Hi. My name is Katie and I’ve been working at JCMA for almost a year now. I joined the team in the fall of 2020, after spending months at home putting puzzles together, buying tie-dye kits, doom scrolling Instagram, and perfecting my Sourdough bread. You might be wondering – why weren’t you working? Well reader, once upon a time I was a gainfully employed opera singer. Yes. You read that correctly. But when the pandemic arrived in March 2020, theaters across the world quickly shuttered their doors with no return date in sight.
My typical work week was packed with long commutes to and from downtown Chicago. I managed bridezillas and their wedding dress alterations at my day job, and got to sing on one of the most beautiful stages in the world at night. But I was running on fumes. Admittedly, the first two weeks of quarantine were great. I was forced to stay home. I rested, I felt I was doing my part to keep my community safe, and I got extra time with my family. But as the weeks turned to months, my anxiety about the future of my career grew.
The past ten years of my professional singing career have taken me all over Europe and the United States. I’ve sung in cold, cavernous monoliths and in unconventional, yet sensual spaces. I’ve woken up to the Alps outside my window and fallen asleep to the tinny ringing of slot machines in Reno, Nevada. I’ve performed with artists from all walks of life who inspired me and changed my worldview. I’ve also encountered artists that were quick to belittle my talent and attempted to dissuade me from pursuing this career. Time (and therapy) taught me they were largely projecting their own insecurities. Unfortunately the constant competition and rampant insecurity is common, dare I say even encouraged.
I won’t diminish the difficulty that encompasses the operatic career. Being a performer naturally has its highs and lows. I’m not sure there is an adequate way to describe what it feels like when your voice is soaring over an orchestra, or how the right costume can sink you right into character. I’m also not sure I can sufficiently describe the unending rejection, or the deep pang when you read an unfavorable review. In some ways, it’s like having an undependable partner. The lows largely outweigh the highs, but man those highs feel good.
However, over the past few years, I had been thinking about how I might flip the script. There had to be a way I could express my deepest artistic passions in a more healthy environment. Ever since I took an HTML course in college, I’ve remained intrigued. I loved learning the language and the problem solving. How letters and brackets and backslashes could conjure an interactive webpage! Over the years I’ve continued to learn on my own, fascinated by the process and encouraged by the projected growth of web developers.
I met Sean and Joe before the pandemic through one of their clients. I mentioned to them that I was considering a pivot toward web development while we munched on chips and dip. They were kind and encouraging. We promised to stay in touch.
Seven months into the pandemic, JCMA needed someone for copywriting and web development. The thought of learning new skills, (wearing jeans again), and embarking on a new creative career was so exciting. I reconnected with Sean and the rest is history. After spending months worried about what the future would hold, I had found a way to flourish in a new creative space. Every day I get to collaborate with highly talented colleagues. I help clients find a voice through my writing, and build websites to showcase their passions. It is deeply rewarding.
It’s hard to say if I’ll be on a stage again. I miss the swell of an orchestra, the vibration of hundreds of voices in harmony, even an ill-fitting wig. But I can say with confidence that for the foreseeable future, you can find me thriving in downtown Valparaiso, sipping some Fluid coffee and typing away at the JCMA office.