ASSOCIATES (2005, November, v. 12, no. 2) -

*Keeping My Balance*


Diane L. David
Music Cataloger (L.A.V) and Production Stage Manager (AEA)
University of California, Riverside

(I must admit I was mildly amused when asked to write an article for a library publication because I have often felt a certain amount of judgment from some of my library colleagues over the years because I have not devoted my entire “being” to the library business. I appreciate the opportunity to share my second career in a library journal!)

My balancing act began in the early ‘70’s. I had been hired by the Music Librarian as a student assistant, and had finished my B.A (Music) just as he shifted his duties to become Head of Monographs. As I started work on my Master’s degree I stepped into the newly created position of Music Cataloger, and began to juggle my time between my studies and musical performing, my library work and the challenges of being a single mother. Imagine my surprise a few months later, when, the morning after a major solo performance with the University Orchestra (the first time my boss had heard me perform), he walked up to my desk and said, “You’re fired!” As I sat in stunned silence, not realizing at first that he was joking, he went on to explain that he would be doing me a favor, as a performer, if he did not allow me to stay in a comfortable job that would eventually become a trap and keep me tied to the income and benefits, rather than “setting me free” now and making me take some risks to move on with my career as a singer! Over the years we joked about “the day he fired me for being a singer,” but it did set the tone for the respect he had for my work as a performer (he had been a classical guitarist before pursuing his library career) and his willingness to allow me some flexibility in my hours to accommodate rehearsals, performances and studies. (Interestingly, he also became a role model for me not pursuing an MLS degree. I had watched over the years as he grew in the library business, taking on the required committees, publications and management, and drifting further away from the music performance that he had loved, and I decided that I really never wanted to get that far away from my musical training.)

Several years later, an M.A. (Music) in hand, I began to balance my hours as a cataloger with some free hours in the afternoons. This allowed me to teach at Riverside Community College (voice, music history, opera workshop), as well as to develop a studio of private voice students, which at one time included one of my boss’s daughters! And how wonderful to have a “day job” that kept me exposed to all the most current musical literature! For years it was not unusual for me to call my local music store to order music publications that were so new that they had no knowledge of them, but that I had just received to catalog for the University Music Library.

Throughout the 80’s, accrued vacation, many hours of overtime, and a well-timed leave w/o pay at the Library were used towards two summers on fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival, three concert tours through the US, and six international tours that include concerts in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Holland, Denmark, Germany (East and West), Czechoslovakia, Italy, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, and Australia.

In 1991, after several years of being the vocal coach for the RCC Jazz Ensemble’s vocal ensemble, I was hired by Performance Riverside (an affiliate of Riverside Community College) as vocal director for their five musical theater productions each year. This marked the beginning of a stable, albeit untraditional, routine: mornings in the Library, afternoons teaching voice students, evenings in rehearsal at the theater, often performing in shows as well as vocal directing. (At times, when there was way too much drama in the theater, I have really appreciated the balance of having a quiet desk job to start each day!)

It was a fascination with lighting design that began to lure me towards the more technical aspects of theater production, often staying late into the night, after rehearsal, to watch a lighting designer sculpt the energy of the show with light. It was not unusual to find me on headset at the back of the theater during a performance listening to the stage manager calling cues to the stage crew, or the light board operator, and then watching the transformation happen on the stage. When the opportunity to step into the position of Stage Manager for the company presented itself, I couldn’t resist. For several years I was able to maintain my position as vocal director while learning the new responsibilities of stage management.

In 1997 my work at the college was “put on hiatus” and I truly appreciated having my library job as a steady reliable income. (Mother had warned me 35 years earlier to always have a good job to fall back on in case “the performing didn’t work out!”) And, I found myself with some free time for the first time in years. I decided to do something fun and unique, and I took the magical job of being Mrs. Santa Claus for the Christmas parade at Disneyland! Now…I have been acting for years, and when I have gone on stage I never really had the illusion that the audience really believed that I actually was the person I was portraying. No one actually believed I was Mother Superior (Sound of Music), or a Jewish matchmaker (Fiddler on the Roof), or a pirate nanny (Pirates of Penzance), but for twenty minutes each evening I would be surrounded by young children who honestly believed that I was Mrs. Claus! And as Christmas neared, the excitement increased, and eyes got wider as I would wave to the children from the rocking chair on my float, and ask them, “Have you been good this year?”

The following year, the week I turned 50, I began a new adventure as a Stage Manager at Disneyland. There were many challenges as I spent the summer (literally) running around Tom Sawyer’s Island in the dark as one of the three assistant stage managers for Fantasmic!, but I certainly learned a lot! (I think of it as the Disney version of stage manager boot camp!) Over the next few years I had the opportunity to work on the Aladdin Storytale Adventure, the bands at Tomorrowland Terrace, the swing bands on Saturday evenings, and several New Year’s Eve festivities. I also had the experience of stage managing several special events, one which involved coordinating presentations from each of the divisions of Disney corporation ( Disneyland, Disneyworld, Disney cruises, Disney film companies and publishing, and ESPN) to the major corporate sponsors (Coca Cola, Mattel, American Express) to promote the synergy between their products and the Disney company. Another special event gave me the opportunity to work with Diane Disney Miller on the presentation of a DVD about her father’s work.

But a love for live theater and the rehearsal process was strong, and when the political climate changed at Performance Riverside, I accepted a position of Production Stage Manager for the company, eventually gaining membership in Actor’s Equity Association (the professional association for stage actors and stage mangers.) I have now done over seventy shows with the company and am proud of the contribution that I make to the arts in my community.

Some people have told me I am lucky to be able to do the things that I do, but I have worked hard to create the lifestyle that I have, and have been very fortunate to have found a job early in my professional life with a certain amount of autonomy that utilized my music education, provided me advancement (from a student assistant to an L.A. V), and will soon provide a nice retirement. I was also fortunate to have a boss who encouraged me to develop my outside interests, before he moved on in his library career. And, although he didn’t fire me that first year, I think I’ve done alright, traveling extensively and pursuing a career in the arts, and keeping the balance.

About Us | Subscribe/Unsubscribe | Editors | Submit | Current Issue | Archives | Home