Monday, March 26, 2012

Feature Writing Assignment #4

Profile of Andre Solomon Glover

Every morning Andre Solomon Glover, 50, walks his two dogs around his Hamilton Heights neighborhood, where he’s lived in the same apartment for 22 years. After the walk, he meets Tsion, his home attendant, and walks to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and conversation. Tsion keeps Solomon Glover moving and gets him out of his apartment, otherwise he says, “I’ll just sit and surf the web.”

An opera and Broadway singer, Solomon Glover used to “live the fast life,” until a stroke drastically changed his life and his sense of himself in the world. Although he had great success before the stroke, he wasn’t happy. “My self-esteem was in tatters,” he says, adding that the stroke was really a blessing for him. “I don’t think you would have found the old Andre so interesting,” he says. “He was a pompous ass.” He didn’t know how to love himself. He says performing was “about seeking validation from audiences and less savory contexts,” declining to define what “less savory contexts” means.

Europe is where his fast living began. As a jazz singer with John Hendricks of the legendary jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, he sang in a little club called Hot Jazz in Aix en Provence. “You want to talk about heady stuff?” he says. Ella Fitzgerald’s pianist, Tommy Flanagan was a frequent house guest. “Oh man,” he says, “I’m twenty three years old and I’m hanging out with Tommy Flanagan-he was a god on the piano.” Flanagan taught him to sing Time After Time.

After four months, Solomon Glover returned to New York City to pursue a career in opera and Broadway. He laments, “It was clear to me that I didn’t have the personal discipline to make a life in jazz. Smoking two packs of cigarettes a day…the women…the booze…the late nights.” A job at the Metropolitan Opera gift shop helped him re-acclimate himself to the world of classical music. “My voice was such that…it seemed like the place for it was classical music.” Still, he doesn’t think of himself as an opera singer, saying instead, “I think of myself as a recitalist who can’t make a living singing recitals. So I go where the work is.”

And work he did. According to Mode Records website, Solomon Glover “made solo appearances in major halls throughout the U.S. and Europe and has sung with Opera de Lyon, Teatro Lirico Sperimentale in Spoleto, Italy, Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland, the Munich Biennale, Marlboro Chamber Music Festival, and the Chicago Jazz Festival. His diverse operatic roles have included Escamillo in Carmen, the title role in Rigoletto, and Porgy (in a 35-city North American tour of Porgy and Bess). On Broadway, he starred as Joe in Hal Prince's Tony Award-winning production of Showboat.” “Most of the roles that interest me are cripples,” says Solomon Glover. “Rigoletto, the Hunchback, Wozzek and Porgy. I got to do Porgy a lot. ”

To say that music is important to Solomon Glover is a vast understatement. “I was singing before I could talk, he says.” He started singing with the Free Will Baptist Church and studied music theory at DeLand Senior High School in DeLand, Fl. “The thing that I’ve come to realize was such a blessing was that it wasn’t ‘til my late teens that singing had anything to do with notation. It was like becoming literate."

Solomon Glover attended the University of South Florida where he majored in vocal performance and minored in what was then called Afro-American History. He left the university without graduating because he was offered a job as a singer and a conductor with a group called The Voices of Liberty at Epcot Center, in Orlando, Florida. He says, “The ‘academy’ was not my objective. I wanted to be in the fray.”

At the age of 40 a stroke left him with internal brain impairment. “I had the stroke and it was like, ‘Wow, this is a gift for what I want to do,’ he muses, referring to his penchant for characters with disabilities. The stroke changed his life. His primary deficit is short term memory, he’s slower and he’s on several medications to regulate his blood pressure, so he doesn’t have a great deal of stamina. “I’m still me…I’m really happy to still be alive,” he says.

Solomon Glover still sings in church every Sunday. He also spends a lot of time with poetry, in particular the poems of Sterling A. Brown, which he’ll recite to anyone willing to listen. Brown is best known for the poem, After Winter. “I’ve gotta get somebody to set that to music for me,” he says. “I could spend the rest of my life hanging out with that poem.” He also spends time with his daughter Zahra, 22 who has Asperger’s Sydrome. “She has taught me unconditional love,” he says. His relationship with his son is less amicable. “I regret not…being a better family man,” he says.

His gratitude for this second act in life is what keeps Solomon Glover motivated. He’s a much happier person, saying, “I used to hide behind grandiosity and vocabulary. I’m not hiding anymore” Even given the physical and mental changes from the stroke and the impact on his career, there’s nothing he would change about his life, adding, “For me to be who I am things have to have gone the way they’ve gone.”

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