|Posted on November 30, 2010 at 11:44 PM|
Some twenty-odd years ago following a long run as the lead in the touring company of The Wiz, I returned to New York City where, for the very first time, I hung out my shingle as a vocal teacher. As they say “Build it and they will come,” and before long my studio was doing very well and the vocal growth in my students and in myself was remarkable. As they progressed, I presented my students in mini concerts and recitals. Eventually the time came for me to appear in concert to demonstrate my skill to my students and to reintroduce myself to the New York concert audience, and so I scheduled a debut concert at Lincoln Center’s Merkin Hall.
Just before the night of my performance, my student Dwayne Allan Foster, whom we affectionately called “Dudley Do Right,” presented me with a pair of gold and mother of pearl cufflinks with matching studs. The beauty of his gracious gift and the spirit in which it was given was that this set had been given to Dwayne by his grandfather when he graduated from college. To me it was the ultimate compliment, and I have worn them ever since for every important singing engagement. It gives me immense comfort as I dress for a performance knowing that I carry this spirit and tradition forward with me.
Like so many old friends who lose touch over time, Dwayne and I renewed our friendship through Facebook; he is now married and the father of beautiful twin daughters, and I have shared with him the numerous performances I’ve given over the years, always wearing what I’ve dubbed my “magical” cufflinks. On Sunday, November 21st, my wife Etta and I participated in an inaugural performance of a new opera company and I thought it appropriate to write Dwayne and let him know his beautiful gift again graced my cuffs. His response was as magical as the cufflinks: “It’s good to know that you take my grandfather and me with you on stage every time”.
Sadly, I never met Dwayne’s grandfather, but he was still living when his grandson passed the gift on to me and Dwayne told me he had championed my role as his grandson’s teacher/mentor, a magic we share to this day.