CJ and I were fortunate to be able to attend the Ohio Music Educators Association Conference the first weekend in February in Cincinnati, Ohio. We joined music educators across the state to get professional development in educating children in areas of music in addition to best practices and resources for teachers.
But Helen, you don’t teach music, CJ does... True, my husband is a choir teacher and assistant band director, but I also have had pretty extensive music training in addition to giving lessons on the French horn and other experiences in the performing arts. I attend almost every activity that is put on by CJ whether that’s football games, band competitions, show choir competitions and endless rehearsals. Being able to attend and be around other educators in similar situations gave me valuable experience and knowledge to be able to support CJ and his kiddos better.
Kind of unrelated side note: If you are ever traveling in Cincinnati and need a recommendation for food, go to Bauer Farm Kitchen. The menu changes frequently and all of their food is sourced locally from farms straight to the table. Not to mention that their menu is highly influenced by classics typically served in Europe. CJ got the German Sausage Pretzel Board with sauerkraut and I got the schnitzel. We also got a bread stone board. I got a Hefeweisen beer and CJ got a Bavarian Manhattan. Seriously, one of the best meals we have had in a long time!
One of the perks of being able to attend this conference was being able to get discounted tickets to the broadway tour of the Lion King! It was on it’s last weekend in Cincinnati in the Aronoff Center for the Arts. The last time that I was able to see the Lion King was when I was too young to remember it, because I remember watching my brother’s reactions. CJ saw it in 2016 as a graduation present and was pumped to see it again.
At the OMEA conference a last minute session was added to the list and an email was sent out to attendees. The session was a dance opportunity with two ensemble members of the touring cast of the Lion King with limited availability to participants. As soon as the email came out, CJ registered and was confirmed to dance with the cast! I of course attended to document his experience. Literally anyone who knows CJ knows how large his obsession is with Lion King so his dreams were coming true.
The participants learned a small section of the actual choreography from Paige Fraser and Kevin Tate. To paint the room, the room was filled with primarily younger women excited to dance and a few men with an estimated forty participants. CJ, being 6’4” with his Lion King cast shirt (you know the one with the giant face of a Lion on it) stood out in the crowd. Kevin commented on his shirt because they were matching.
Anyway, fast forward to the end... CJ danced great and thanked the two for speaking so positively of the educators music, dance and theatre that helped them get to where they are today and decided to take a risk. He asked if we could get a backstage tour after the show! Kevin was very genuine and agreed! All we had to do was to send him a message before the show. We thanked him and walked out of the room. Again, CJ is a huuuge fan of the Lion King and did a great job of keeping it together until we got out fo the room. We were so excited!
We attended more sessions that day and next but we both were pumped to see the show first and then to go backstage! We attended the show, it was everything I hoped it would be and then we rushed down to the outside stage door and waited for Kevin. He said hello, we reintroduced ourselves and were whisked away backstage.
Kevin was very genuine and lead us around backstage. Everything that we saw on stage was suspended in the fly space. Puppets, costumes and huge set pieces were floating above us. A row of costume storage boxes were labeled extensively and Kevin showed us where all his costumes were kept and how they keep them organized. The costumes are so detailed and ornate. Behind the costume storage boxes there were a couple of stations where makeup artists would sit and help the actors and actresses change their makeup in between costume changes.
Kevin started out as the lead antelope and then changed to grass and then a hyena and so much more. The ensemble is very busy and instrumental in telling the story.
We got to walk on the stage and see the detailed painting on the floor and the tracks that the set pieces move on. We saw so many moving light set ups we couldn’t even count. CJ and I got to look out into the audience and saw how faraway our seats looked that we were in minutes before.
Kevin answered our questions about the pit and if the actors had monitors and audio backstage. They have all the fancy things to make sure that the performers and the musicians are on the same page and sounding their best. Not to mention that in total there are about 150 individuals touring including the cast of about 45 onstage. There are people everywhere at all times making the show come to life.
All of this happened in a matter of 15 minutes and we were whisked away back outside. (We of course didn't take any pictures so that the Disney magic remained a secret...) What an insane opportunity to experience something so cool in addition to connecting with our colleagues, alumni and just being surrounded by creativity.