Responses to Recent Issues
I just subscribed to your newsletter and must say the reason I did so is because of Mr. Commanday's tribute to Jim Schwabacher ("Farewell to Our Man of Music", Aug. 1, 2006). I was a Merola singer back in 1979. At that time I sang under my birth name, Brad Spinas.
I love the article and felt an urge to write a little more about Jim. I was one of his "projects." In 1979, I had auditioned for Matt Ferrugio in Hawaii (they were doing Carmen, Der Freischütz, and a Wolf-Ferrari piece called Le donne curiose, and they needed men). I got in, underexperienced and more than a little overwhelmed. It was a tough summer to be sure. I was intimidated by the great voices that were being showcased that summer, and Kevin Langen, Patricia Schuman, Michael Crouse, Michael Myers, and Anna Louise Deal didn't disappoint. Mr. Adler loved our class.
Mr. Schwabacher was assigned to me. I'm sure it was a daunting task bring this kid up to speed or else. Well, I couldn't comprehend the idea of failure, of quitting and going home. Jim was a miracle worker and helped me weather the storm. I was able to get through the program without doing too much damage. In fact, I actually did decently; the reviews for my work in Carmen were very flattering and I worked with Jim as Narrator for the concert version of Freischütz that also garnered excellent reviews. His caring desire for my success, and his friendship, helped me through a difficult summer. It inspired me to continue in this work, and lo and behold 27 years later, I'm still fast at it.
I got some vocal help, got a lot more experience, and moved into musical theater, commercial work, and voice narration. I've carved out a modest niche and couldn't be happier. If it wasn't for Jim, none of this life that I hold so dear would have happened. We kept in touch all these years and he always was truly happy to hear from me, offer some sage advice, or just delight in my success. I will be forever in his debt.
Merola has truly lost a guardian angel. We will all miss him very much.