- Karel Goetghebeur #2 - June 22, 2020
- Karel Goetghebeur #1 - June 15, 2020
- Adolphe Sax #2 - June 8, 2020
Okay, how did I start acting? Well, it’s an odd story. When I was in grade school, I was singled out to narrate a play. I don’t remember what the play was or about, but the teacher chose me to narrate. On the day of the play, another class, I had a field trip to McDonnell Douglas. They made airplanes, and the teacher told us we would see how the planes were built and go on an airplane. I decided the field trip was more important, so I chose that. The teacher who was putting on the play was quite upset, and she had to narrate herself. That was my first experience with the importance of doing what you said you would do. Now I host a “Podcast” of all things. Life!
In high school, I went to the Visual and Performing Arts High School (VAP) in St Louis, Missouri. When I attended VAP, it was downtown, near Soulard Market. The school had different departments, and I was in, the music department, and playing the saxophone. They have the fine arts department and the acting department. There were no sports there when I was there, and they finally started a basketball team. I believe it was in my junior year or something like that. Still, that was my first year there, to be honest, I attended Sumner High School in St Louis before that, then I transferred to Visual and Performing Arts High School my junior year.
So I was in the band. I was one of many musicians at the school. I was in the big band and the orchestra and some of the small outfits they had there too; if I’m correct, there was a saxophone quartet and things like that. There were a couple of musicals that the band would have to play the music for, so I was in the pit ban during that time. I played in a production of “Oliver” that I’ll never forget. It was so much fun. Some great music, that was such a great play, and I played the clarinet and the flute and the saxophone in the pit band. It was a great experience, and I also was in the pit band for the production of “The Wiz.” It was great, but the actors and the musicians didn’t come together, you know, they had different cliques, and the musicians pretty much hung out with the other musicians. The actors hung out with the actors, and there was no animosity or anything. I just knew my friends were musicians. I had no desire to be an actor wasn’t thinking about theater or anything like that at that time. I only cared about being a musician.
I graduated from high school and attended Webster College in Webster Groves, Missouri. It was “Webster College” then, but now it’s gotten an upgrade, and it’s Webster University now, but at that time, it was Webster College. Webster College was one of the best colleges in the country for theater, and students were traveling from all over the country trying to get into Webster. You could see that in the student body, how stressed out they were because if you got into the college, it didn’t mean that you would stay and the college. The Theater Department had an audition to get in, and there was an audition to stay in after your freshman year.
I’ll never forget a prank, my roommate, Pablo, and I did at Webster. I called him Pablo, but that’s not his real name. I’m not going to tell you his real name, but he was a drummer, and he was from Spain, and we did quite a few pranks and this is one I’ll never forget. Pablo, my friend Miguel from Venezuala and I saw some of the acting students building a snowman. So we disassembled the Snowman and put it back together in the elevator of the college. That was before they had smartphones and everything. Still, someone saw us and told the powers that be.
Still, we didn’t care because we were kids. We were summoned by the Dean’s Office afterward, but she laughed it off too. Still, she told us that it was hazardous, you know and what if we had shorted out the elevator or could have started a fire or something like that. But that’s what we thought of the actors at the time because we were young and ignorant and immature. Still, it was fun! But, at that time I wasn’t thinking of acting. It wasn’t something that I thought of pursuing at all.
I did one year at Webster College and decided that I wanted to go back to Boston. When I was a junior at VAP I got a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music for a summer. I was a program for high school students. I love it and wanted to return so, I applied to Berklee, and I got in. I met some great musicians at Berklee and studied sax with teachers like Bill Pierce and George Garzone. It is a very extraordinary school. I’m sure it’s even more intense now. Still, it was incredibly passionate, and I met some lifelong friends there and saw some extraordinary musicians playing there. That’s where I met sax legend, Branford Marsalis. I was introduced to the great Greg Osby in St Louis, maybe two or three years before I went up to Berklee. Still, he was at Berklee at that time, and the late trumpeter Wallace Roney, New Orleans Sax God Donald Harrison, and smooth jazz sax legend Walter Beasley and drummer and current Berklee Dean of Students was my roommate, Ron Savage to name a few. Yes, quite a few beautiful musicians attended Berklee, and it was an all-encompassing, very intense experience.
So I’m studying music not thinking about theater anything like that just trying my best to be as good a musician as I could and learn as much as I could. One of my very close friends also from St Louis musician/trumpet player Kevin Batchelor reconnected at Berklee. Kevin and I both played in the “All-City Orchestra” in St. Louis, and it was good to see him in Boston. Kevin persuaded me to join a local reggae band. Berklee was, you know, a very “Jazz Centric” school I was like yeah why not, you know because I was listening to Bob Marley. I had started listening to Bob Marley in St Louis, which was the only reggae I knew to at the time. I don’t know where Kevin got this information, but Kevin got us both into this local reggae band called “Healing of the Nation” with a name like that you better be a good band, and we played all over New England. We had a great time in that band some of you may know Kevin went on to be the main-man around the world as far as “Reggae Hornsmen” are concerned.
Kevin and I separated at one point. We both moved out to New York, and I wasn’t a big fan of New York. I love the city! It is the most magnificent city in the world, but I wanted to finish school, so I came back to Berklee and started continuing my schooling. Neil McGee, who was a friend I had met in reggae, introduced me to Mikey Dread, the great reggae producer, and he says, “Hey, you want to go on the road?” I was like, “Okay! I’ll go on the road!” I’ll get back, and I’ll finish school later. So I ended up going to Europe with Mikey Dread we went to England, France, Scandinavian, and other countries and it was a great experience. Mikey was a wild person.
I’m in London with Mikey Dread, and I was staying at this friend of his whose name I can’t remember. This guy allowed me to stay at his place while he lived with his girlfriend. I lived there alone, just me at this charming place over near Wembley Stadium. He didn’t have much in the apartment, but he had the autobiography of Sidney Poitier. I’ll never forget it. I found out that Sidney Poitier started acting when he was in his mid-twenties he was just looking for work and saw an advertisement saying “actors wanted” and he auditioned, and you know the rest is history
After reading that book, I noticed that a lot of musicians were starting to get into acting, and a lot of actors started to get into music. It might have been the book that influenced my thinking, or it just brought that to my attention, but I thought of acting differently after reading Sidney’s life story.
So I came back to Boston after the tour and started playing with some local bands. I also noticed that some of the groups that I was playing with I just didn’t enjoy the experience. The frontmen/women of the bands I thought, you know, I can do that. I got tired of being a sideman. But I was very shy at the time, and I thought, well I have to figure out how to do this because I’m really shy and I need to get over this shyness.
So a friend suggested I try acting and I thought that’s not a bad idea. Sidney Poitier started his acting career in his twenties. I’m just doing this to get over my shyness, so I can get myself out front. I looked in the local newspaper for acting work, to see if I can find some work and there was a production of Amari Baraka’s “The Dutchman” that was being produced. I thought, okay, I’ll audition for it. I didn’t think I’ll get a part, but I thought this is how it starts, you know, so I went down, and I auditioned. When the director saw that I was also a musician, he said, “Hey, I can’t give you the main part in the play, but I’ll make a part for you. You’re going to be a street musician,” because the play was set on the subway, but this particular production was set on a bus on a real bus that was parked downtown in Boston’s Government Center.
I don’t know how he got that to happen. The director/producers had a bus parked on Government Center in downtown Boston and the audience came onto the bus to see the play. I was on the bus as the audience entered dressed up as a homeless street musician in the back of the bus with my saxophone. During intermission, I played my horn, and I and recited a self-written poem that would bring the play from the 1960s up to the present. Another time the director instructed me to play the sax was during a particular monologue that the male actor had about Charlie Parker. He said, “why don’t you play a little music during this part about Charlie Parker?” There Charlie Parker is again! He’s always there!
I was excited to be in my very first play! When the reviews came, they were great! I got better reviews than the other actors in the play! I fell in love with the theatre! I started auditioning more, but I didn’t have any experience, but I just kept auditioning, kept auditioning. I got some other parts, and then I start thinking you know, “I need to figure this out.” I fell in love with acting, so I audition for a local conservatory, the New Ehrlich Conservatory. When I got accepted, there was no return for me. I was hooked!
I auditioned for a new program at Harvard, where the instructors from the Moscow Art Theater came over to instruct us about method acting techniques. I got into that program, and I never looked back. I have been acting ever since. I’ve been in many plays and toured the country as Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in Jeff Stetson’s award-winning play “The Meeting.” I received an IRNE (Independent Reviews of New England) nomination as “Best Male Actor” at the Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” and I wrote my play about Charlie Parker entitled “Live Bird” and toured the country and performed it in Charlie Parker’s hometown and my home state Kansas City Missouri and at one of the original homes of Bebop Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem.
I was “The Musician” in Jack Kerouac’s home town Lowell Massachusetts’ Merrimack Repertory Theater’s world premiere of Kerouac only play “Beat Generation” and here is the Rolling Stone Review.