As I finished rehearsing with one of our singers last week, we began talking about the experience of preparing for this performance. I realized then what perhaps should have been obvious (at least to myself) - I’ve never before done a performance where the mere fact of my being on the stage announced to the public that I’m gay.
Since I have been using the words “my husband” relentlessly since the day I married him after 24 years together, this isn’t news to pretty much anyone who knows me even slightly.
All the same, for Coming Out Day this year, this is the single largest scale coming out action of my life. It’s a bit daunting, and yet exhilarating. It also seems simply right and obvious… and timely.
It’s daunting because it’s a whole audience of… presumably a lot of people I’ve never met (audiences usually are) - and because of the nature of the performance there is simply no hiding, no “passing.” I’m going to be on that stage because I belong on that stage - because the LGBTQ world is my world, is my family.
In part, that in itself is also what makes it exhilarating - performing the work of other LGBTQ artists with other LGBTQ artists doesn’t happen all that often. Yes, there are a lot of us in the arts, and it is a blessedly comfortable and mostly supportive world to move in - we happy few who can actually make a living at this are very fortunate indeed. Nonetheless, we are still a minority presence at most times and places, and we pretty much never have an opportunity such as this to celebrate each other as artists and to celebrate the work of great LGBTQ composers.
So, as a working musician, it is simply right and obvious that the biggest single coming out event of my life should be on stage, doing what I love the most - performing great song literature with a brilliant team of singers. I can hardly imagine anything better or more fitting for all the elements of who I am.
And yes - it’s timely. Two years ago, on November 11, as many of us still felt shocked at the outcome of the presidential election, I was on stage for another song recital - determined that our passion for beauty, our passion to lift up, expand, and transform the hearts of others through music and poetry would not be dimmed or silenced. It seemed that week that it was more important than ever to get up and make something beautiful happen in the world.
This week - after another highly contentious two weeks in our nation - it seems once again more important than ever to get up and make something beautiful happen in the world, and to say we will not be silenced, and to say who we are. I am a gay American artist - none of those parts of me are going to go away, or hide, or be silent. I have something beautiful to bring into the world, and I am - all of me - going to get up on stage and do that, and keep on doing that.
Jay Rozendaal is Coach-Accompanist on the staff of Seattle Opera having served on numerous productions since 1991, including three Ring cycles, and the world premiere of Daron Hagen’s Amelia. He has also worked on the staffs of San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Portland Opera, and Central City Opera.
Mr. Rozendaal is a member of the voice faculty at Western Washington University, having served as music director for Western’s Opera Studio from 2006 to 2016. He has appeared regularly around the Pacific Northwest in recital, chamber and concert engagements. Recent recital performances include programs with bass-baritone Eric Owens for the Portland Friends of Chamber Music, with countertenor Brian Asawa on the St. Martin’s Abbey Concerts & Lectures series, and the complete Italienisches Liederbuch of Hugo Wolf with faculty of Western Washington University.