Skokie is a little town in the suburbs, just northeast of Chicago. There is nothing particularly exceptional about it, except that it’s prime location to park a motorhome and take the metro into the city. This I deemed necessary, in order to avoid the insanity of driving my Toyota Dolphin motorhome into a city like Chicago. Don’t forget that it broke down on me last week, and just imagine trying to find somewhere to park! Besides, the public transit is cheap, fast, and easy to figure out.
But Skokie wasn’t chosen randomly out of a hat. Strangely enough, I actually know a Chicago Lyric opera singer that lives there. In fact, we grew up in the same neighborhood. Allow me to fill you in….
My friend Nate Peretto, who was with me for the first three weeks of the trip, has a brother, Daniel, that was an outstanding singer in high school. This led to a full ride scholarship at Pepperdine to continue his singing. Subsequently, he made a move to Chicago, where he eventually landed a coveted spot with the Chicago Lyric.
Growing up together, Daniel was a lot older than us, and most of my memories involved getting beaten up in two-on-one wrestling matches where Nate and I stood no chance. However, the age gap between Daniel and I meant that we’d never really hung out and didn’t exactly know each other that well. Initially, the plan with Nate was to drive here together, visit, and he would then fly home. But that was scrapped when the motorhome’s clutch gave out. Nate had flown here already, and was now back in California.
So I arrived on my own, interested to see the life that Daniel has made for himself in Chicago. Having come all the way from California, he’s really putting down roots now. He has a wife, Nina, two young boys and a nice house here in Skokie. And what struck me right away about Daniel was his passion. This was unexpected! Not that I thought the visit would be dull or boring, it’s just that I didn’t know I would come away from the Peretto house inspired!
Asking him about his future in opera I discovered that he had a tryout for the New York Met next month – one of the most sought after jobs in the opera world! He was doing everything in his power to make it happen. I was amazed that after singing all day and having a drink with me, he was on his computer watching more opera and showing me how he follows along with the songbook. It’s not often that you see that kind of dedication.
That is what was inspiring to me. That’s the kind of job I want to find. Something I want to do even in my spare time, and if it doesn’t pay that well, I still want to do it. Daniel has had to be creative to make ends meet sometimes, but his passion for what he does pulls him and his family through. He has found his voice, and I don’t just mean in singing. He’s found meaning in his life by discovering his true mission. That’s what I mean by voice. It’s that perfect overlap of your talent and your passion, it’s doing something with meaning, that someone will pay you to do. I know that to live this way I may have to sacrifice the things I want right now for what I want in the long run. But ultimately is that a sacrifice? Maybe the real sacrifice is when you give up trying to find your voice, and compromise for the sake of creature comforts and convenience.
As for me, I’m still looking for my voice, but that’s why I’m putting myself out there. I’m trying different ideas on for size, and broadening my perspective as much as I can. When I discover my unique voice it will be all the more satisfying having had to search for it high and low.