In 1994, around this time of year, I had just turned 15 years old and was about to take my first audition as a singer for the Greenhills School spring musical - The Music Man. My parents dropped me off at the school at around 6:00pm for the auditions, and I spent the evening in the school lunchroom and lecture hall staring at the white bricks while I anxiously waited for my turn to sing sixteen bars of “76 Trombones” and some excerpts of the top tenor lines in the barbershop quartet music from The Music Man. There were two people hearing and casting us that night. One was the school’s choir director, Wendy, and the other was a lively man with a slightly raspy voice, short-cropped, spiky gray hair with a thin pony tail in back, glasses, a handle-bar mustache, and an infectious laugh – our theater director, Jim Posante.
Little did I know it at the time, but that evening of my knees shaking in the Greenhills lunchroom marked the beginning of my journey as a singer and shaped the entire trajectory of my life ever since. Jim decided to cast me as Jacey Squires in the Music Man’s barbershop quartet that spring, and I found my calling. It was with Jim that I learned what it took to transform a gymnasium into a theater, the basics of how to be on stage, what a thrill it was to step into the shoes of another character for the first time, and the exciting rush of singing under stage lights and in front of an audience full of people. It was with Jim that I found that I had a voice, and that I could do something with that gift.
Jim was more than a teacher or a director to me, though. It was through him that the theater kids in whom he nurtured the drama bug found a community and a niche. He is actually responsible, by drafting all of us to take part in the school’s theatrical productions, for helping me find the group of friends from my youth in Ann Arbor who have seen me through my hardest times, and that I consider to be practically family today. He was also the first out gay man that I got to know on a personal level and was a huge support for me as I took my own first steps out of the closet 13 years ago. Even after graduating from Greenhills, Jim was someone I counted on for support - he supported me while I was in college struggling to come out to my parents, and he continued to support me and cheer me on as I made the scary transition from college voice student to professional singer. We could always talk about anything, and I knew that in him I would always have a willing and helpful ear to bounce things off of.
Saturday, as I was in the middle of doing some yoga, warming up physically for the day’s rehearsal, I received a call that Jim was in critical condition after suffering from a massive stroke in the morning. He passed away at around 8:30 Sunday morning.
I’ve discovered that one of the hardest things about this operatic life on the road is that so often I can’t be there for the milestones of my loved ones – both the happy ones and the sad. So, I resort to saying goodbye here. Thank you, Jim, for helping me find both myself and my passion. You were a great guide and teacher, and an even better friend. I can’t help but think of you constantly as I spend most of this week in the theater, where you taught me so much about both the stage and life. Words can't express just how much you will be missed nor how much you were loved and valued.