I come from the middle.
I was born in a rural hospital in Hughes County, Oklahoma—just a few miles from where my maternal and paternal families had settled generations earlier. Most of my life I was told that I was one of the last babies born there, that Holdenville Regional Hospital stopped obstetric services shortly after I arrived (they have since opened the practice again). The idea of being one of the last people born into a way of life has shaped much of who I have become. Caught between old customs and new ideas, rural life and urban complexity, religious hubris and cultural humility, my life has weathered an identity that seems both wholly comfortable and anxiously unsettled with itself.
My work as a teacher and scholar is inseparable from my experiences growing up in a family transitioning from working to middle class while being raised in a community struggling just to survive. I carry with me an abiding interest in the forces that shaped me as a child of the middle—the at times harrowing religious, cultural, and racial formations deeply imbedded in that world, but also the nuanced feelings toward place, music, community, and a performance of humility that, in touching and perhaps unsuspecting ways, breathe an air of lightness into this part of the country. Music was for me as much a way out of that rural life as it has since been an opening back into that world. I am as dumbfounded as any that I found my way into the cloistered and elite worlds of opera coaching and academia. But my humble upbringing and privileged professional life pivot around a commitment to better understanding, validating, and supporting people who, like me, have found themselves and their values caught in the middle of competing forces.
In my work as a teacher-scholar, I aim to bring attention to existing conditions of inequity as well as to look within to address my own complicity in creating conditions of inequity. My background and experiences have shaped much of my commitment to these efforts, though I have much work to do to live up to the high expectations a global and inclusive community requires.