The son of the Phillies' legendary announcer has pipes of his own.
It’s interesting you say that – I’m sure that your whole life people have told you the stories of how your father brought people together, brought the community together, and I’m sure they told him those same stories, too. So he understood how much he meant to people. But to know that and still not develop an ego – that’s pretty remarkable.
Exactly. He was just so happy and so proud with what he accomplished. That’s what he wanted to do ever since he was a freshman in high school, he knew he wanted to broadcast baseball and broadcast sports in general. And he was able to do both of those things -- baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros before that, and the NFL on an international level with NFL Films. He always said he wanted to continue working for his entire life and he was able to do that. And especially with 2008, winning the World Series, it was a long time coming and it was just so special to be able to…unfortunately, I was at college the day we won, but I called him that night and we had a long chat, so I just felt…I’m a huge Philadelphia sports fan, but I was more proud and happy for my father because I could just tell he was so elated.
In memorializing him, Mike Schmidt put your father in the company of Ben Franklin and William Penn in terms of the people who’ve had a huge historical impact on Philadelphia. What did you think of that?
I think those were very kind words by Mike Schmidt and I think he did a great job at the ceremony. I haven’t really had the opportunity to speak with him that much -- everybody knows that he was a great third baseman and a wonderful baseball player in general, but I didn’t realize before that day how well-spoken he is. His speech was really touching and well-put-together, so it was really nice to hear him speak. And everybody’s speech was so kind, and it really helped me and my family.
A lot of people in town were blown away by your singing voice. As you said, you’ve sung the anthem a few times before at Phillies games, but maybe people didn’t take notice of it then as much as they did now, and a lot of people had no idea you had this tremendous, operatic voice.
[laughs] Yeah. I’ve been singing for six or seven years now. I’ve been training to sing classically. The way I got started is, my middle school had a mandatory musical because it had about 75 people in it, so the only way they could do musicals like Camelot and Fiddler on the Roof is that they require everyone to be a part of it. And when I was a freshman I had a friend who was a sophomore, and he was into acting and singing his entire life and I really looked up to him, and I was like, wow, this is really cool, I’d like to be able to do this next year if I could get a good part or whatever. So I asked him “Hey, who are you studying with?” and he hooked me up with my first teacher, and I studied with him all throughout my middle school and high school career. And I did land a significant role the next year -- I played Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof. It was fun because my close friend played Tevye. I didn’t really get into the opera stuff right away. I’d done musical theater with an operatic voice. My voice changed at a young age --throughout middle school and high school they always cast me as kinda the father or the old man, things like that, because not only my speaking voice was like that, but at that point my singing voice was more classical. It wasn’t until the summer after sophomore year that I was in my first opera – Beethoven’s Fidelio -- and it was part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and that was really cool, they did that in the Eastern State Penitentiary.
Ah, very cool!
Yeah, it’s great there. The Philly Fringe Festival rented it out and we performed there next to Al Capone’s old cell. I don’t get scared easily, but alone backstage at the Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the scariest moments of my life! But it was really incredible. There was a thing about mold and dust where a lot of the singers were complaining. It did have its downsides, but it was a great experience.
So how old were you at that point?
Summer of sophomore year, so I think I was 15. I actually did that with my teacher at the time – he was playing the lead tenor role. That was really my first experience with opera. The choice to pursue opera as opposed to musical theater was a choice that was kind of…it was more based on the training that I’d received. I looked at how things were progressing and also I feel like on Broadway, for new contemporary musicals they tend to be much more poppy than classical. They’re turning more into a pop, sometimes rock style. And that’s fine, but it’s not really my thing.
So I guess you’re not an Andrew Lloyd Webber guy?
I like Phantom, but I don’t really like the rock musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar. I do like Phantom but I wouldn’t be a true classical musician if I said I liked Andrew Lloyd Webber [laughs]. So yeah, after that I did an opera in Delaware and it was a really small thing -- a local composer wrote it, and it was to appeal to children. So I was in that and I played a bit role, but that was a unique experience. It was my first paid job – the Philly Fringe Festival was kind of a volunteer thing – and that was a good experience, I did that for two years, my junior and senior years of high school. And in terms of performing experience with opera, actually being in an opera, that’s all I’ve done so far. I really enjoy kind of the small venues. I’ve been hired to sing at some crazy things. I was hired to sing at a house dinner in Bryn Mawr. Somebody was having this business dinner and they were going with this Italian kinda theme, so I was hired to come sing Italian arias. Which was really cool, and actually there’s a funny story behind that: I came down and they had hired a catering service and the guy who hired me came out and he said, “Oh, I didn’t tell you this before you came, but do you know anything about catering?” I’m like, “No!” He’s like, “Well, I thought it’d be really funny if you dressed up like one of the catering guys – they brought some extra clothes for you -- and as you’re bringing out the food, I’ll yell at you, and then you can start to sing.” I was like, “Okayyy...” The only problem with that was that I had to cater before that happened, and I don’t think I did a very good job representing the catering service. I was serving things the wrong way. And I brought some lady her entrée and she asked me what it was and I was like, “I have no idea!” But after I started to sing I guess they all figured it out.
When was that?
That was junior year of high school.
So what went into your decision to go to the University of Miami?
Well, I was really debating between Boston University and University of Miami. And when I applied, when I was making the decision, I was planning on double majoring in vocal performance and broadcast journalism.
Broadcast journalism, really?
Yeah. I really enjoy singing and it’s one of my passions, but I feel like broadcast journalism is, I guess, more of a practical thing. In terms of the singing, I really enjoy the performing, but the directing or composing, I’m not good at any of that, so I felt like I was pigeonholing myself. And I tried the whole instrument thing – I played the piano for five years and I could barely play “Chopsticks.” So I decided I would be putting all my money on one thing if I was just doing the singing, so I wanted to do broadcast journalism. However, when I got to University of Miami I decided to switch out of the vocal performance, so I’m actually not studying vocal performance as a major anymore. I’m broadcast journalism with a double major in theater arts. So I’ve done a lot of straight theater as well, and I really enjoy that. I doubt it’s something I will pursue as a profession, but I think having that theater experience really helps in the realm of broadcasting, especially if I plan to do something in terms of live television. Having that reactionary, onstage experience I think really helps.
Absolutely, I would think that would be really valuable in terms of pacing and working off other people and that kind of thing.
Right. The music I’m not actually studying formally, as a major, but I am currently receiving weekly voice lessons.
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