I’ve never particularly enjoyed writing about history, so I jumped for joy when I learned about the opportunity to conduct an oral history video about the sounds of Princeton. I immediately knew who I would interview, how I would frame the shot, and so on. I could see it all going so well in my head. We would have a to and fro about his life in Princeton for hours and hours – what could be easier? In truth, a lot of things.
In retrospect, the easier part of the whole process was my jump for joy. Planning and filming an oral history is a time consuming and somewhat stressful job, but the product is well worth the effort. After several email exchanges over the course of a few weeks, I finally nailed down a date to interview my private vocal coach, Cris Frisco. He not only works as a private accompanist and vocal coach on the Westminster Choir College campus, but he also is a director at the New School in Manhattan as well as an actively performing accompanist and tenor. He and I have shared an excellent working relationship and a mutual love of musical theatre for the past year and half. We faced our first speed bump in this process, however, when we compared our schedules. We finally found a few hours to meet at his house in Pennsylvania one Saturday in late October. I have to say, the drive on I95 was perhaps the most stressful part of this process.
Nonetheless, once we had our date set, I began to structure the interview with a series of questions designed – at least in theory – to inspire conversation about his life and his work. I did have one fear, though. I do not, by any means, consider myself a socially tactful human. I am known to inspire awkward silences and by extension not so riveting conversation. I worried that I would not be able to hold my own in the interview. When Cris and I are coaching we talk and talk about my repertoire and diction, but this was different. This was an actual conversation about his life, not merely an exchange between collaborating artists.
On the Saturday I went to his house, I left 30 minutes ahead of schedule, leaving myself plenty of time in case of traffic, which of course there was. His house sits on the side of what seemed like a very steep and wooded hill. It’s gorgeous and utterly pristine. I can see why he is quite taken with the area. I set up my camera near his piano, had him sit to frame the shot, which was better than I had imagined it, and I sat across from him on the sofa questions in hand.
All told, it went very well. That which needed to be said was said. I was rather proud of myself, for I wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought I might have been. Granted the process of planning and conducting a video of this nature can be stressful, it was incredibly fulfilling.
For more information about Cris and his work, please visit his website: www.crisfrisco.com.