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January 23, 2024 43 mins

In our wide-ranging conversation, opera singer Limmie Pulliam joins me to trace his unbelievable rise from rural Missouri choirboy to gracing world stages like the LA Opera and the iconic Metropolitan Opera House. Limmie reveals the discrimination he once faced as a Black artist, with opera houses telling this gifted vocalist to lose 50 pounds before an audition.

After taking a 12-year hiatus from opera, Limmie returned more empowered to confront biases head-on. When the pandemic threatened his comeback, a chance Clubhouse friendship opened unexpected doors, from “kitchen concerts” to an offer from LA Opera soon having him make history singing lead roles no other Black man had at the Met.

Yet through dizzying career highs and deep personal losses, Limmie credits his family and friends for keeping him anchored through grief and self-doubt. His is a triumph of spirit, talent, and grace. Limmie teaches us that we must be ready when fortune shines on us, even in adversity. His perseverance through unimaginable barriers makes him an inspiration to me and a rare talent to watch.

 

Host: Daymond John

Producers: Beau Dozier & Shanelle Collins; Ted Kingsbery, Chauncey Bell, & Taryn Loftus

For more info on how to take your life and business to the next level, check out DaymondJohn.com 

 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
When the moment hits. You know, you never know when
that opportunity is going to come around again or if
it will come around again. So you know, I've learned
to uh, to be willing to take the risk of
doing something that kind of gets me outside of my
box and and and and kind of stretches me as
as a person, stretches me as an artist, and you know,

(00:24):
challenges me to continue to do the work even when
I'm I may not necessarily feel like doing the work.
As one of my dearest friends in this industry says,
do the work to stay ready. You don't have to
get ready, get ready? Get ready Ready?

Speaker 2 (00:42):
What if I told you there was more to the
story behind game changing events?

Speaker 3 (00:47):
Get ready?

Speaker 4 (00:48):
For my new podcast, That Moment with Damon John will
jump into the personal stories of some of the most
influential people on the planet, from business mobiles and celebrities
to athletes and artists.

Speaker 3 (01:02):
Let me thank you so much for being here.

Speaker 1 (01:04):
Man.

Speaker 3 (01:04):
How you doing today?

Speaker 1 (01:06):
I'm doing well. Thank you for having me all right? Well.

Speaker 2 (01:08):
By the time this comes out, you will have raised
the stage of Miami. What is the tour name or
is it one? Because I know you had I believe
it was linean friends you had you would you did
really well with and that was back a couple of
years ago.

Speaker 3 (01:24):
Right, what is what is today? Or what is that?
What do you want today? Is it a tour or
is it's not?

Speaker 1 (01:31):
I'm here on a for performances with Florida Grand Opera
and we're doing performances of the opera at Padiyachi or
translates at the Clowns, And so we're we're opening this
weekend here at the Art Center, and uh, we have
three performances here in Miami and then two performances in
Fort Lauderdale.

Speaker 3 (01:54):
My mom's just gonna hop right into it.

Speaker 2 (01:56):
Can I hear a little bit about your story because
the right people made definitely know where you are one
hundred percent when you're when you're taking those stages. What
is your your initisstoriy where to come from? And you know,
it's kind of like the shark tank thing, Hey hello sharks.
But I just kind of what to tell people until
we get into how what an amazing before you are
and what an amazing talent?

Speaker 3 (02:20):
Well.

Speaker 1 (02:20):
I grew up and was born and raised in rural Missouri,
southeastern Missouri, small town by the name of Kennet, Missouri.
We're about two hundred miles south of Saint Louis, about
one hundred miles north of Memphis, and grew up in
the rather large family. I'm the youngest of ten, and
you know, my dad was a preacher, so obviously I

(02:42):
grew up in the church, which was also my first
kind of introduction to music in general, which through the church.
You know, grew up singing in church, and eventually, as
I got older, joined the school choir in middle school,
and uh, basically just kind of be where my friends were.

(03:02):
I had no interest in music at that time, really,
but I joined the choir and and my teacher discovered
I had a voice and uh and had a unique
talent and and uh, you know, she basically took me
under her lane over the next several years and kind
of nurtured that talent and uh and eventually introduced me

(03:26):
to opera going into my uh sophomore junior year, and uh,
that introduction, uh set me on a path that truly
changed my life.

Speaker 2 (03:38):
Why did that path, I mean, you said the rural
Missouri correct, Yes, what's the path? Because you know tell
me that tell me is there a is there a
normal course of of an opera singer or performer that
usually takes us and they they they're groomed ever since
they're young or when they're to act, you know, the

(04:00):
lack of a better word, the scouts and the people
who know that they are, there's greatness there. You come in,
you start going on that path and you start being
assigned to people, you start doing you know, when you're
not in school. You got some er this some are
that you know when I well, my daughter, my second daughter,
who was really trying to be a figure skater, you know,

(04:22):
she was practicing North Carolina. She super disciplined, getting up
every single morning, six o'clock, falling on her head, you know,
ten times until she went to school. And there's that
point where she turned around and she saw that the
one or two kids in there were kids who went
to Germany, to Switzerland, they were homeschooled.

Speaker 3 (04:44):
She got on that ice.

Speaker 2 (04:45):
They will before her on that ice, and they will
on that ice when she left, and when she came
back after school, they were still on that ice. And
there's that point where you go there's a circuit that
happens at some point where people commit and they go
so hot are that there's no turning back? So is
that the course that had happened to you? Because, of course,

(05:08):
let's acknowledge obviously you are an African American and I
did not know that much about the opera. I would
suspect that there are not over abundance that maybe they
could because if you know, you look at you look
at stuff like rock bands and I don't care if
it's pink Floyd and various other things.

Speaker 3 (05:28):
They always have they always have African Americans with a
very rich.

Speaker 2 (05:31):
Voice in the band. So if somebody say, well rock
doesn't have any black people, yes they do.

Speaker 3 (05:36):
There so do.

Speaker 2 (05:39):
But as an African American man and being in such
a prestigious role and position, is that of course you
went down?

Speaker 3 (05:47):
Are there a lot of African Americans?

Speaker 2 (05:49):
And how easy was this in such a really really
small world of limited uh, you know access?

Speaker 1 (05:58):
No, honest, my path, it wasn't the typical path. A
lot of people and will most of the people I
know who were in this industry were lovers of the
art farm from childhood. You know, they their families were
into it and they listened to it at home on
a regular basis. I hadn't heard opera until I was

(06:21):
fourteen fifty years old, you know, But in that short time,
I grew to love the sound and I decided I
wanted to go to school to study. So I went
to school at Oberlin Conservatory Music, where I was lucky
and less to be able to study with one of
the great vocal pedagogues of our time, Richard Miller. And

(06:44):
you know, a lot of times people in this industry
will go study their undergrad They may go into a
grad program. Some of them may go into what we
call a young artist program where they kind of join
an opera company as sort of an intern learn and
kind of learned the ropes of the industry. That wasn't

(07:04):
my path. My plot was was was much different. I
came out of school and sang professionally for a couple
of years, and then my path took a dramatic turn,
and that I stopped singing for twelve years.

Speaker 3 (07:21):
Why did you stop? You were making you at this
point when you came out of school, you created you
were living vocally, right.

Speaker 1 (07:29):
It was your career, correct, it was. It was what
I was trying to build as a career. I was
in the in the early stages of building that career.
But it was just one of those things where I,
you know, I'd always promise myself, if whatever I'm doing
ceases to be fun, I don't want to do it anymore.
And there was so much going on in the industry

(07:52):
that it had nothing to do with one's ability, one
vocal ability or one's singing ability. That just trained the
the It completely brained my love of singing, and I
decided to take a break. What I thought would initially

(08:14):
be maybe a six month break turned into a year.
A year turned into five, five turned into ten and
so on. You know, life just happened, and I was
able to pursue some other interest in that time. But yeah,
and eventually they say all roads lead back to where
you're supposed to be. But the role that I went

(08:35):
on eventually led me back to singing.

Speaker 2 (08:40):
Yeah, Well, what happened, or not what it happened exactly.
I want to know what was the discouraging thing that
may have happened.

Speaker 3 (08:49):
Was it you were boxed out or you.

Speaker 2 (08:52):
Just didn't get the roles for any particular reason, because
I just I want to know the moment, well, that
moment you realize that you will will to take it
on again? Was it because of your your love for it?
Was it you felt the industry had change?

Speaker 3 (09:07):
Was it?

Speaker 2 (09:08):
Was it an individual where you contractually obligated. So what
if you could share what had happened to deter you
from something that you're extremely talented at and gifted at
to a point I'm sure that a lot of that
gift means hard work. What what happened to deter you
from to take such?

Speaker 1 (09:25):
Uh? There was there was a lot of discrimination that
would go on in the in this industry. Discriminivation is
people based on the color of the skin, on body size,
body image, things of that nature. That during those times,

(09:46):
people were able to make comments to assised artists about
our our look, our body image, our you know things
had nothing to do with our singing. Uh, And they
were able to do it with immunity. There was no
recourse for an artist to to to challenge this type

(10:07):
of discrimination.

Speaker 2 (10:08):
And you're you're not talking about people as an audience.
You're talking about people who are control and control of
the purses, the media, who you are doing the.

Speaker 1 (10:16):
Casting during the hiring, within the opera companies and orchestras
and other arts organizations. Throughout the country. These were the
people who were uh, you know, general directors who would
make comments to to to me and other artists and say,
you know, hey, you have a fabulous voice, but call
me after you lose fifty pounds then I'll give you

(10:37):
an audition. And there was no recourse to be able
to challenge things that like that, So it was, you know,
it just became very draining and instead of instead of
just you know, dealing with it, not being able to
deal with and not be able to challenge it, I
just sid I no longer wanted to be a part

(10:58):
of the industry.

Speaker 3 (11:00):
So what made you decide to go back? Because did they?

Speaker 1 (11:04):
Did?

Speaker 3 (11:05):
Times change?

Speaker 2 (11:06):
So there was a public debate on Mark Cuban with
Mark Cuban and Elon Moscow on should they have you know,
more initiatives like the Dei embarrus other things. And the
initiatives are generally only as good as the people following
them because you can find ways to cast judgment and

(11:27):
or hinder people even if the law says not right.
So even if there has been to people talking about change,
Black Lives Matter or you know, LGBTQ BUS or whatever
the case is, if you have experienced those things where
there was no repercussion In one sense, why would you

(11:48):
go back to that industry that, you know, the prejudice
of bigotry and racism is prevalent.

Speaker 1 (11:55):
Part of it is that, you know. It was something
that I love uite deeply and it was during the
time I during roughly around two thousand and seven, I
was working as a field organizer for then Senator Barack
Obama's first campaign for president, and I was working in

(12:20):
my home state to help get him elected. And it
was in the process of that during some of our
events we had planned my I had asked people to
come out and sing the national anthem for these events
and things of that nature, and on a few occasions,
the person would back out at the last minute, and

(12:42):
my boss, knowing my background, UH, basically told me you
you got to step in and do it, you know,
since you know what about you sure you're not.

Speaker 2 (12:54):
Talking about the Catalina Catalina wine mixer, no.

Speaker 1 (13:00):
Well, the cal mixing. No no no. So I went
in and and uh and and sang the national anthem
at these events. And it was in the in the
process of doing this, I noticed some changes in my
own voice and those changes. You know, the voice had
matured a bit over those time that it had had

(13:23):
taken on a richer tone to it. And I didn't
hear any other voices quite like it in the industry currently.

Speaker 2 (13:35):
So wait a minute, that will How can you say
you didn't hear any voices quite like it in the industry?

Speaker 3 (13:42):
It's your boy. I can't stand my boys. You know
how many people listening to you right now like you got?

Speaker 5 (13:49):
I didn't run at anybody like it because I can't
stand it.

Speaker 1 (13:51):
How many people like their own boys?

Speaker 3 (13:53):
Did you go?

Speaker 1 (13:54):
Oh? Man eh h? The Great Lantine Price said, how
can I expect others to love my voice if I
don't love it? First? And there are no truer words
that have ever been spoken. And it was a process

(14:14):
for me to learn to love my voice, because I
was one of those people who hated to listen to
the recordings of myself saying. But I had to learn
to love my sound, you know, because if I don't
love it, how can I, you know, how can I
expect the audience members on sing?

Speaker 3 (14:32):
Was it two thousand and seven, two thousand and eight?

Speaker 1 (14:34):
This was two thousand and seven, two thousand and eight,
and then once the campaign ended, I began the process
of rebuilding my voice over over several years.

Speaker 3 (14:45):
So let's talk about that.

Speaker 2 (14:46):
You get it back up to form and said, but
you still didn't answer because I wanted to make me
get down to that that moment you said, I'm going
to take this song again.

Speaker 1 (14:56):
Yeah, on that, I take it on again. And I
knew that the industry itself still had its difficulties. They
were still dealing with a lot of issues, some of
the same issues that I, you know, had previously dealt with,
And I knew it wasn't going to be easy. But
not only had my voice grown, but I had grown
as an individual, and I had grown to the point

(15:17):
where I was I felt more comfortable standing up for
myself and broaching uncomfortable subjects with people. So I became
the person. Instead of waiting for the gatekeepers to broach
the subject with me, I would broach the subject with

(15:38):
them right off the.

Speaker 3 (15:39):
Bat, right.

Speaker 1 (16:00):
Listen, If my body size is going to be a
problem from you, tell me right now. I don't want
to waste my time. I don't want to waste your time.
And you know we can we can call it a
day now, How many you.

Speaker 2 (16:13):
Said, you know what, we're not, We're not it's not
your body size, but they need another excuse, or how
many people said, yeah it is.

Speaker 3 (16:24):
You know we have this heard Look.

Speaker 1 (16:29):
None of them. When I started the brochure subject on
my terms. Never did I have anyone say oh oh oh, no, no, no,
that's not an issue. That's not going to be an issue.

Speaker 3 (16:42):
Powerful.

Speaker 2 (16:45):
I think there's two things to see in the old
purpose of that moment is that we don't brush over
these topics because you can analyze anything in the same
characteristics you'll see in business and personal life. You'll see
here how many people have had whether in their personal age.
Everybody has a personal relationship, whether with their mother, their fathers, sister, husband,
What are the cases how many people who have been

(17:05):
in relationships or a love of something that they stepped
away from where they they're starting to get away from
but you know what they said, it's worth fighting for.

Speaker 3 (17:14):
I'm going to return with.

Speaker 2 (17:17):
And even in this one, this is not this is
a personal love. And and I know by any artists
out there, for you to go up and do this,
it's not I want to be famous, It's I'm adding value.
I'm going to I'm going to I'm going to I'm
going to take that person to another place, whether for
a minute, two minutes, an hour, or whatever the case is,

(17:39):
and let them forget about the world and I'm going
to bring some light and joy to them and the same.
I think in a relationship of any form, that.

Speaker 3 (17:48):
You get to that moment where you decide if it's
worth fighting for now, I think that's very powerful.

Speaker 2 (17:55):
A lot of people they think they want to put
their head in the sand, they think that'll cure itself.
They think that maybe just let me go here, when
what they will work fighting for was probably the best
thing ever, and they allow somebody else to fight for
it or whatever the case is, and taken away from them.
Another thing I think that is really important is you

(18:15):
walked in the room and took the question out of
the room. I mean not gray area and any relationship is.
I notice it in business too, is when somebody just
says I heard some stuff about it. I saw you
act like this to a wait or somebody the other day.

Speaker 3 (18:31):
I don't know. There's something in the O that I
don't know if I really like you, I don't know
where I'm at with you. You know, and you could
say I don't know.

Speaker 2 (18:39):
Really, I know, I'm out with you, but you know what,
I don't think I'll probably do anything with you if
you're bold enough to say it. But let's start off
like that. Put them on warning, right, or there's other
ways to say. You know, I think what you said
is really powerful. Listen, if you have any issues with
who I am, where I come from, I didn't. I
don't have this big education. Let's say I will say

(19:00):
it to something. I don't have a really big education.
I'm not going to be able to I'm not detail oriented,
I'm dyslexic. But I'm going to tell you I'm gonna
add value. You can ask me any other questions if
you have an issue you need me to to, you know,
do all these things that are just not my area?

Speaker 3 (19:16):
Let me know, right. And when you did that, you
said nobody had a problem.

Speaker 1 (19:22):
All got a sun person, not a single person.

Speaker 2 (19:26):
You Why do you think that is because previously, let's say,
had overt problems. Do you think the industry just said
one of the oldest forms of classical music that we
all enjoy, that enjoyed primarily you know by you know,
really people who are very in tuned with music, higher

(19:49):
education primarily. But you know, of course the origin of
it comes from.

Speaker 3 (19:53):
Do you think that all of a sudden, in that
short period of time just lost their bigotry.

Speaker 1 (19:58):
No, no, but I think there was more or a
fear of showing it overtly. You know, when you when I,
when I, when I broached the subject on my own terms,
it did almost put them on the defensive and kind
of like, oh, so obviously they know we we do this.
So no, no, we don't have an issue with this anymore.

(20:19):
You know, that's not gonna be a problem. Don't worry.
You know, that's the least if you're worried. Don't worry
about that.

Speaker 2 (20:24):
But now you walk in the room, you have to
over deliver. It can't because no matter what you have
to find, did you find that you were over delivering
what you found? They said, this industry is changing in
certain ways that we need different angles. And the man
is absolutely talented. He's put the work in and so
what what what which one is it?

Speaker 1 (20:45):
Well, you always have to as as a black man
in this industry, you have to over deliver all the time.
One of the one of the main things my teacher
taught me is that as as a black opera singer,
as a black singer in classical music, I'm not going
to have the the privilege or the luxury of being mediocre.

(21:10):
I have to be better than twice as good as
those with them I may be in competition with for
particular jobs. So I I go into everything I do
with that in mind, and knowing that, uh, you know,
I got to come in with as they said, with
with with guns blazon and knowing that when it's when

(21:32):
it comes time for me to stand up down that stage,
I have to give everything that I can in that
moment and they leave on stage.

Speaker 3 (21:45):
And I love it. Can you educate me a little.

Speaker 2 (21:48):
Bit about the the the dynamics in classical music on
the breakdown of race and gender, even if you if
you just thought about it, I know, I know you probably.

Speaker 3 (21:59):
I don't know, but I don't think he came in
with data.

Speaker 2 (22:01):
But as you look at everything from the orchestra to
everybody else, is it.

Speaker 3 (22:07):
Zero African Americans?

Speaker 2 (22:09):
And you know because I went the other night and
I saw.

Speaker 3 (22:14):
I saw black panther Carnegie Hall, right, and it was
absolutely amazing.

Speaker 2 (22:19):
Now you know, I think that most of the audience
and the orchestra were were they were not African American.

Speaker 3 (22:27):
But the lead, the lead guy playing whatever this instrument was,
when he got up there on stage and he got
excused my ignorance, I didn't know that. I looked it up.
I mean they stood up with this guy.

Speaker 2 (22:38):
This guy wants to be so well recognized and he
played this little this little two piece percussion. What is
what does it look like? What is what is the
color of a or what does what.

Speaker 3 (22:51):
Does it look like? The demographic or the breakdown normally.

Speaker 1 (22:55):
I don't know specific you know, percentages and whatnot, But
that's always been an issue, is the is the amount
of representation that there is within the industry. There are many, many,
many talented black opera singers. If you if you visit

(23:16):
some of the larger opera houses in the country, say
the Metropolitan or Chicago Lyric or Houston Grand Opera, usually
if they put on a production of porgain best, it's
usually going to be their best seller of the season.
And that's that's dealing with an all black cast, with
the exception of a few of a couple of characters
within the so you the representation of that matters, and

(23:42):
there's these artists here there, but oftentimes they aren't being
given the opportunities to shine and to to.

Speaker 2 (23:51):
Oh I'm even looking at a standpoint. I'm even looking
at it from Algers standpoint because I had to tell
you I went to the Christmas Spectacular.

Speaker 3 (23:59):
And all of their you know, you know, I'm my
wife is my wife is white, my my my ex
wife is Dominican, you know, obviously my mother's African American.
I'm a man of wall color.

Speaker 2 (24:11):
The love all people in the Radio City Musical and
I'm like, you know, the couple of singers up.

Speaker 3 (24:17):
There were like, man, only one black person?

Speaker 1 (24:20):
Kay?

Speaker 3 (24:21):
Then another color? Way wait wait wait two, wait a minute,
Asian opens up, see two three four.

Speaker 5 (24:32):
Missus Claus comes out and she's she's okay, bright, look
like she had Colin Rolls that we get sit here
and try to be judgmental. And I'm just asking you
the question because you know, you know, you know it
could be diverse, and I don't really know, but I
want to ask you something.

Speaker 2 (24:48):
I think that when did you when did you realize?
When was the moment that you said after you started,
when did you realize that you're gonna you're gonna do
this period when you came back and what what was
that like? And because you probably did you have to
burn all the bridges or did you kind of do
the well there's like well the actors in la there

(25:09):
waiters during the day and actors a night or vice versa.
When was that moment you said, that's it, man, my
voice has changed. I'm starting to get rolls. I'm taking
the question out of the room.

Speaker 3 (25:18):
This is it.

Speaker 1 (25:20):
It was more of a decision to really when I
came back to I was going to go forward, full
steam ahead, and put my full effort into this pursuit
and not be afraid of the rejection that I may face,

(25:42):
and just keep pushing. My father has all My late
father would always tell me, even during the years and
I wasn't singing, he would say, son, your future is
in your throat. Your future is in your throat, and
he would he would constantly remind me of that. And

(26:06):
it just took time for me to believe it. And
when I started to believe it, and I said, gone
through that process of one learning to love my own
sound and to appreciate my own sound. You know, there
was there was I mean you just because you couldn't

(26:26):
tell me nothing. I was my I was and always
will be my own worst critic. There is nothing that
anyone can say about me that I haven't already said
about myself. So you know, any comment you may want
to make, a snide remark or comment about me or

(26:48):
my sides or my voice, You're not gonna hurt my feelings.
I've already said it to myself. I've already gone through
that process of of of kind of this this self
evaluation and knowing what my limitations and what what my
strengths are as as a finger, as as an artist,

(27:11):
and and you know, I I know that I'm I'm
bringing things to the table that other artists can't.

Speaker 3 (27:20):
I you were brought to my attention by a friend
of mine and a team member of mine.

Speaker 2 (27:26):
During the pandemic. Everybody was on clubhouse. We had no
place to go. We were finding comfort or anger or
joy and information, inspiration and other people on these on
this open platform. And I was I would hear you
sing on these things, and now it was okay, not
because you're okay, It was because I was looking.

Speaker 3 (27:48):
On it, listening to it on a little phone.

Speaker 2 (27:50):
But I was like, okay, you know, and I would
I'm not even I'm sorry everybody asked you.

Speaker 3 (27:56):
I'm not going to insult you. I asked you to
do that here on this thing.

Speaker 2 (27:59):
I think that it is a it is uh, you know,
by hearing your voice is so rich and it's so
beautiful as you speak, I have to I'm hopefully I'm
going to be here to be able to come and
hear you on Saturday night. But that's that's this that
is on my pocket list. But where were you at
that point.

Speaker 3 (28:17):
In your life.

Speaker 2 (28:19):
When we were locked down and and and people started
hearing you singing on this.

Speaker 3 (28:26):
This little device. Now it's weird because I had the
joy of being in the room with Michael.

Speaker 2 (28:30):
Jackson one time, and and I tell the story about
how Hype Williams that he was asking Hype.

Speaker 3 (28:36):
William to do a video for him.

Speaker 2 (28:38):
We had a meeting at Michael's house and Michael pulled
out a transistor radio. And I've said many times that
Hype was looking around, ye and I was looking around, like,
but listen to a new song and transits the radio.

Speaker 3 (28:48):
We're like, I mean, I think it was a probably
own a bullbox for sure.

Speaker 2 (28:53):
Yeah, you think, and he said, most of the world
is going to listen to my music, ninety five percent
of worlds, and to listen to my music through that
trans so radio.

Speaker 3 (29:00):
They're going to hear it through there.

Speaker 2 (29:03):
And we look at historically Opera and Virus of the
things and the you know, in the in the forties
and fifties and Varrus other things. It was her through
you know, divides such as that. All right, how much
did that? Where were you in twenty twenty when you
were out there just being yourself and making us all

(29:25):
fall in love with this beautiful voice of yours on
these little devices during the pandemic?

Speaker 3 (29:31):
Where were you your life at that point?

Speaker 1 (29:33):
I was, you know, it was it was, it was.
It was the time of my life when I didn't
know what was really coming next. Prior to the pandemic,
my my career was starting to build momentum, and I was,
you know, lined up to do some really fabulous things,

(29:55):
you know, with with the with a multi city tour
and and other things, and and then all of a sudden,
the pandemic hit and all of these things started to
slow lead. The contracts we started to disappear. Now one
by one, We're just sitting there, and you'd sit nevery
morning to wake up, there would be another email, We're

(30:15):
so sorry that we're gonna have to cancel. And you
know that was tough because you, as the momentum was building,
now you're wondering how we're gonna rekindle that momentum. M

(30:46):
what can we what can we do to to kind
of keep the fire going? And a friend of mine
reached out to me and said, hey, are you in clubhouse?
And I said, no, what's young? What's club out? And
she goes, oh, I've got an invitation, I'll send it
to you. And this was when it was basically strictly
for you know, iPhone users at this point, before they

(31:10):
opened it up to the general public. So she invited
beyond and she says, I have someone you have to meet,
and it happened to be your your associate, Chauncey and
Chaunton and I met. We began to talk and he,
you know, he found out that I was an opera singer,
and he heard some recordings and he, you know, he

(31:33):
told me about how much he liked, you know, listening
to to to classical music and things of that nature.
And you know, he I have to say, I was
kind of at my lowest point of not going where
to go at that point, and the meeting with him

(31:57):
and getting to know him and him speaking about me
or what he thought of my talent and kind of
gave me that drive to keep going. And he came
up with a great idea and said, why don't we
do a concert on Clubhouse? And so we began working

(32:23):
to put together this concert. I found a sound engineer
who helped me set up, you know, do my whole
setup of microphones and music and whatnot to get the
best sound possible. You know, I wanted the sounds as
close as possible people sitting in a concert hall, even

(32:44):
though we were all sitting in our bedrooms and our
living rooms or wherever else at the time. But you know,
they helped me get this set up. And then Johnson
I did a little Q and A and between questions
every now and I would sing a couple of songs.
Over the course of that night, we had close to
thirteen hundred people listening to this concert, and it just

(33:10):
blew my mind that, you know, this little app on
a phone, that we could get that many people in
one place listening to classical music and listening to me
tell my story with along the as Chauncey questioned me,
But it was it was a pivotal moment for me
to do that, and so I came out of I

(33:32):
was able to come out of the pandemic because of
the things I'd done. I began to create other opportunities
for myself, doing what I would call a kitchen concert
from my kitchen at home, and I would, you know,
just set up and do a thirty minute concert, or
or do a concert from my bedroom of musical theater tunes,

(33:54):
or you know, spend thirty minutes taking requests from people
on songs they might want to hear me sing. Uh
And yeah, that that sort of thing kind of kept
kept that drive, kept that kept the pilot light on
to to make me want to keep pursuing this.

Speaker 2 (34:16):
The pivotal moment that you had. Was it a pivotal
moment internally or did any other any other I don't know,
opportunities you present themselves down the road out of the
not necessarily clubhouse, but the the actions you started to
take either from clubhouse or at the clubhouse, or the

(34:38):
momentum you were starting to gain back from it.

Speaker 3 (34:42):
Did anything come.

Speaker 2 (34:43):
Out of that?

Speaker 1 (34:44):
Would I received? What came out of it is I
received an offer to initially what would to be a cover,
which would be kind of the understudy for another artist
with La Opera.

Speaker 3 (35:02):
And when initially that's the one they called me about,
what was tied up?

Speaker 1 (35:07):
Yes, and and and and so initially I was the cover,
but over the course of the next several months, it
went from me being a cover to me singing the
majority of the performances, and it was it was. It
was a life changing moment for me to have that
opportunity to sing on the stage of Ballet Opera Uh

(35:29):
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with with my scro James Conlin and
a cast of of of just some of the greatest
voices in the world, to to really kind of catapult
my name out there and say, oh, he's here, he's here,
he's coming, he's coming. And you know, the momentum that

(35:50):
he thought he had lost, it's still there. And so
my my team, my my agents have been working diligently.
We all have just to kind of to keep that moment.
I'm going to keep keep moving forward. As a little
saying says, we want to. We always always forward forward
in all ways and no matter what, keep moving forward.

(36:15):
So you know that Eli Opera came about. Over the
last couple of years, It's been very challenging for me
because I've dealt with some very extreme professional highs, but
some of the most personal lows that I've had to
deal with, and the death of my father in twenty

(36:40):
twenty one in May of twenty one, and then the
death of my eldest sister in November of twenty twenty one.
So yeah, on top of those I was dealing with,
I received another opportunity to to once again me an understudied,
this time at the Metropolitan Opera in New York to

(37:03):
cover the role of Radames and Alida. And you know,
it was one of those instances where my sister passed
away during the rehearsal process, and she made it clear
to me before she departed that where I needed to
be was in New York. She knew that's where I

(37:26):
needed to be. And as difficult as it was, I
did go home for a brief moment, but I went
back to New York instead of staying home for her funeral,
I went back to where I went back to where
she knew I was supposed to be and where she
wanted me to be, and that eventually led to me

(37:48):
making my debut at the Metropolitan Opera and becoming the
first African American the saying the role of Radames an
African character and the Mets two hundred and forty year history.
Uh wow, so you know, and then then a month
later I made my debut at Carnegie Hall, and you know,

(38:08):
it was just kind of this domino effect of of
things that have been been happening career wise that you know,
I'm just extremely grateful that you know that the things
are going as well as they are, and that I've
had such an unwavering support from my family who even

(38:31):
with the losses we've experienced, we were there for me
one and my friends, my family. You know, I wouldn't
have made it through that without without them.

Speaker 2 (38:43):
You know, It's it's powerful, you know, I don't I don't.
I wonder how many people will let this moment pass
them by and not take in.

Speaker 3 (38:53):
You know, the easiest thing to say is.

Speaker 2 (38:57):
When you on club, I'll say, you know what singing
the sit on it? Who's the guy who's that Chauncey Yeah,
he's a music guy, okay, but he handled you two
and him and no, what does he know about classical
And what are you gonna do? You're gonna just sing
on it, that's what you're gonna do. You know, You're
just gonna say, and you're gonna get somewhere. So I'm

(39:19):
sure that's an easy conversation for.

Speaker 3 (39:20):
People to have.

Speaker 2 (39:23):
How many people will let more moments go by like this,
whereas either Damon John deside standing on the corn in
nineteen eighty nine, good Friday, three fifteen in the afternoon
with a bag of garbage bag full of hats, or
you decided to do a kitchen concert slash concert with
somebody you didn't know who had some crazy idea. So

(39:44):
singing through the little devices when we have the most
enhanced audio in the world now and not realize that
these little moments in our life lead to being on
the stage and go on doing a cover at La
Opera and then moving up there two then you know,
the met and Carneie Hall at the How many people

(40:06):
will sit there and not take this moment to understand that.
I wonder, you know, because they think life is about luck.
Life is about those who are willing to take those
small opportunities that everybody will laugh at them because they're
so concerned, going, damn you just walking around the house singing.

Speaker 3 (40:23):
Now you just thirty.

Speaker 2 (40:24):
Yeah you're staying on your little phone. Isn't that cute?
But have no idea about.

Speaker 1 (40:30):
Yeah, it's easy for people to say, oh, well, I'll
put that off and just do this another time. We
can push this too, you know, when the when the
moment hits, you know, you never know when that opportunity
is going to come around again or if it will
come around again. So you know, I've learned to uh,
to be willing to take the risk of doing something

(40:54):
that kind of gets me outside of my box and
and and and kind of stretches me as a person,
stretches me as an artist, and you know, challenges me
to continue to do the work even when I may
not necessarily feel like doing the work. As one of
my dearest friends in this industry says, do the work

(41:17):
to stay ready. You don't have to get ready. So
you do the work and when the opportunities come, you're
ready for it.

Speaker 2 (41:26):
Well, man, I thank you so much for this, because
I know you have to get ready, right because I
know you. I know you got some knights tohead you
some being nice. I know you took the time. I
know there's a lot of powerful things here that people
will let pass by them. But you know what, those
aren't the people that we're trying to make sure that
get the point. Those aren't the people that at this
moment won't change the world. Maybe they'll change the world

(41:48):
later on down the road, because you never know. I've
been I'm not better than anybody else, heard great advice
and great inspirational things, and I'm sitting there eating what
did he say?

Speaker 1 (41:56):
Whatever?

Speaker 2 (41:56):
And then you know, ten years later it says the
same exact thing. I go, holy it, you know that'sreible.
So thank you so much, ma'am what you do and
bringing people so much joy and being an inspiration you know,
on the stage, and you know, just just as a
as a pure human being.

Speaker 3 (42:14):
Man.

Speaker 1 (42:14):
Thank you well. Thank you for having me. And if
you happen to be available, I would love to extend
an invitation to you and your wife to be my
guest on opening night on Saturday here at the Arts
for Pabiachi Uh. It's a black tide evening, and if
you're available, please come and be my guest. You are right.

Speaker 3 (42:36):
It is an honor.

Speaker 1 (42:37):
Thank you, RELLI, thank you.

Speaker 2 (42:42):
That Moment with Damon John is a production of the
Black Effect Podcast Network. For more podcasts from the Black
Effect Podcast Network, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or
wherever you listen to your favorite show and don't forget
to subscribe to and rate the show. And of course
you didn't all connect with me on any of my

(43:04):
social media platforms. At the Shark, Damon spelt like Raymond,
But what a d
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