Podcast transcription: Opera and Ballet Teenagers at the Met: Ruby Gilmore and Addy Hawley
Glen Nelson: Hello and welcome to another episode in our studio podcast. I'm your host Glen Nelson. Today I'm here with Ruby Gilmore and Addy Hawley who have performed with the Metropolitan Opera and American Ballet Theatre Companies at Lincoln Center in New York just eight blocks north of where we are this afternoon. Ruby is a singer and Addy's a dancer. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they also happen to be teenagers. Welcome.
Ruby Gilmore: Hi.
Glen Nelson: I've known both of you since you were practically infants. Actually I think I've known you since you were a baby, Ruby, and I've admired you as an artist for a long time. So this is really a treat for me to have an excuse to chat with you about something that I know that you love. So let's keep this discussion pretty casual. If I ask a stupid question, feel free to kick me under the table. Addy, not you. Dancers are very strong kickers, but let's just have some fun with this. OK. So let's start off with opera and Ruby. So tell me about the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus. How does it work? How do you get into it?
Ruby Gilmore: So you audition when you are young. I auditioned when I was eight years old, I believe. Auditions are open for kids ages 7 to 10, I believe is the cut off. And once you audition, he picks through some of the--I think it's 100 people that try out per year--and then he'll pick about anywhere from 10 to 20 kids, and then they enter beginner's class which is the first class of the three levels, I guess.
Glen Nelson: And they rehearse how many times a week?
Ruby Gilmore: Two times.
Glen Nelson: Two times. Those first groups of classes--the youngest classes--they don't get to perform. How does that work?
Ruby Gilmore: So pretty much, in the first two classes, beginners and intermediate classes, they will teach you how to sing and how to use your voice correctly in terms of opera, considering how it's such a pure sound as opposed to pop music or other music in general, I guess. So in those classes you learn certain skills that will help you out with the music, and then he will advance you based on what he hears in your voice until you get to an advanced class, and that's where you will start learning the repertoire and auditioning for operas.
Glen Nelson: So had you ever sung opera before doing this?
Ruby Gilmore: I had not, actually, which might sound a little weird because now I can sing a lot of opera.
Glen Nelson: Exactly. Well, lots of training. And so then the third group of these classes tend to be older.
Ruby Gilmore: Yes. I think some of the youngest kids that we've had are nine, but rarely anyone below that, and then that ranges up to kids that are 18.
Glen Nelson: Oh, and you're still rehearsing two times a week?
Ruby Gilmore: Um-hmm.
Glen Nelson: So the opera season goes from September to May, and so are your classes just in that same period, or do you go trhough the summer, too?
Ruby Gilmore: We start in August for advanced class. It pretty much is based on whatever people have to do that season.
Glen Nelson: That's kind of intense. Do they just select the people from your class that are going to be performing--either a group part or a solo part--or do you audition once you're inside the class?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes, you have to actually audition once you're inside the class. So generally you will have anywhere from two to four months to learn the music. He'll teach us the music, and then we will audition six out of time now--it used to be four at a time. Buthe'll call us up six out of time around the piano, just because it goes faster, and we'll all sing the music and he'll pick the best however many kids he needs to be in that opera.
Glen Nelson: I had this friend--I used to live in Brooklyn and I had this friend--who was completely tone deaf. Like we would say, "Hey, join the ward choir." And he say, "Oh trust me, I'm not the guy you want." And then one day he said, "I used to sing at the Met Opera Children's Chorus." And I said, "Oh that's not possible" because he literally was like the world's worst singer. And he said this weird thing happened, like as a kid he could sing, and then suddenly he'd lost it. Have you ever heard such crazy thing?
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, actually I feel like that happens to a lot of guys that go through puberty because when you're younger your voice is at a certain range. And then as it drops. You have to completely re-learn how to sing in this new range because the breaks in your voice where you have to start putting... Where you start to use your head voice changes, where you have to use your chest voice changes, and so it's very difficult. So that's actually why kids have to leave after their voice changes--boys--because they can no longer sing music that is that high comfortably.
Glen Nelson: That makes sense to me. Now how did you decide to do this in the first place? How do you even hear about it?
Ruby Gilmore: I actually have no idea. My mom was in the car with me and my brother, and she said, "Hey, can you sing 'Happy Birthday' for me?" And we both just went "Why?" And she's like, "You're going to be auditioning tomorrow." And I'm like, "Great, for what?" "It's like for the Metropolitan Opera." I'm like, "Cool. OK."
Glen Nelson: Little did you know...
Ruby Gilmore: Little did I know.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, on the website, the Chorus's website, it says that "Happy Birthday to You" is the official audition song.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, it is because they don't want to make kids learn stuff, and they don't want to make kids learn new music, especially when they're that young. And you'd be surprised how many skills you have to use to sing "Happy Birthday."
Glen Nelson: The Metropolitan Opera has this extraordinary online archive, and it goes from the first night's performance in 1883 all the way to the present: every single performance, every single performer. And so I decided to look you up. You can go to archives.metoperafamily.org and just type your name in, and up comes your debut which happened in October 8, 2015 in Wagner's Tannhäuser, and you were one of the pages.
Ruby Gilmore: Yes, I was. That music, as my friend puts it so kindly, she wants every single kid in the Chorus to hear that music just to know how difficult it is.
Glen Nelson: It's really hard?
Ruby Gilmore: It's eight notes, but it is the most difficult eight notes you will probably ever hear in your life.
Glen Nelson: According to the thing it says that there were seven performances of it. But the interesting thing though is many websites online take from that database. So Ruby Gilmore is a very Google-able name now. You're kind of famous. What do you think about that?
Ruby Gilmore: I think that that is actually quite interesting because I have tried Googling myself, and the only thing that comes up is some random old lady with IMDB.
Glen Nelson: Well, yeah. I won't even tell you what my name Googles up. It's like this guy who is in prison now, so I know it could be worse. So this this production of Tannhäuser in 2015 was conducted by James Levine and had some really great world famous singers on stage, and I wondered when I saw that if you ever get intimidated by all these famous people.
Ruby Gilmore: Well, the way that they run the children's chorus, because it's children that you're working with, they generally have us very separated from everyone else who performs. So the people that are famous you will probably only see them during rehearsals and onstage. You don't really get to talk much. But there have been times when I'm like or my friends are freaking out like, "Why are you freaking out?" "Like this really famous person is singing." I'm like, "I don't know who that is." And so it's I'm a little bit oblivious sometimes.
Glen Nelson: Exactly. I mean if James Levine pointed his baton at me, I think I would just faint, like I don't know how I would handle all of that.
Ruby Gilmore: Actually, I didn't know who James Levine was until I did Wozzeck my first season...
Glen Nelson: Oh my goodness, a kid doing Wozzeck...
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, they have a children's chorus at the end. We sing "Ring around the Rosie" in German and atonal music. It is creepy.
Glen Nelson: How long did it take to learn?
Ruby Gilmore: It took... I don't remember. It took a little while, and then there was a speaking part. But I do remember that one of my friends, he was like freaking out because we were in tutoring. We have to go to tutoring every time we have a rehearsal during school. So that way to make up for the days that we missed. And so we were in tutoring and apparently James Levine actually came by us when he wasn't paying attention. And then he looked up, everyone was like, "Oh my gosh. Did you see that? Did you see that?" He's like, "What? What just happened?" He's like, "James Levine just walked by," and he started freaking out. He's like, "I missed it! He was so mad about it.
Glen Nelson: You know for people who aren't opera people. It's kind of hard to explain how cool that is.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: So what are some of the operas that you performed in.
Ruby Gilmore: So the first opera I did was an acting opera for kids and that was Khovanchina.
Glen Nelson: Yep.
Ruby Gilmore: And that was in Russian, but we didn't have to sing. It was just a small acting part. And then the first opera that I actually sang in A Midsummer Night's Dream by Benjamin Britten.
Glen Nelson: Wow.
Ruby Gilmore: And that music is...
Glen Nelson: Hard.
Ruby Gilmore: It's very difficult, but it is so gorgeous. And I have such good memories of that just because it was such an amazing experience. I remember my first time going on stage after all this extensive rehearsals and missing a lot of school. And then we had our opening night, and I was just like shaking backstage as they had to go on and I was like, "Oh my gosh." And then the moment I stepped on the stage like, I was like, "Hey, I've done this about 30 times before," so it was just it was so much fun.
Glen Nelson: OK, what else.
Ruby Gilmore: Well, my first season that I sang in I did five operas. I did a Midsummer Night's Dream, Tosca (the old production; they have a new production now), Die Frau Ohne Schatten, La Boheme, and Wozzeck. And then I've done since then, I believe, I've done Carmen, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci--the double bill--and I've done Hansel and Gretel once. I did La Boheme. I've actually done La Boheme 3 times since I started. I've been in Otello and I did Parsifal and Turandot, and I was a cover for the Werther kid solo part. And I have been in...
Glen Nelson: Mefistofele.
Ruby Gilmore: Yes. I just got cast in Mefistofele, and I just got cast in Suor Angelica, which is part of the triple bill. And I've done like 15 plus, or something.
Glen Nelson: Really? I think we get the idea: a lot. So let me get that. So you've got Mefistofele, Otello, La Boheme, Tosca, Cav/Pag, Suor Angelica, and Turandot in Italian. You've got Frau, Wozzeck, Parsifal, Tannhäuser in German. You've got Carmen and Werther in French. Khovanchina, that you didn't have to actually sing, in Russian. And in English, Britten's Midsummer's. So that's a lot of languages. I'm curious about that. So what is your favorite language to sing in?
Ruby Gilmore: Ooh, that's hard. I think the easiest to learn is probably Italian just because the vowels, even though they're complicated, they're not as complicated as some other languages. I think German is very difficult to sing just because those words are so foreign to me. I love singing in French but since I've started taking French in school as an actual language I have discovered that speaking French is way different than singing French. And like that's been said multiple times but I didn't really understand that until I started taking French. So it's a little bit confusing because I have to, like, shift in and out of how I say words.
Glen Nelson: Did you feel like when you start taking it in school that you had this big bump, like you were advanced...
Ruby Gilmore: Not at all.
Glen Nelson: No?
Ruby Gilmore: No, because we learn all the repertoire phonetically...
Glen Nelson: I was wondering about that.
Ruby Gilmore: So he just teaches us...
Glen Nelson: And who is "he" that you refer to?
Ruby Gilmore: Oh sorry. That's our conductor, Maestro Anthony Piccolo. He's the person that has been teaching the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus for a while. Yes, so when he teaches us, he will tell us the words and we'll repeat it back to him. He'll make little changes, and then he'll play the melody on the piano, and then we'll sing it back with the words, and then generally the better we get at it he'll start adding the orchestra in and then he'll teach us how to find our note based on the orchestra. And then it kind of builds from there.
Glen Nelson: So you sort of learn it in layers in a way, adding things to it. But do you know what you're singing? I mean, you say you're learning it phonetically, but like if I gave you a line--which I'm not going to do--if I gave you a line in Werther and said, "Translate that into English," could you do it?
Ruby Gilmore: Ummm. Depending on what the line is, maybe. I mean some of time he'll tell us what it means just because it's cool to learn what it means, but a lot of the time I'll have no clue. Like, I generally can get the overall gist of it just because I've taken Spanish and French before school, and I can just figure out roots. But besides that, no.
Glen Nelson: OK. I mean, this is a lot of languages and a lot of different operas, and that's not surprising to me that you have to learn it that way, otherwise I don't think anybody could learn so quickly to do it.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, so you'd have to teach kids how to read in that language before they actually learn it instead of just, "This is the syllable."
Glen Nelson: In a performance, what happens if you forget a word? Do you still go, "Wooo wooo wooo." Do you just choke?
Ruby Gilmore: You don't forget a word, actually.
Glen Nelson: You don't.
Ruby Gilmore: Because I found that when you're learning something phonetically, you don't generally just forgot one word at a time because it's so ingrained in your mind having sung it so many times in that order. The only thing you'd probably forget is a phrase, like if something's coming up, and you don't remember that it's coming up, and then you kind of just go, "Oh shoot. I was supposed to be singing that."
Glen Nelson: You miss the entrance.
Ruby Gilmore: You miss the entrance.
Glen Nelson: At the very beginning of the podcast, we played an excerpt from the second act of La Boheme, and as I was listening to it I thought, "Oh, this is so fast." There are so many overlapping people. If you missed your entrance. It's over. It's gone.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah. When Mr. Piccolo teaches us La Boheme, he also very much emphasizes entrances, but that's something that he's emphasized a lot, and it's something that I kind of take for granted. And then I hear other recordings from other places and kids are like all over the place, and I'm like, "Oh, I guess it really is useful to have someone teach you. This is where you need to breathe. This is what you need to be listening for. This is where you should start. This is how you should count this out." And so, yeah, he's is a very good teacher.
Glen Nelson: Not every opera is like this but in that one in particular it's really physical, too. In German opera they used to call park-and-bark--those really impossible things to sing. You would just go to the front of the stage and plant your feet and then just howl. But sometimes opera choruses are sort of like that. They're almost like cardboard cutouts. All of those people are in the back. They kind of form a little curtain and then they just sing. But when they have children in operas, often they want to show the vitality of children. And so they're prancing around and dancing and chasing after each other and singing. When do you learn all that kind of stuff with the blocking? Part of your class?
Ruby Gilmore: No. Classes are just for repertoire. When we go into rehearsals, we go into staging rehearsals generally a couple weeks before onstage staging rehearsals start, so it's not just the children that have staging rehearsals. Like the adults have to do it. Like everyone else has to do it. One of the stage director's pet peeves is the deer in the headlights. A habit of some of the younger kids I've noticed is that they've learned this music. They know exactly where they're supposed to be. They know exactly what they're supposed to do, and they hear it in the piano, and they get so excited or they hear it an orchestra, and they just turn to this, and they just turn, and they sing it. They stand there, and they continue to the turn and sing, and then they continue acting. So that kind of drives the stage director a little crazy because it's so artificial.
Glen Nelson: Of these many operas that you've performed, do you have a favorite? And if you do, why?
Ruby Gilmore: Well, I think it's very difficult to pick a favorite since I've been in so many, but my favorite is probably A Midsummer Night's Dream since it was my first. And not only was the music just so much fun to learn and just such gorgeous music, the costumes were fun. It's like the costumes were these you had to wear these corsets that came out in this just flat horizontal skirt, and then you had to wear a wig cap and then put on these hats that were like piled on top of your head, and you had to wear wings on your back, and we all wore the tightest silver tights ever and high heels. So between just the ridiculousness of it and the novelty, it was a blast to do.
Glen Nelson: Well, that's a pretty rare opera. That's not performed very often.
Ruby Gilmore: It is not. I think the last time that they did it before us was like 20 some odd years or something like that.
Glen Nelson: Is singing with the chorus a paid gig?
Ruby Gilmore: It is, actually.
Glen Nelson: OK. If you don't mind me asking, what you get?
Ruby Gilmore: I get--ooh, I think my wages actually went up this year--but I get 13 dollars an hour for rehearsals and twenty five dollars per act that I sing in, for performances.
Glen Nelson: Well that sounds pretty good. Does that sound good to you?
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: It's a union house. Do the chorus people of the children's chorus have to join a union?
Ruby Gilmore: That is so beyond me. That's just something I don't have to worry about. But I do know that there's a lot of really complicated laws regarding kids, and that's why you can only be in a certain number of operas per year.
Glen Nelson: Really? Child labor laws...
Ruby Gilmore: Child labor laws that you have to have a certain number of hours between the next time you're called. So if you have a performance in the night and then a rehearsal in the morning, you have to be in one or the other because the child labor law says you can't work for that long.
Glen Nelson: Right. So in my experience going to the theater, the performers who children are often the best rehearsed people there. They don't leave a lot to chance. In the opera and te ballet and the theater, kids know exactly what they're supposed to do, but I'm sure that there have been mess ups.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh yes.
Glen Nelson: So I want to hear a story. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened, or what something that's gone wrong, or something that's funny that's happened on stage?
Ruby Gilmore: Well, there's quite a few stories. I think the infamous story is my second season we did Carmen and during the final dress which is just run through, and there's generally an audience there. People can pay to come see to the final dress. And the kids were supposed to be singing the march music. And it's very, very in-time. It's a march, pretty much. So we were singing it for our final dress, and I don't know what was going on, but people just weren't watching the conductor, and the conductor was going at a different tempo that everyone else thought he was. So I think that at one point we were like two beats ahead of the orchestra, and oh my goodness... So half the chorus wasn't paying attention, and the other half was like, "Oh my gosh. What are you guys doing?"
Glen Nelson: A train wreck.
Ruby Gilmore: So we're all trying to slow each other down, and it was awful. And so we all finished, and we all looked at each other going off stage like, "Oh no we're going to get in trouble."
Glen Nelson: And did you?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes. Because it's like, what are you going to do if we mess up? It's not like you can go back and redo it. Like generally what happens is we get a very, very stern talking to you of, "Why weren't you guys paying attention? You cannot do that again." Yeah, but there's a story from before I was at the opera, and my friend she... In Hansel and Gretel there's a lot of food onstage. When I was in Hansel and Gretel I would slip on cakes and stuff, and had to catch myself. And so she accidentally she saw an orange on the floor--and this story is quite famous among the kids now--because she saw it on the floor, and the curtain was closed like the curtain was coming down after the blackout. And she was like, "Oh, I'll just kick it, kind of not really thinking. She kicked the orange. Well, the stage was raked, it's slanted. And so the orange just started to roll. It started to roll faster. And she just went, "Oh no." And she saw the curtain coming down, and the curtain was coming down, and she's like, "Please don't, please make it, please make it, please make it." And then the orange went under the curtain right before it closed. And she was like, "No!" And a day later they got a livid complaint from the harpist, "The children were kicking multiple food items into the pit?" And they are just kind of like, "Let's not do that again?
Glen Nelson: Oh, those harpists exaggerate. There's this YouTube video that's really funny. Renée Fleming was singing at the Met, and they had these giant wolfhounds on stage.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh wow.
Glen Nelson: And for some reason whenever she started to sing, one of them hated it, one of the dogs hated it and started howling.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh no. Oh here's a good story. So my first season doing La Boheme, there are animals on stage in La Boheme. There's the donkey that pulls the cart out, and there's the horse that holds the carriage that Musetta is on as she makes her entrance. So the girls in the chorus have stage directions that they're supposed to be offstage and they're supposed to care to follow the carriage on. Except one of their performances, the horse is huge, mind you, it's a big horse, and a lot of the time it gets really cranky. This horse was just not in the mood to do a performance. And so the person that was guiding the horse was trying to get it to move, and it was like stomping its feet and like making a huge racket backstage, and like the carriage was shaking, and Musetta who was in the carriage was looking at us like, "Oh no." And so the horse had to go on stage, and then we all started to follow it, and the horse stopped, went, "Nope," and started to back down. Mind you we're off in the wing, which when there's a carriage isn't a lot of space, so we're all crammed, and the horses backing up on us, pushing this carriage. I flattened up against the wall like, Oh my goodness!" Oh, and with these huge dresses, we all just flattened up against the wall. And one of our one of our wranglers--one of the children wranglers--had to pull people out of the way because they were about to get run over by a horse.
Glen Nelson: That's great.
Ruby Gilmore: It was terrifying, and then afterwards we all looked at each other and went, "I just saw my life flash before my eyes."
Glen Nelson: Death at the Metropolitan Opera House. Actually I was at the Met the night that a guy died on stage.
Ruby Gilmore: Really? I've read a lot of horror stories.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, I was there that night. And he was on a really, really high ladder...
Ruby Gilmore: Oh yeah, I've heard this...
Glen Nelson: And he had a heart attack, and he fell backwards. But we didn't know at the time if he had just slipped and fell and died or something else happened. And of course that performance was cancelled, and I never wanted to go back, and they rescheduled it. And the day that they rescheduled it and did it again, there was this huge snowstorm and that performance was cancelled, too.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh no.
Glen Nelson: It was cursed.
Ruby Gilmore: Cursed performance. Man!
Glen Nelson: The curse of The Makropulos Case--was the name of the opera. But let's talk about your family and all that kind of stuff because I'm always curious of how young performers get into what they do--where where this passion comes from. So tell me about your family.
Ruby Gilmore: I have two older brothers: Max who's 20, and Luke who is 17, and my mom, and my dad, and my dog.
Glen Nelson: And of those, a whole bunch of you are involved in the arts.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah. My dad does production management for shows...
Glen Nelson: He owns his own production company. And he runs around and when a show--like a Broadway show or a concert or something--is is being loaded in, he's in charge of getting up and running.
Ruby Gilmore: Most often what he does is he's a production manager which is not only just overseeing the load-ins and load- outs, but he also has to mediate between the creative team and the people that are actually putting it together. Like he kind of mediates between all the components. And so a lot of times he'll get calls from shows that are struggling because he has a very good reputation when shows are struggling. They'll call him over and say, "Hey, help us out. We're kind of struggling here," and he works very hard to make sure shows don't fall apart.
Glen Nelson: Cool. And it's not just here in New York. He travels all over.
Ruby Gilmore: He's been in London actually for the past five weeks.
Glen Nelson: OK. And your mom? What does she do?
Ruby Gilmore: My mom is an actress so she acts and sings.
Glen Nelson: She was on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying--the Matthew Broderick version.
Ruby Gilmore: That's actually where she met my dad.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh really? I didn't know that.
Ruby Gilmore: She is a fantastically talented person.
Glen Nelson: That's true. All right, and then your brothers?
Ruby Gilmore: Me and Max and Luke all play piano. We all took piano for some period of time. Luke has since quit piano, but he plays keyboard in his school band. And Max goes to college at Clayton State University in Georgia. He's in a two year program for film.
Glen Nelson: So he'll be working on the production side of movies. In New York, there are a lot of high schools that are specialized in different things, and so there's a performing arts high school, but you don't go to a performance high school.
Ruby Gilmore: I do not. My school is pretty much a liberal arts high school.
Glen Nelson: I think you were telling me, or maybe your mom was telling me, that you're thinking of not doing opera chorus so you'll have more time to do high school activities in the future. Is that right?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes, actually.
Glen Nelson: Was that a hard decision to make?
Ruby Gilmore: Oh, very, very, very. Just the thought of it... I just actually had my last audition last week, and I got cast in Suor Angelica. And I just thought, "This is the last time I'm ever going to be doing this." And it's been such a huge part of my life, I mean, I've been doing it since I was 8, and I'm 14 which means I've been doing it for...
Glen Nelson: As a percentage of your life...
Ruby Gilmore: Almost half of my life. And so for me the decision kind of came out of: A, me just wanting the time because it's such a huge time commitment; and also I'm so tall, I'm 5'10", and so I don't really get cast much anymore in onstage productions...
Glen Nelson: Well, with kids stuff, you have to fit into the costume.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, I don't fit into the costume.
Glen Nelson: Well, Suor Angelica is so beautiful...
Ruby Gilmore: It's gorgeous.
Glen Nelson: I think you're going to have a great final experience with that.
Ruby Gilmore: The children in that are actually off stage.
Glen Nelson: So it's music, it's heavenly.
Ruby Gilmore: Actually we're angels.
Glen Nelson: I know. It's really, really cool. Do you think you'll miss it?
Ruby Gilmore: Oh my goodness, yes. Oh dear, yes!
Glen Nelson: This podcast is specifically about members of the Church, so I have to ask you if you're aware of other LDS performers who are singing at the Met?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes. So in the children's chorus there as one boy who I know is a member and...
Glen Nelson: Is he from Manhattan?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes he is. I think he's like 10. So he's just started, and then I know my cousin who is also a member. He is in the intermediate classes. He is nine, I believe. And then I know that there is a woman in the adult chorus who is a member.
Glen Nelson: Yep, that's Marie Te Hapuku.
Ruby Gilmore: Yes.
Glen Nelson: I follow her on Facebook, and it's like she's singing every night.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh yeah. Adult chorus are worked to the bone.
Glen Nelson: They work like crazy. It's a great gig.
Ruby Gilmore: She's actually stopped me a couple of times in the hall and said, "Ruby, I know you, but you don't know me," I'm like...
Glen Nelson: You mean at the Met in the hallway?
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, which is weird because we don't really talk to the adults very much. That's like, oh obviously she would know me, but it's a little weird, too.
Glen Nelson: I was wondering if you ever bumped into people.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: That's nice. You know I follow this a little bit, and in the last few years we've had probably about a dozen LDS singers doing principal roles of the Met or covering.
Ruby Gilmore: Really?
Glen Nelson: Yeah. You didn't know that?
Ruby Gilmore: I wouldn't have known that.
Glen Nelson: So here are a few: Erin Morley, Rachel Willis-Sorensøn, Tamara Mumford, Wendy Bryn Hamer, Nicholas Pallesen, Thomas Glenn, Nina Warren, Jenny Welch Babidge, and a bunch of others. I guess I have a question for you about identity: Does knowing that there are artists in the Church of that caliber performing in the world's most prestigious opera venues affect what you think is possible for you to achieve? Maybe not just in opera, but generally?
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah. I think it's actually really inspiring because often I feel like a lot of members of the Church don't pursue careers on that scale of grandeur. I mean, literally singing opera, which is ridiculous. And so I think it's awesome to have people that do that and have worked hard to get there. And for me it's just kind of like, "Oh, I guess I can do something like that if I want to." Like there's nothing really stopping me from pursuing that.
Glen Nelson: As I talk to people who were performers as children, some of them don't want to continue on. It's just something they did it's not... whatever, but they learn so much from the experience that it does inform how they live. They have a different kind of confidence as performers and a different professionalism that kind of flows into the rest of their life. Do you feel that way, too?
Ruby Gilmore: Definitely. Yeah. I know what kids who are now in college studying to continue opera. That is something that honestly I don't want to do, just because opera is not necessarily the most fitting thing for me, I guess.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, right.
Ruby Gilmore: It's just not something I intend to pursue. Except it has taught me how to actually sing well, and from there I could maybe do something that's not necessarily opera. And just the environment that we're in is so great for the responsibilities: that you have to make sure you get there on time, you have to make sure you know what you're doing at the pay attention, you have to act professionally from the time that you're nine years old, but at the same time you're able to have so much fun, and you're able to not goof around but you're able to kind of get into that aspect of theater, and that just such a was such a wonderful environment that I definitely will keep what I've learned there.
Glen Nelson: The Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus is basically an in-house training facility, but there is no expectation that the students are going to go on to be opera singers, like when they're adults. But that's a little bit different in ballet. American Ballet Theatre's school known as the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School is a training program for ages 12 to 17. And then there are children's divisions of the school for ages 3 to 7 and 8 to 12 that teach ballet and develop them and dancers. And ballet companies all over the world have dancers that came from this school. So that's not what happens at the opera house. The opera house is training children for the roles that they're going to perform. But the ABT School is ballet training, and then they might draw from that when they need it. Does that sound kind of right?
Addy Hawley: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: I'm more or less right on that? They even have at ABT--I don't know have you ever seen this--the two year old's class called ABTots.
Addy Hawley: Oh yeah, I think I've heard that before.
Glen Nelson: I don't know what you would want to teach a 2 year old. Like, they're Teletubbies. What can a 2 year old possible do? I dunno.
Addy Hawley: I always loved to dance but like some some kids are just naturally energetic and love to dance. But if you're kind of forcing a two year old to dance, it's kind of pointless.
Glen Nelson: The ABT school here in the city is on Broadway between 19th and 20th streets, and according to their website they have about 430 dancers every academic year. And then there's another school that ABT runs in Orange County, California. And these programs are expensive. It's not the same as the opera. For the opera people, it's just a class that's offered; those are free. And then when you perform you get paid. But ballet you have to pay tuition, although I think there probably are some scholarships. Do you remember what the audition process was like, how old you were?
Addy Hawley: Like when I got into the school?
Glen Nelson: Uh-huh.
Addy Hawley: This is a long story. So I was dancing at a really, really small school, and then Mom was just like, "You should probably go somewhere else. Like, you have more potential. You should go to a better school."
Glen Nelson: So how old were you, do you remember?
Addy Hawley: Eight. Seven or eight. And so I had auditioned for ABT the first time, and right before walking in, I got really, really sick. I got like a fever of one hundred three or four, right when I was walking in. So that audition I was already like, freaking out. I was really nervous because I didn't really know anyone there and I had come from a very small school. I was like, "OK, I'm here. I really don't want to do this, but I kind to because I'm walking in." I didn't feel very well, but I still went in and I thought, "Oh it's probably just a little headache, probably my jitters and like, my fear. But I was wrong. I was really, really sick. Luckily, a director was really nice to me, and she knew that I was scared, and I was really small. She knew that I was struggling and she cut me some slack, but I didn't get in that time because I was sick. So that audition was really traumatizing. And then I auditioned the second time and I was like, "OK..."
Glen Nelson: Was it the next year or...?
Addy Hawley: It was like four months later. So I was like, 'Oh no, not this again not again," because I can be a scaredy cat. So I was really really really scared. And I was like, "OK fine, let's just get this over with." And I remember I went in this tiny, tiny room, and I hated it so much because I had to lead. I'm terrible at picking up combinations. So I remember being the smallest one there, again. And having to remember these combinations. I came from a school where you didn't have to learn combinations very much. So it was kind a big step for me, and I was messing up all over the place, and I was not very good. And then I came out and I was so upset. I'm like, "Why is this happening to me." It's always happens to me. And then a few weeks later, we were in the mall at 59th at the Whole Foods. And we were eating. I was actually eating soup at Whole Foods with my family. And my mom was like, "Oh, honey you got in." And I'm like, "How?" Like I was literally the worst one there. Why would they accept me? I was like, "OK, well I don't really want to go." And my mom was like, "Yeah, you have to go. It's like a new opportunity." I'm like, "OK, fine," after a few minutes arguing--because I love to argue, it's just me, but that was kind of a process. And then I started. And they put me in this beginner class, and then the director and the facilitator kind of observed us after a few weeks. And then she moved me up to one of the actual levels. So the first few weeks also were kind of like an audition.
Glen Nelson: I was reading a book about the first serious ballet schools in America. And when Balanchine started school of American Ballet the audition was, "Point your toe." And if their foot looked like they could be shaped to be not terrible, then they were in. So things have changed so much, I mean it's really competitive.
Addy Hawley: You have to compete with pretty much everyone in auditions. That's why I don't like auditions because I don't like competing very much. I don't know, they they're basically looking at flexibility, posture--I don't know how to explain it--just like natural talent, to see if they could actually work with it, potential.
Glen Nelson: That's right. It's all about potential. I don't know how they know because you suddenly hit puberty and you're a whole other human. I don't know how they can predict some of these things.
Addy Hawley: I remember I was really little when I joined, and then I was there until I was 13, and I just remember like, "Oh my goodness. Everyone changed so much," but we're still the same people. It's just weird.
Glen Nelson: Well, with dance it's very difficult though because your center of gravity changes and balance changes. So what is that like to be a young dancer and have your body change so much and just keep working through it?
Addy Hawley: It definitely was challenging for everybody. But I feel like I was just thinking, "I'm dancing." I didn't really think about it that much. Even though it was a challenge, it just didn't really get in my brain like, "Oh yeah, I hit puberty, and now I have to change the way I stand up and the way that I turn..."
Glen Nelson: And it's all gradual so that's probably good.
Addy Hawley: And but because we were signed up for a lot of practice per week, we didn't really notice that much, or at least that's what I kind of thought.
Glen Nelson: Young dancers get involved in ballet really early, much earlier than, let's say, modern dancers or opera people. Most opera people have never even seen an opera until they're in one, in college. And then it's really common too for modern dancers to discover it in college. They don't start dancing when they're 8, 7, 4, whatever. But ballet is a very young thing. In the ballet world, 20 year olds are already veterans, and 30 year olds are ancient. What drew you to ballet rather than modern or jazz or tap or hip hop or something?
Addy Hawley: It just came naturally to me. My mom tells me that when I was little she couldn't sing to me to go to sleep because I'd always dance. So I guess it's just my personality. I was just born with the energy to dance and an attraction to the arts. I don't know. You can only get so far when you're being forced on it. But when you truly do enjoy it, then you can go really, really, really, far.
Glen Nelson: Yeah. Tell me about your family. Who's in it, and what kind of things are interesting to them?
Addy Hawley: OK. My family is very different from others. My sister, she is a math nerd. She's actually in BYU right now,. BYU-Provo...
Glen Nelson: She's a freshman.
Addy Hawley: She's a freshman. She's thinking about majoring in physics. So that kind of explains...
Glen Nelson: Enough said.
Addy Hawley: Yeah, like it we moved to the United States back from China, she was kind of struggling in math, and then she joined another school. And then my mom gets a call one day, and it's the principal saying, "Oh yeah. Lydia's in a math group." And she was like, "Yeah, she needs the help." And the principal was like, "No. She got into advanced math." And it had only been a month into the school year. And she's very brave. She's she's a very good mathematician.
Glen Nelson: That's her talent.
Addy Hawley: Yeah. So she's yeah, she's really smart. And then I guess my mom, she's just my mom. That's her talent. Like she is really, really cool.
Glen Nelson: And she is here in the room so we have pretty nice when we talk about her?
Addy Hawley: Yeah. No, but honestly though, she has many, many talents. But I guess she's also pretty brainy. When she was a little kid, she would read. She would always have a book in front of her. Because books were kind of like her own world, just like how dancing is my own world, and how math or science is my sister's world. Books and stories were my mom's.
Glen Nelson: Your family goes to see a lot of performances of things--theater and movies and plays and classical performances--but you're the only one who's performing or taking classes. Is that right?
Addy Hawley: My sister actually danced for 10 years. I honestly forgot. Sorry.
Glen Nelson: I can't visualize that...
Addy Hawley: I can't either now.
Glen Nelson: Just knowing her.
Addy Hawley: Her dancing, I felt like, was just for her like a hobby.
Glen Nelson: But you know she's very poised, and that's what I find with young dancers. There's this confidence. And part of it's just posture, maybe. I think it's one of the cool things about young people getting involved in performance. They do have this kind of energy, a confidence which I think is kind of cool. Now tell me about some of the ballets that you've performed with American Ballet Theatre.
Addy Hawley: Ok. So my first move is Cinderella. I was 10 I think--9 or 10.
Glen Nelson: And were you a mouse?
Addy Hawley: Well I was the coachman I didn't dance at all. I was like, "OK, well whatever. I get to be performing at the Met. I'm not actually going to be dancing. I just I'm going to be riding a carriage." And that's pretty much it. Like that was my only appearance. So I was only on stage for about five to ten seconds my first time, which I thought, "OK, well fine. It's kind of like a little breather. OK. That's cool." And it was really my first, like, "Oh my goodness. Like, wow this is real."
Glen Nelson: Weren't you in the Times. Wasn't there a review about it.
Addy Hawley: Yeah, there was, but you couldn't really see me, like my actual face. But you know I wasn't supposed to be noticed. The actual Cinderella, like the actual principal was supposed to be noticed.
Glen Nelson: That only seems fair.
Addy Hawley: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense though because it's like she's right in the middle and she's the one in the carriage.
Glen Nelson: So that's 2015. And then after that, what?
Addy Hawley: Then there was a little breather there, that was my second year. And then there was... Oh wait, in the beginning of my second year at ABT or JKO there was a Met gala thing for ABT, and that's when I first got to work with Mr. Ratmansky. But that was kind of like the whole entire ABT community. So it wasn't really an audition. You're just like, "OK, you're already a student here so you have to participate in this."
Glen Nelson: That was Serenade After Plato's Symposium?
Addy Hawley: It was very interesting experience.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, that's the Bernstein score. So Alexi Ratmansky is this amazing choreographer, and he's Russian, and he's ABT's artist-in-residence. OK. What else?
Addy Hawley: So then that happened. And then at level 3 in my first year of Level 3 (3.1) was Le Corsaire. And that performance was really scary because we had just started dancing en pointe, like the toe shoes, but that whole entire dance was en pointe. A lot my friends hadn't even been en pointe for a year, and we were pushed onto a stage wearing a corset with a bunch of other professionals without even having enough time to actually really get used to pointe shoes. So that was definitely a scary experience, but it was also pretty thrilling. I don't know, it's just all of us were in it together. And you kind of get used to the pointe thing, but at first I was just like, "Whoa, like what just happened?" I mean they kind of took everybody, and they kind of made it work which was really cool. So yeah. And then 3.2, that was Harlequinade. And then that's when I got to work with Mr. Ratmansky again, and the kids' part in that dance was very big; it was like pretty much the whole, entire second act. So it was on fly, and we had to wear these really, really, really, funny costumes. But our role was just kind to make it joyful.
Glen Nelson: You originated that role?
Addy Hawley: The polichinelles were basically the oldest group of all of the kids cast because it was really the first time Mr. Ratmansky had redone Harlequinade.
Glen Nelson: It was a 19th century Petipa ballet that he restaged and reconstructed. Again this is so different from Ruby's experience at the opera because for the most part she's doing these 19th century operas, and the composers are long since dead. You know, she had a couple of experiences with 20th century operas, but to have somebody like Ratmansky with you... He's such a big deal. A lot of people consider him to be a genius. Just yesterday in The New York Times, the chief dance critic called Ratmansky, "Surely the most admirable ballet choreographer of our day." So for you to work with him, you know, is like being in the same room with Balanchine, or de Mille, or Martha Graham, or something like that. But what was your experience? When you rehearsed, did you have him directly or did you have somebody that he taught and they coached you in the roles? How did that work?
Addy Hawley: We usually had him in the room, so he was very hands-on, very involved, which we all were happy about. And then he also had different teachers to help with it. And he had his wife, who's also a dancer. She danced in Harlequinade. She did a little part as a fairy. But he is very, very calm. All of us we're so surprised. He is probably the calmest person you'll ever meet. He has the patience of a saint. I don't know. I feel like he knows the pressure, so he's very kind about it.
Glen Nelson: When he walked into the room did he have all those steps figured out or was it a thing where he's collaborated with dancers...
Addy Hawley: Collaborating.
Glen Nelson: Really.
Addy Hawley: He has the choreography but he changed stuff, depending on what the mood was and the different looks of the children, how they moved. He would change it and tweak it a little bit. But he would have the choreography in his head in the beginning. He would teach us, we would do it, demonstrate it, and then he would tweak around.
Glen Nelson: Were you aware when you were working with him that this was going to be one of the most famous guys that you're ever going to hang out with?
Addy Hawley: Yes. Everybody knew how famous he was, except for some of the little kids. But like most of the older children knew exactly who he is.
Glen Nelson: I'm comparing this kind of experience with, let's say, a sports kid. Somebody in sports might go to a sports camp and maybe they would shake hands with an athlete they admire. But the idea of actually creating something with a hero like this is really pretty unique to the performing arts, I think. I had asked Ruby earlier about performing alongside other LDS artists at the Met. At ABT, you have a principal ballerina who's LDS, Devon Teuscher.
Addy Hawley: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Your performance of Serenade after Plato's Symposium--that was with her. And so her parents come to your ward all the time when they come down and visit they hang out. And she's a member of the YSA stake. Does that seem cool to you that you have an LDS artist performing that kind of level and in your field?
Addy Hawley: Yeah. I pretty much exploded when I found out she became a principal because I knew... I didn't really know her, but I knew that I had met her before. And then I found out, "Oh my goodness. It's her, like really! I know that person I remember her-ish." That's when she was a soloist, and then she was announced a principal, and I was like, died. I was so happy, and like I actually know somebody who's Mormon and a principal, which I thought was really interesting.
Glen Nelson: It's a big deal. You know, we all have role models, and so for you to have something like that happen, I think would be really, really amazing. And she's a fantastic dancer. Do you agree with me?
Addy Hawley: Is she amazing. She's actually really, really, really... I was watching her behind the curtain in a Harlequinade. And her turning... So you would have to do... It was Corsaire, sorry. And you would have to do a series of really complicated turns and pirouettes diagonally across the room. And Misty Copeland actually was... She was good like, she was actually pretty great. But then Devon Teuscher did it, and that was before she was actually known--like really, really known. And she did it perfectly, in a straight line, very consistent, always on the beat. Never ever, ever tripped or slipped, or did a second little bounce. She was right on it. And I thought, "How is that even possible?"
Glen Nelson: I'm pretty sure that she has a gyroscope implanted into her head because she spins like a top.
Addy Hawley: I know. Yeah.
Glen Nelson: And usually in dance you have you have turners and you have leapers.
Addy Hawley: I'm a leaper. I'm not a turner.
Glen Nelson: And she... She can do anything. I think she's really going to be something amazing.
Addy Hawley: She's actually pretty young too. She's really young.
Glen Nelson: I'm glad that you think it's cool too because for somebody who is just watching from the audience, it's not really a role model situation. It's just that I really admire somebody in the Church who can do that. It's like this extra connection that I feel like I have with them. But for you it must be more connected than that. So, dancers are more likely to be injured, you know, than opera singers, obviously. Have you ever been injured?
Addy Hawley: No.
Glen Nelson: No? Knock wood.
Addy Hawley: I am very lucky.
Glen Nelson: What's been the best and worst things about being a dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House?
Addy Hawley: So the best thing I would say was just having the opportunity because I have a lot of opportunities dancing, or I used to, at ABT. So because it's a big school, you got to dance at the Met, pretty much if you wanted to, you just had to audition. I'm really just like they're both. It was just amazing to have that experience, just knowing that you danced at the Met, or sang, or even just performed there is amazing. It's once in a lifetime... So you really have to take it. And then the worst part would probably be the pressure. Even though when you just start dancing you're like, "OK well, this is just another rehearsal, kind of just with people watching.
Glen Nelson: But like 3000 people.
Addy Hawley: Yeah but it's fine because I avoid the audience.
Glen Nelson: You don't look out?
Addy Hawley: I do if I have to, but I try to avoid.. Like picture something else. And because the stage is so big, all I see is just darkness. I don't see any faces, which makes me really happy. But I try really just not to stare at the audience when I don't have to.
Glen Nelson: A dancer's life: it's a lot of work, a lot of hours takes, a lot of toll on the body, so it's quite a sacrifice. Other teenagers your age are probably binge watching Stranger Things and whatever. What do you think about the concept of how much of a sacrifice it's been to dance? Has it been worth it?
Addy Hawley: Yeah, because of the way that I've always been busy with dance, it's helped me become more responsible in school. It's kind of like well I have to do this first, and then I can go to ballet, and then do my homework when I get home. Or just like you have to be on it. You have to be more active, and having an active body helps with having an active mind, as well. So you're not just joking around in class and stuff and just not focusing because you also learn discipline in ballet and dance. You got to be able to really understand to be able to behave yourself and have self-control. So ballet and dance is also a mental workout just to really know what you're doing.
Glen Nelson: Completely. Let's take a day, an average day, when you have rehearsals and school and performance. What time in the morning when you have to wake up?
Addy Hawley: I usually on 6:45, 6:50.
Glen Nelson: OK. And then school?
Addy Hawley: And then I have school and then...
Glen Nelson: And you go to a regular a regular middle school, not like performing our school or anything like that?
Addy Hawley: No. I'm still in middle school. So and then we would get homework, and then I would do homework during lunch, and also talk, and then school would finish, and then I would go home, set a timer for 20 minutes. Do all of the home work I had to do, then get ready for ballet. Leave, talk, with my friends, have ballet, leave ballet, get home...
Glen Nelson: How long would ballet be?
Addy Hawley: Three hours--two and a half or three hours. And then I would just go home, finish any other homework that I did have, eat dinner, and then just like take a shower or just go to bed, read in bed for a little while, just go to sleep, and then it would be the same thing.
Glen Nelson: About what time would you go to sleep?
Addy Hawley: 10:30. 10:00 to 10:30. But back then when seventh grade was happening, it was more like ten. But now, it's different. Yeah.
Glen Nelson: I know some dancers like being in class and rehearsing even more than performing, and others put up with rehearsing and class and they only love most of the performing. What kind of dancer are you?
Addy Hawley: More of like really learning from the classes, really going from the rehearsals and not really enjoying the performing part. I don't really love performing because I get nervous, but I really love taking classes and rehearsing. That part is fun to me. So I guess I'm more of like a behind the scenes a dancer.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, I can completely see that. You're constantly looking in the mirror, you're constantly seeing if you can do it better than you did yesterday. Can I add an extra thing? Can I be a little bit stronger?
Addy Hawley: Teachers always say that you can never ever stop trying to get better because there is no way that you are completely perfect. That's impossible. So there always is room for improvement. There always is. My teacher was telling me she was like, "I knew, I actually worked for George Balanchine, and I worked with a lot of famous dancers, and they told me there's always, always room for improvement." She told me about her teacher, and her teacher was amazing at dancing, and she said she would always before class always point her feet and see how she could do better, with a tenue or a plie. Even though she was done with a professional career and she went into teaching. She still worked on it.
Glen Nelson: That's a pretty good life lesson, the idea that you can constantly get better. There used to be these stories that Balanchine, after the curtain came down of a performance, would go backstage and rehearse right then, like, "I think we can do this better. Let's figure this out." That just seems so miraculous to me. I can't imagine doing that. But the people who really want to get good at something have to have that mindset. But now I understand that you're thinking of moving away from ballet a little and studying a wider range of dance styles. Is that right?
Addy Hawley: Yes. At ABT and JKO, ballet was really the main dance there.
Glen Nelson: That's what they do.
Addy Hawley: Yeah ,but then they also had character and modern. So I'm thinking maybe going more modern. I feel like in modern you can express yourself a lot more, but that's just me. Like dancing is expressing how you feel, like expressing your happiness. Ballet was like that for me for a while, and then I realized that there are so many different kinds. And so after having ballet six days a week, I decided I really want to go into modern as well, and that's why I kind of wanted it to go to Alvin Ailey. So yeah.
Glen Nelson: And that's next? The Alvin Ailey School?
Addy Hawley: Yes.
Glen Nelson: That's just two blocks away from here. That's very cool, too. I've been going to some dance performances lately, and the thing that's most exciting to me is these crossovers of different styles. I saw a piece that had tap and ballet mixed together. Justin Peck's new piece was all in sneakers, and I saw this hip hop work where you had a beatboxer on the side. It was all live music just him and his microphone. And this company of four or five dancers was called Caleb Teischer's Company. And that was probably the most exciting thing that I've seen lately, so I love this fusion of different things. Maybe you'll find that there is a place for all that to come together at some point.
Addy Hawley: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: What's your best memory about dancing?
Addy Hawley: Really, my best memory was just with my friends.
Glen Nelson: OK, so this question is for both of you. How do you think that performing--I mean you're at the country's most important opera house--how has that changed you? What do you think? How has performing changed you?
Ruby Gilmore: Well, for me personally it has definitely helped me get over the whole idea of nerves, whenever I have to do stuff. That doesn't necessarily mean that I don't get nervous when I have to do things that are stressful, but I've kind of been in this mindset of, "You know what, you you're going to have to do it no matter how much you don't want to, so you might as well have fun doing it. It really helps in terms of being professional, and how you perform in front of other people. And knowing what I would appreciate as a performer also helps me be a good audience when I go to see things like.
Glen Nelson: Cool. What about you?
Addy Hawley: Well, it's kind of the same thing because I get nervous really easily. So it kind of helps me like, oh man, I get really nervous before a test, and I'm like, "Oh come on, you perform the Met, you're fine. You got this." So it definitely helps me calm down and also kind of makes me happy. I don't know. I just reminds me of like, "Oh yeah, I remember, like looking up at the chandelier and thinking like, Oh I wanted to perform here when I was little."
Ruby Gilmore: The chandelier is so pretty.
Addy Hawley: It's so pretty.
Glen Nelson: You have to have street cred with your friends. I assume they all know you're at ABT and at the Met Opera, so do you have bragging rights with your friends?
Addy Hawley: Yeah, but I don't really talk about it much.
Glen Nelson: You don't?
Addy Hawley: I don't want to seem like that one person whose like, "Oh yeah, I get to like perform..." I have a friend who also gets to, and she's kind of like always talking about it. It's kind of obnoxious.
Glen Nelson: So you don't want to hit them over the head with it.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah, yeah. I get the same kind of vibe. It's not so much that I'm the one bragging about it, but my friends are the ones bragging about it. They're like, "Oh, I know her." And I'm just like, "You do know me."
Glen Nelson: Well, what about your parents? I assume they do the bragging for you.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh my goodness.
Addy Hawley: Yeah, it's kind of ridiculous.
Glen Nelson: You know, that's what parents are for. That's true. I think I have know both of you since you were babies, and so all of these years your parents would say, "Oh, my daughter is going to do this really cool thing." So I've been kind of watching you from afar and really impressed with how it's all come together for you. Given your experience--so you've been at it for a long time, these endeavors as a percentage of your whole life, a lot of hours--would you recommend to parents and to other children who were listening to this that they should get involved with the arts and performance?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes, definitely. I mean I also think it's important not to force it, just because there were definitely times when I did not want to... When I was little, particularly, and I hadn't been cast in anything yet, and I didn't really know what it was like, "Why do I have to spend all this time doing? It's just so awful." But had I not chosen to stay though, on my own free will... I definitely know some people that were forced to start and didn't really enjoy themselves, but the experience that you get from it is like nothing ever before, ever.
Glen Nelson: Right. Would you say there's a lot of pressure on you when you're performing or you're so well rehearsed in your class, that it's not crazy scary?
Addy Hawley: It's kind of a mix of both because it's like you know that if you mess up, then it most likely will be a little mess up because you've practiced so much. You are really the only one who notice, you like your teacher. But at the same time it's still terrifying because you know that if you mess up then you will be kind of like, "Oh man!" I usually get angry, or not angry but like I'm sad at myself. Well, I didn't really mess up, but like if you do mess up, it's something that's like your fault. It's kind of like there's a lot of pressure. You kind of put yourself under that pressure.
Glen Nelson: Last week I went to a performance here at City Center, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company was doing a piece, and the lead ballerina just crashed the floor. I don't know what happened if she slipped on something, or it was wet, and it was this crash, you know. And so I thought, "OK, that happens." I mean, that's just part of the deal.
Addy Hawley: Audience members should actually understand. They shouldn't be like, "Oh my goodness, she's bad because she slipped." I don't know. It's just, like it happens.
Glen Nelson: I think it's different, let's say, in classical music. When you go to a piano recital, it's almost like the audience is listening to see the mistake, and if you make a mistake, it's kind of a really glaring thing. But I think it may be that in the kind of work that you're doing, it's a little less exacting, like they kind of cut you a little bit of slack.
Ruby Gilmore: Well for me actually, it's kind of the complete opposite, because when you're singing in a chorus, generally the chorus is singing with other choruses and also of lead singers. So if you personally make one little mistake, generally no one's going to notice except if everyone in the chorus simultaneously makes that little mistake. That's when the stakes are a little bit higher, so I don't get nervous doing opera too much anymore. It's there's always that feeling of, "Oh my gosh, I'm so excited, it's starting," but it's no more like this, "Ahh! It's starting!" It's come to the point in my life where I know what I have to do and starting it, it's always like once you're taking that breath to start, it's always like, "Ahh!" And then when you start you're like, "OK, I'm good.
Glen Nelson: I know with ballet, when children are onstage, they tend to be in unison. So an error sticks out more, too. In 2018 we're in this #MeTo movement era, and the ballet and the opera here in New York have been affected quite dramatically. When you have somebody with, let's say, James Levine's status...
Ruby Gilmore: Ooof.
Glen Nelson: ... Who was THE guy for decades--by far the most influential conductor in opera in the world--be fired, and ABT has had less trouble, but a principal dancer was fired. City Ballet had their artistic director and three male principal dancers fired, all for inappropriate behavior or for allegations of inappropriate behavior. So I was just curious of how you feel. How have you been treated? Have you countered any troubles with any thing like that?
Addy Hawley: No, not really. But I do remember when the principal dancer had to resign. Like when he was fired. And like all of us were like, "Really? Him?" Like we didn't know. But honestly, like sounds kind of bad, but none of us were really... We were surprised, but we weren't shocked. That kind of makes sense with all the variety, I feel like at least one person wold kind of... In the huge community, it kind of makes sense.
Glen Nelson: There have been rumors swirling around with some of these people for a long, long time, and so I think the idea of shock sort of went away because it was almost inevitable that a few of these folks--their careers would be ended because of their behavior. You're young women. You're in a professional environment. My guess is though that to some extent they're kind of careful of how they take care of children. Right? You're sort of partnered with adults or you have a wrangler or something like that?
Ruby Gilmore: Oh yeah. So at the opera, actually the children are very, very isolated from the rest of the people that are doing that the opera because I feel like people recognize that as fun as opera can be, there's a lot of toxicity in the atmosphere sometimes, that I just don't think they would want kids to be subjected to. There's always somebody who is like angry about something and just... So we actually practice and dress in a completely separate area than literally anyone else does. And we're taken upstairs. We warm up. We go downstairs and perform, and then we get to spend that time with the adults, which I think is honestly, I feel like, the best time because everyone's working. And we kind of get to know people when they're being professional. But concerning James Levine being fired, I remember my friend texted me, and she was like, "Oh my gosh. Did you hear what just happened?" I'm like, "No." And I looked it up, and I just went, "Oh my gosh! I've worked with him. I've talked to him." There's something about it that kind of make you just go... Like Addy was saying, it's not necessarily surprising, that it's kind of like...
Addy Hawley: "Oh. Like really?"
Glen Nelson: At ABT, are the child performers separated from the adults most of the time or not?
Addy Hawley: That depends on what dance it is. But in a Harlequinade, it was just the children really. But then in Corsaire, there were some scenes where there were some principal dancers on thestage with the children. So it really does depend. But for most of the time, yeah. They are kind of separate.
Glen Nelson: It's easy for an arts organization to take advantage of kids. That's probably not the best way to phrase it, but to take advantage of kids as novelty for box office purposes--we'll call it "the cute factor." Every ballet company America stays afloat because of its Nutcracker for Christmas essentially, and every Nutcracker stays afloat because of all those parents who buy tickets to see children and grandchildren dance. But when I see children onstage at the opera and the ballet, as soon as they come onstage I hear the audience just, "Ahh," you know? I mean, have you ever experienced that? And then at curtain calls, when children performers take a bow, it's always this huge outpouring of affection. Are you aware when you're onstage of this goodwill that's coming your way when you're performing?
Ruby Gilmore: Actually, funnily enough the person that runs the chorus, he often emphasizes how a lot of the times, kind of as a joke, that from his experience when kids come onstage just to sing a small chorus part in a minor scene, a lot of people kind of just go, "Cool." And so he emphasizes, the better you are the more that the more that ahh-factor's going to go away, and more of, "Oh my gosh, these kids are amazing," is going to come in. And so I feel like whenever I perform it's not so much a feeling of "ahh" as it is "I'm going to work my best to make sure that they're not like, 'Oh, that was cute,' but they're like, 'Wow! That was amazing.'"
Glen Nelson: In a patronizing kind of way.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah right.
Glen Nelson: What's been your experience, Addy?
Addy Hawley: I don't really hear the audience that much. Only when we're doing the bows, and most of the time, I feel like the grown ups get a lot of the applause.
Ruby Gilmore: Yes.
Addy Hawley: Honestly, I feel like when the kids are stepping out, I feel like most kids don't really care. They're like, "I can't mess up. I can't mess up." So they're always concentrating so hard.
Glen Nelson: Yeah. And for dancers a bow is a choreographed thing. You're still performing.
Addy Hawley: My friends were actually playing--this sounds really bad--but they were actually playing a little hand game, and it was strictly like... We were told that we weren't allowed...
Glen Nelson: Onstage, they were?
Addy Hawley: Yeah, just "smile and hold your position." And we had to practice it, and wasn't that hard. You just have to stand, and bow, and walk when the grown ups walk and stuff. But my friends were playing a little hand game, and my teacher saw it, and she... You could hear... I feel like you could go to China and you could hear her. She was blowing up on them. But it kind of makes sense because we had been working so hard for months, and then all of a sudden, it's like, "OK to play games on the stage..."
Glen Nelson: That's right.
Addy Hawley: Like, that's disrespectful to pretty much everybody, like you're only thinking about yourself, but they were just little kids playing a hand game. But it was not a nice thing to do.
Glen Nelson: There is a difference between children who are performing at the ballet and the opera in the expectation of technique. No one really goes to a ballet that has children in it and expects, you know, a 10-year old dancer to do double tours and triple pirouettes en pointe. I mean, that's just not what children are asked to do. But in opera sometimes, children performers have to do some really difficult technical things, as soloists. I was thinking are some examples of the Shepherd Boy arias in Puccini's Tosca or in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, or the pair of Miles and Flora in Britten's Turn of the Screw, and a whole bunch of contemporary operas. So that kind of pressure is a little bit different, but I guess what I'm trying to get to is do you think that you get enough respect as artists by the companies when you're performing?
Ruby Gilmore: Yes, actually. Because I feel if we weren't that good, I feel like people just wouldn't say anything, like, "Oh, they're just kids. I mean we understand if they can't do that, this music is ridiculous," and I feel like that also goes back to the whole applause thing. I feel like that's what makes it so amazing is how hard we all work and how good it ends up sounding. Sometimes my friends and I, after a performance, we'll just record ourselves singing it again, just because altogether it sounds so nice, except I actually auditioned for the Tosca aria part two years ago, and the amount of work that went into like that short little thing was crazy. I mean I had never done... Because most solo parts are written for young boys, so generally a 13-year old girl isn't asked to audition for that, but my friend and I were both asked to audition. We were so nervous. We were just shaking, and it's crazy the stuff that some people have to do.
Glen Nelson: In that instance, the Shepherd Boy is all by himself, is completely exposed. There's no cover...
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: You choke, that's the end. There's no hiding.
Ruby Gilmore: Actually, it's a girl that does it now. And she has been doing it for like, I think, the past two seasons. And she has a fantastic voice. It's just because she's so young, it fits her voice very well. I feel like my friend and I were just a little too old-sounding to do it. But in a Midsummer Night's Dream...
Glen Nelson: Yeah, you're super old...
Ruby Gilmore: ...There were the four soloists--Peas blossom, Moth, Mustard Seed, and the other one, whatever the fairie's names are. But the music that they had to learn, they were in solo classes just pounding that music for months. They had to work so hard because the harmonies were complex, and they had to get the pronunciation right. Even if it was in English, the words were just poetic and complicated, and they had to sing some really high notes all together, in tune, and they had to perform with the soloists and still be heard. Just the stuff that some kids are expected to do at such a young age is crazy.
Glen Nelson: Now let's end today by talking about the way that your creative lives and your spiritual lives intersect. 50 years ago President Kimball--he was Elder Kimball at the time--gave a speech at BYU about artists in the Church. And usually when we hear about this speech, which really has become a kind of a clarion call for artists to participate in the Church, it's usually aimed at the creative side of things. But I was recently rereading the speech, and there's a ton of it about performers and particularly about opera, which surprised me. President Kimball was a singer; he was a baritone. And I want to read a little passage of this and then ask what you think, OK? "With regard to masters, surely there must be many Wagners in the church approaching him or yet to come into tomorrow's young people..." That would be you. "...with a love of art, talent supreme, and eagerness to create. I hope we may produce men greater than this German composer Wagner." Here's another phrase, "Who of us has not sat spellbound with Aida, Il Trovatore, and others of the masterpieces of Verdi. Can there never be another Verdi or his superiors." Here's another one: "Is there anyone who has not been stirred by the rich melodic voice of Enrico Caruso, Italian-born operatic tenor? Surely there must have been few voices which have inspired so many. Considered to be the greatest voice of his century by many, year after year he was the chief attraction at the Metropolitan Opera." That's the end of that quote. Kimball goes on to talk about other legendary opera singers like Jenny Lind and a few others and then quotes Brigham Young, "Every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and all sciences and arts belongs to the Saints." And then he ends his speech with this statement, "We must recognize that excellence and quality are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and about life and about God." So those are sort of intense statements--that excellence and quality are a reflection about how we feel about ourselves and God. What do you think about that? Is there a connection between your testimonies and your talents? What you think?
Ruby Gilmore: I feel like definitely that my testimony has grown through this.
Glen Nelson: How so?
Ruby Gilmore: Just because it is something that is so special to me, and it's something that brings me such joy. And the fact that something like that is even able to exist and the fact that people are even able to create a sound that so moving just definitely speaks to me that there is someone that loves me, that I have a Heavenly Father that is willing to help me achieve these goals. It's like the fact that I was given this opportunity, an opportunity that has changed my life is, like I think, almost irrefutable proof that someone knows what I'm going through. Someone knows that this will help me forever.
Glen Nelson: Wow. All right. Addy, what do you think about this connection of your testimony and talent?
Addy Hawley: Well, I guess my testimony you kind of got stronger. I mean I guess it just kind of gave me, like when I ws performing, it gave me a little more confidence and a little more strength which went with my testimony. Just like everything was kind of reinforced a little bit. Like right before going onstage, sometimes I say a little prayer...
Ruby Gilmore: I always do that.
Addy Hawley: Like for good luck. And it just kind of calms you.
Glen Nelson: Calms you down?
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah.
Addy Hawley: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: I had the exact opposite experience. I am a terrible performer and certainly not at your level. But I paid my way through college in a ballet company. And I had my premiere at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City, and I had to wear these boots--kind of like Agnes de Mille, kind of cowboy boots--and one of the boots was too small. And so I was supposed to go on, and the music had already started, and I couldn't get that foot in.
Ruby Gilmore: Oh no!
Glen Nelson: And so my prayer wasn't a calming prayer. It was this begging, pleading dealmaking prayer, "I'll do anything, just let me get this shoe on." And it did. It went on. And then so did I.
Ruby Gilmore: Yeah. I definitely say prayers a lot during that kind of stuff. Every time I have an audition. I'm just like shaking. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, please help me calm down. Please help me calm down." And I'm like, "Ahhh. OK." Then there's little incidents like where my costume snags, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. Please help me get this undone in time," or something like that.
Addy Hawley: Right.
Glen Nelson: When you talk to the creative people who are making masterpieces like this, many of them describing spiritual terms the inspiration that went into great works, and they often will give credit to God for them. And so I think having access to these great works like you've had in both of your disciplines is a really rare thing. And you know, I think when you're performing music or ballet like that you can say, "Wow! I'm part of this direct line to God and creation." Well, I want to thank Ruby Gilmore and Addy Hawley for taking the time to sit down with me today. We could probably chat for hours, but both of you have a million other things to do, which is a hallmark of being a talented teenager. Thanks for being here today. And I also want to thank you for being such wonderful examples to me and my family on behalf of the Mormon Art Center. I wish to thank your listeners too for checking out our podcast. This is the eighth episode in our monthly discussion with artists of the church. You can learn more about the Mormon Arts Center on our website, and I hope you'll tell your friends about us and share these podcasts with them. The music on this episode is from Puccini's La Boheme. This podcast was recorded on October 23 2018 in New York. I'm Glen Nelson. Goodbye.