Since he is still in the educational system, I will avoid any direct mention of his name, yet he knows who he is. He was both an educator and a vocal coach to me as I made my way toward college, majoring in music. I was on the timid and shy side in those days. I kept to myself and never quite felt that I fit in. Apparently, one teacher recognized this... and in ways I couldn't imagine at the time.
Theater and music brought me out of my shell, and I decided a major reflecting that would be best suited for me. Even though I felt inadequate, I was pushed onward by one teacher in particular. He was in his 20s and quickly became one of my favorites.
While most of my peers ignored my lack of social and dating life, I sometimes wonder if he took notice of it. While I was quiet, I completely avoided coming out of the closet, not wanting to give anyone extra ammunition against me. I kept to myself a lot but allowed myself a little artistic freedom on stage and in music classes. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in school but when I began gearing up for college and sought private lessons for my audition into the school of music, I noticed certain things which, in hindsight, were very blatant.
At his house, I would learn vocal exercises and more challenging music to prove myself worthy of acceptance into the college program. Two pieces were chosen for me: 'Nina' by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal' by Roger Quilter. The latter work had lyrics by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It would be a decade before I bothered to note that both Quilter and Tennyson were gay. I am uncertain about Pergolesi and he was merely 26 when he died of tuberculosis.
I do recall one incident during a lesson that became etched in my mind. Before the lesson, I mentioned how I wanted to sing Danny Boy, a song I had always liked. he thought it was a bit too simplistic, but we practiced it briefly anyway. Midway through the song, he stopped and looked at me with a curious expression.
"I always wondered. This song is sung by a man to another man, isn't it?" he asked.
I was dumbfounded. "Um, well," I stuttered, "it's sung between a father and son."
"Oh. Right," he replied. A snide grin flashed across his face. With that, he said we should get back to Nina. "Where were we? Oh yeah, she's in her bed... the bitch is dead, blah, blah, blah..."
I chuckled a bit. I didn't want to assume anything. With hindsight, it seemed completely obvious that it was a semi-subtle way of acknowledging a secret we both shared in common.
That was the same day I met his "roommate". I'll confess, I thought he was quite handsome.
It wasn't until after graduation that the truth finally leaked out. They had been together since college. There was a bit of a scandal in school when he had been accused of having an affair with one of my classmate's mothers. It lead to a divorce, but I'm certain this little secret came out. I'm not sure if he was relieved of his teaching duties or left voluntarily, but he still is in the education system in a new place with a different role. I did a little researching years ago and had a friend who encountered him a few times as they went to the same gym.
Part of me thinks I couldn't have been that ignorant. Perhaps I was trying to live in denial that someone could pick up on my little secret. Yet often, others know before we do. Sometimes they acknowledge it, sometimes they stay silent.
I do regret not thanking him for making me feel a little less outside of normal. For making my high school years more fun and memorable. For introducing me to a spectrum of music which had passed me by at that point in my life. The Village People. Gloria Estefan. Maria Carey. And the music and lyrics which still linger with me to this day...
"Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me."