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When I first came to Fullerton College, I had no idea that it would become such an important part of my life. In 1980, I bought a "fixer upper house" in Fullerton, only four blocks away from the college. I had been involved with music since I was very young, beginning with piano lessons my mother paid for by getting an extra job, continuing into high school with choirs, and even a stint as a piano salesperson. At that point in my life, I wanted to learn jazz styling, as my vocal background up to then had been strictly classical, with some Janice Joplin thrown in for fun. I learned that my friendly neighborhood community college had a great reputation for their jazz program, and I decided to enroll.
My life at Fullerton College initially centered around the Music Department and performance groups: Choir, Chamber Choir, Vocal Jazz, and Advanced Voice with Sarah McFerrin. I happily jumped into the exciting and rewarding musical community at the school. I was less eager to partake in the college’s other academic offerings, however…
I had to take a Science class and was dreading it. I chose Geology, figuring I could at least learn to identify some old rocks, but assumed it would be the most tedious and boring of all subjects to endure. Was I ever wrong! Peter Tressault taught Geology. He was humorous, gentle, creative, and always came to class in a pair of old sneakers as if he had just been out spelunking. He had the most inventive ways of showing the sizes of the rocks he photographed. First, he put them next to a wine bottle. Then an empty wine bottle. Then a trashcan. Then himself IN the trashcan. Since my days in funny Mr. Tressault's class, I have looked upon earthquakes, slip-dip faults, and cirques in a whole new way and, once and for all, learned that there is no such thing as "earthquake weather." Geology was without a doubt the unexpected favorite of all my classes during my time at Fullerton College. Tressault's lectures were so entertaining, I tape recorded them and listened to them over and over again in the car on the way home.
Then there was Dr. Robert Byde for Beginning Psychology. I’m so happy I met him, as in one conversation, he shined a light on my own life in a way I hadn't been able to do myself. His observation was the beginning of a change for the better. Dr. Byde was (and is) funny, informative, understanding, and again, creative. See that word again? Even outside of the so-called “creative” disciplines, I'm convinced that a good teacher is a good teacher is a good teacher, and that Mr. Tressault and Dr. Byde were each performers in their own way. I'm 100% certain if either of them had been teaching Western Civilization, I never once would have wanted to look at the clock in the back of the room.
The theater department of Fullerton College came to be a huge part of my life. I have had life-changing relationships with teachers and fellow performers, and now as an instructor of the Musical Theater Performance class, I have had the pleasure of sharing what I have learned about music and about how to be an inspirational teacher with students of my own.
The teachers that impacted me included Bob Jensen for Beginning Acting. I learned to always bring a notepad to class so that I could look up all the words he'd used that I had never heard before. I still remember grabbing my notebook to scribble the word, "pejorative" down - the first in a long list of great words.
And of course Tom Blank! Hilarious, supportive, talented Tom Blank! Tom directed me in the role of Aldonza in Fullerton College's production of “Man of La Mancha.” The production that year had two casts – one English and one Spanish-speaking. What a great experience it was to stand in for the other Aldonza one rehearsal with the Spanish-speaking cast! I knew the show well enough to act my part even though I was surrounded by people speaking a language I didn’t understand.
I didn’t only learn from the teachers, either. Kye Brackett (formerly known as Kevin Burrows in school) was a classmate who inspired me. He was always so positive, acted professionally, could sing, dance, and was striving to be a composer as well. Everyone liked and respected Kye! We had lunch together almost every day, and talked about the world. As I had gone to a school largely consisting of whites and Hispanics, I found Kye, who is African-American, had a completely unique perspective on life that differed vastly from my own. As Kye was the first African-American and the first openly gay person I ever met, I can credit him for opening my eyes to a completely different viewpoint, shattering many of my previously "set in stone" beliefs about the world and the people around me. I am forever grateful for having met him, and equally grateful for his friendship today.
It's nearly thirty years since I came to work at Fullerton College, and I've been happily involved in the theater end of the music business in and out of the college ever since that first show. This has been the only job I've not wanted to leave. I have been lucky enough to watch the school grow into what it is today and been able to grow along with it. Having been involved with easily more than 100 shows in various capacities, I've managed with the aid of Fullerton College and its educators to find a way to combine my passions for music, theater, people, and teaching - all rolled into one fantastic experience.