.

Womp Womp.

Not gonna lie. When that train pulled out I felt like a three-year-old expecting Reese’s Pieces who’d just been served a plate of room temp boiled Brussels sprouts.

My ego scanned the morning for someone or something to BLAME!

The school bus!

No, that sauntering kid.

The traffic!

The Massholes that took my parking spot!

The minivan who didn’t go IMMEDIATELY when the left arrow turned green.

Then that real annoying gut grab when I arrived at the end of my accusation algebra.

As Elphaba so aptly belts, “It’s meeeeeeeeeeee 🎶.”

The equation solved for one Dan Callaway who coulda
a) taken the trash out in the rain or
b) left the house early.

Dammit Janet.

Here’s the good news for you, though, from my train debacle.

🕰 I was only five minutes late for my first lesson. Phew. Then, the lesson after that had to cancel, so we had extra time to learn about breathing. woot!

🍀 I saw a colleague I’d been meaning to talk to for a couple weeks getting off the train, so we were able to chat.

Do you ever feel like you missed your train? I’ve definitely had that feeling.

The great news is that yes, that train left the station. And as they like to say in the 12 Steps, rejection is protection.

Or as my girl Byron Katie taught me, you’ve been spared. That’s the only possibility.

There was another train. There’ll be another train.

Or maybe you even have a car and an EZPass—there’ll prolly be traffic, but there are transport possibilities.

And then there’s the list of other modes that may be available to you.

What’s your bye bye train?

Have you allowed ample time to let your toddler self rail against the unfairness of it all? Go ‘head—you gotta do it before you can see clearly. Let the rain fall and the storm clouds clear.

Now, what’s available to you so that you can get a little closer to Boston?

Phone a friend? ☎️

Call that teacher or coach that’s been popping up on your radar? 👩🏽‍🏫

📝Take out a scrap piece of paper and a pen and write down things that might be fun like
🎵“sing in front of folks and enjoy it,”
🎭“tell a great story in a theatre with terrific people,” or
📖“write a story for me to tell that no one else seems to be telling right now.”
?

Are there some idears popping up that weren’t there when you started reading my sordid train narrative?

Hope so. Write em down!! ✏️

You can always email me with some ideas, and I can help you trouble shoot, too. I love cooking up crazy things for you to try.

So yes, the train left.

And clearly you weren’t meant to be on it. You know how I know? You weren’t on it.

Congratulations!

Start making your way to Boston another way, and you may end up in an awesome surprise destination you didn’t even know was on the conductor’s route. (This is almost always the case. See my post from January 2020 for anecdotal evidence. Thanks, Life.)

No matter where you are on your journey, REMEMBER THIS! Yes, I’m yelling. There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can sing.

Love much,
Dan

ps You know I gotta hit you with the family Halloween pic. We had a blast trick or treating in our ‘hood, and people were so EXCITED just to see other humans having fun together. 

pps And I liked these shots I grabbed of the Framingham station on a much less harried day.

😫 What Were You Doing at 5:27 am?How being way harsh and all permanent are messing with your voice

It started the day we said, “At least the boys sleep through the night.

The hubris alarm sounded in the guard tower surrounding Mount Parentis, and the child rearing gods said, “Initiate spoke-too-soon protocols for the Callaway household.” ⚡️

Our younger one explores all manner of nocturnal disruption technologies these days.

The standard event occurs at any point in the dark time when there’s a sleep cycle shift change.

From the far reaches of the boys’ room, a clear, high-overtone rich screlt (scream-belt) invades my dream about showing up to school with no pants. 

“Daaaaaaadddyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!”

After this successful audition for Judas in JC Superstar comes the determined elephant rampage toward the bedroom door, and then it’s time to share the material he’s prepped for the Off-Bway revivals of Stomp and Blue Man Group. With more belting.

So far, no amount of “What would Super Nanny do?” or “What did that gentle parenting course teach us about this scenario?” 3-am questioning has availed an answer. We’re figuring it out as we go.

Number one way to guarantee that you experience an unwanted event in its fullest form is to judge someone else who’s going through said event.

I’ll explain.

Friend posts on social, “So my little one was up AGAIN at fill-in-the-ungodly-hour-here, so here we are doing some crazy thing while everyone should be sleeping.”

Cue my self satisfied mind saying, “Well, if you’d just read The Happiest Baby on the Block like I suggested, you wouldn’t be experiencing these problems that are clearly rooted in your failure to properly teach your child to sleep through the night in utero.”

Yep–you wanna have it happen or do it, judge somebody. This is all anecdotal and experiential, but I’m pretty sure it’s right.

Oh, also, if you wanna feel contracted, self-righteous, tense, and a little smoldery in your tummy, judging is a direct path to that as well.

As any parent will tell you, we were all such terrific mummies and daddies before we were blessed with 24-7 human wellbeing patrol.

You got any of those? Moments where you were like, “Dang, I was way harsh about that, and now I’m all samesies but even more.“?

Silver lining side-note–We did have some good group productivity in the wee dark hours. 

The boys apparently inherited my penchant for early morning get er done.

My message to you from today’s bleary-eyed missive is two-fold.

1. Notice whom and what you like to get judgy about. 

and

2. Remember that this will change.

Elaboration for numero uno–The things I get judgy about are express train maps right to the places where I’m the meanest to me. If I’m unable to give myself some grace, I’m not gonna give it to you.

No matter how nice and encouraging I’m telling myself I’m being about your issues, I can only give you the love and understanding I’m willing to give me. 

Notice this in your life when you’re all, “I’m much nicer to my loved ones than I am to myself.” 

Do a lil observation of the thoughts you don’t let out of your mouth. Are they 100% charitable?

And expansion on #2– when it comes to your circumstances and the ones we’re judging in others, let’s remember that they’re gonna change. That’s why all the clichés are about change. 

Zoom back 10 years. That was a different scene, right? Were you doing some things back then that now-you has a better handle on? 

And when you’re singing, see how this might be helpful? 🎶

I get to see a lot of students managing the ill effects of a predominately Western classical music education–a world full of wrongs and rights and shame judgments based on the sounds you’re tryina make come out of your mouth.

The only wrong sound you can make is one that hurts. Don’t repeat those.

All the other ones have some use and some place somewhere. 

That’s where the time and change comes in.

Find the people who can help you make the sounds you wanna make to be the storyteller you wanna be, and commit to showing up to the soundmaking lab over and over. 

In time, you’re gonna say nicer things to yourself about the enjoyable vibrations coming through your vocal folds, and you’ll look back and say, “Look how much that changed.”

Go gently, you beautiful soul. Give love and generosity to you, and as Mrs. Lovett so wisely counseled Sweeney Todd before his psychotic break at the end of Act I, “Time goes quickly. See? Now it’s passed…waaaait.”

Oh, wait.

You get the point. 

It’ll change. And we have some influence on the trajectory of that change.

Most importantly, though, remember that there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
dan

It’s Always a Prius 🚗 — A shoutout to the hybrids — and encouragement that it’s worth it

Hey There DMV Daredevil–

I drove to NYC this weekend to teach and see some of my former student supahstahs be fabahlahs at 54 Below.

On my way down Interstate 84 through Massachusetts’s autumnal glory🍁, I found myself in a behind-2-cars-going-similar-speeds-side-by-side situation.

When the offending left lane pokey butt finally moseyed to the right, it was like Star Wars reverse wrap speed in my little green Scion as a stream of harried New Englanders whooshed by–very eager to get to Connecticut on a Saturday morning.

The car causing all this kerfuffle? A Prius. It’s always a Prius.

I normally refrain from always and never in my moral pronouncements, but you tell me, even if you are a responsible and considerate Prius driver (and I know several), does this truth not bear out in your experience?

After the Escalades with Greenwich dealer plate frames barreled by, I scooted my lilttle electric wasabi butt around my fellow Toyota motorist and made my merry way Manhatttan-ward. 

Side note, I was excited to take a leisurely Saturday morning drive along the Merritt Parkway, but folks be cray on that road. I was like, calm down, people. Can you not see the stone bridges, 50 mph speed limit signs, and lack of shoulder? 

Prii (Pree-eye), though, they always make me think of life’s unexpected delays.

You had any of those lately?

On Saturday, I got to teach not one, but two of my dear students from LA days–back in the little blue singing cottage on Vineland Blvd.

Those were some days. I swear I encountered more wildlife in and around that building in North Hollywood than I did growing up in the cowntry in NC.

I lost one student when a mouse decided to run across a rafter mid-lesson, and there was also the possum-raccoon death match 🦝in the crawl space that I heard while updating quickbooks. The loser of that battle alerted my olfactory senses to the altercation’s outcome about four days later. (It was the possum.)

But back to my LA beebees. One I started teaching when she was 12 and her email address included the words “onbroadway,” and the other had just finished up at USC.

Saturday, my 12-year old Broadway dreamer showed up a 25-year-old performer with NYU degree in hand and tons of skill, and my USC grad recently earned their masters at ACT and is navigating this new landscape as a trans actor.  

In both lessons we looked at the shape of the industry as far as we could understand it today, and after some discussion, we shrugged our shoulders and said, “Let’s sing.”

In both conversations, I came back to the same truth–storytelling is worth it.

I looked at both of these tremendous artists that I had the privilege to share some time with on Saturday, and I saw a world of possibilities in both of them.

💛I saw collaborations with friends
🌱creating new work in small-ish rooms that would ask new questions that would have to travel to bigger rooms one day
💡new points of view that I’d never considered that these two beautiful voices would sing about. 

Yes, the industry’s a cluster. And commercial theatre is gonna make choices that make money. We know this. 

The new voices we want to hand the microphone to, that’s on you and me. And small beginnings are beginnings.

The industry might feel like the Prius going under the speed limit in the left lane. But eventually, a lane will open. Hell, you might even have to drive on the shoulder for a little while. And then there’ll be times when you just have to make your own road. 

And this brought me back to the central truth of why most of us are here. We love stories. We wanna tell them. We wanna sing them. And I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it.

You can tell them. You can sing them. And I believe you can even create ways to pay your bills doing it. 

I wrote a musical. I started working on it in 2012. It’s been percolating, plot changing, song shifting. Characters have appeared and disappeared.

To go further it has to get on its feet, and I need collaboration. 

But here’s the thing–if it doesn’t go any further, I’m so grateful I wrote it. Writing it has been precious, and living in the story has made me a better human. 

I haven’t made any money from it. Not many folks know about it or have heard the songs. 

But so far, it’s been worth it. 

What you do is worth it. By itself, it’s worth it.

So let’s take the thing and take steps to share it because chances are there are folks out who’d be touched, moved, delighted, and maybe healed by your courage to open your heart and invite them in.

No shade to hybrids, you silent shifty vehicles. You help us slow down, and maybe you even saved us from an unpleasant altercation with an Escalade from Greenwich later. Who knows?

One thing I DO KNOW–There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
dan

⏱ You Don’t Have to Play the Game —

Today’s the Boston Marathon.

How many it’s-not-a-sprint-it’s-a-marathon 26.2 sticker clichés can you pull up?

I get the whole long-haul wisdom of the massive distance race imagery. The thing about this analogy is that it’s filled with stressful givens–

🏃🏾‍♂️There’s a slew of lean game-face runners with their numbers pinned to their shirts ready to pound you into the pavement.

⏱It’s a one-time event.

🛌There are no nights of sleep involved (or other forms of rest).

🏆There can only be one winner.

Enter your life as an artist and/or singer. You look around at all the create-y people around you, and someone said “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” and not only do you think there’s a race, but you think y’all are competing for the same finish line.

A ridiculously talented and beauty-hearted student came to their lesson this week, and when I asked them what they were liking about school, they said, “The people.” 🙌

When I asked them what was tough, they said, “Feeling like I have to catch up.” 😥

Number one I was so grateful this student opened up and shared this with me. We took a few minutes to play around with this thought—I have to catch up.

The student was so game and willing. We took that thought–I have to catch up— and asked, “Is that true?”

It was a gift for me to watch this singer go right inside to their heart to see what the answer might be. Very quickly, I saw the student’s face open like sunshine peaking behind a cloud.

They told me there was nothing to catch up to, nothing to compete with, nothing to do but do their stuff and learn their things.

And as they imagined their peers succeeding, a bubbly joy fizzed up in the room.

Then they sang their song, and I freakin cried because their heart was so wide open and beautiful. I have the best job. 

When I compete, I contract. I compare. I look outside and ask what’s the minimum I have to do to be better than.

Competition can be really fun when there’s a game and agreed-upon rules.

But artists get really jacked up when we start to make up a rules-y game where there isn’t one.

You hear folks say, “You gotta play the game.” What game is that, exactly?

Thing is, when you show up and do your work in a way that brings you satisfaction, find the people who can help you do your work with skill and generosity, and share that work, things start to move.

People start to say thank you. And then surprises start to happen.

People you don’t know hear about you from those people who said thank you before, and they ask you if you wanna come play. And so on.

Let’s review—

👋🏽 Show up

💛 Talk to/invest in your people—coaches, teachers, collaborators

🤲🏽 Share your things in all the ways you can

⚽️ This gets rolling.

(But it’s not a game!)

It is, however, fun! And scary. And challenging. And terrific. And unfamiliar. And satisfying.

Truth is, some things (most things) take longer than we want (double marathon category), and some things show up more quickly than we feel we’re ready for.

Both things are a mercy.

I look back on the things I wanted when I was in my 20s, and if I’d had the skill and integration to get those things, I’m not convinced I had the character to sustain.

Delays in my life have been gifts.

Didn’t feel like that at the time, of course, but the look-back is instructive.

So, if you’re racing and you’re tired, I invite you to look at the reality around you. Are all these crazy folks even competing in the same event?

Maybe you can stop by one of those nice people holding the paper cones of cold water and orange slices, catch your breath, and ask yourself what kind of course you even want to be on.

Here’s permission.

And no matter what course you’re jogging down today, remember that there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story on only you can sing.

Love much,
Dan

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