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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
BITS & PIECES: CHRISTINA BRITTON CONROY
I remember the first time I met Christina. It was right before a meeting of RWA-NYC, and she was dazzling! She was selling her novel, ONE MAN’S MUSIC, which after talking to her is higher on my queue than it already was. There is something about her. She is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. Every time she comes to a meeting, she has something going on. I admired her stamina. But being a writer is only one of Christina’s incarnations. She is also an actress and director of her own non-profit organization, MUSIC GIVES LIFE. Her Show Stoppers, a musical band of seniors were “NYers of the Week” on NY1 TV News. She is a music therapist; has been an opera singer, model, dancer, and the list goes on. Now, she’s taking on the additional role of co-Vice President of the RWA New York City Chapter. Christina herself admits that she cannot sit still, but she was gracious and managed to be still for me when we met on New Year's Eve in French Roast. When our waitress came to our table and did not write down our order, Christina remarked that European waitpersons never write anything down. (She had been a waitress in another incarnation as well.) Even though she spent most of her childhood in New York, Christina has a very cosmopolitan vibe and a very European sensibility. She is a human chameleon, striking, inspirational and just electric. I touch her hand several times while we are talking hoping that some of it will rub off on me. I could barely eat or drink my coffee with creme de cacao because everything that she said was something that I had to capture. Here are bits and pieces of Christina Britton Conroy. --FSolomon
“If you put something out there, something is going to come back. It might not be what you were looking for, or what you dreamed of, even what you really wanted, but it will be good.
“When I was waiting tables, working my way through the University of Toronto, one restaurant manager told his friends that I was a student at a the prestigious Faculty of Music. To prove it, they asked me how to conduct in 5/4 time. When and I said there are two ways, they were impressed, and burst out laughing. No one has ever asked me that, before or since.
On being an Opera Singer: “I was with the Heidelberg Opera for three years. It was a great theatrical apprenticeship. I never got to be the star, and that was frustrating. Every midsize German theater has opera, ballet, and a theater company on the same stage, in reparatory, eleven months a year. I was on stage every night. I learned German (which I did not speak when I got there). After a couple of years, my German was so good; people thought I was a native. I later sang in Italy and Mexico. They are not as organized as the Germans.
On how she met her husband 23 years ago: “I took an acting class, and he was my teacher. I had a running part on a TV show called “Tattengers,” and was often kept late on the set. I missed a lot of classes. Making up those classes sure helped the romance.
Oh how she became a romance novelist: “My book happened to be published by a romance publisher who was starting a new division called Literary Love Stories. My novel, ONE MAN’S MUSIC, was a screenplay before it was a novel. I am still trying to get a screenplay agent. My current literary agent does not have a license to represent screenplays.
“I started writing so late because I am slightly dyslexic. In school I loved writing stories and I would get them back with bad grades for spelling and grammar. Thank goodness for computer spell and grammar check!
“I learned about sex when I was five, but didn’t know it. I asked my mother how dogs made puppies. She told me. I thought it was totally disgusting. It took me 10 years to realize human beings did the same thing.
On marketing herself: “Marketing is a whole other mind set. I hate it, but am pretty good at it. I did it for 20 years in Show Biz, and five years for Music Gives Life. There is no other way to survive. Friends ask if I am singing, and I say that I’m not out here looking for singing work. Employment, like real friends, don’t come to you. You have to work for both. I am on Facebook for PR only. When I wanted lots of people to buy my book, I spread the word there.
“I was an actress and model since I was 7. By the time I trained as a dancer, I was too old to develop a professional technique. As a singer/dancer, I danced a lot in musical theatre and took classes with the corps du ballet in Germany. They were amazed that an opera singer wanted to take a ballet class. As a kid, I loved to sing, but my mother did not want me to be a ‘professional child.’ She let me study. I first took classes at Julliard Pre-college, later at Interlochen Arts Academy & Camp.
On how she unwinds: “I watch reruns of Law and Order. It has really good characters and really good plot lines. They have to wind the stories up in 50 minutes, and it is comforting to know there is always going to be a resolution.
“I cannot sit still, and I drive my husband crazy, bouncing around the apartment. I tried yoga and HATED it. I tried meditation and HATED IT. I can do walking meditation, but I cannot stay still.
“I dislike exercise and do it religiously. At the foot of my bed I have a cross-country machine, weights, and a stair-climber. I have therapy stretch bands on the bathroom door. I do ballet stretches, and sit-ups on the floor. I would never exercise if I had to go out to a gym, get sweaty, come home again, and dress for work.
“As a music therapist, I work in five sites, in four boroughs. One of my colleagues asked if I was doing something special for my birthday. It seemed like a strange question. Every day of my life I do something special, a little bit scary, and something I may never have done before. The idea of doing something special for my birthday….Every day is special.
“Once, I was teaching music at a Mommy and Me program. The whole point of Mommy and Me is to bond with your kids. Some kids always came with a nanny. The owner of the school said some of those mothers did not even work. I thought it was a shame.
“I changed careers about 20 years ago. Broadway went dark. There were only about ten shows playing, and most touring shows closed. All of a sudden, a thousand singer/dancer/actors that had never had to take a survival job were out of work. My father was a shrink, psychotherapy talk had been dinner table conversation, so moving into music therapy pretty organic. Before I had any formal training, I B.S.ed my way into a job with mentally retarded adults. I had never even met a mentally retarded person. When I came in for an interview, the director of the facility watched the participants hover over and hug me. When I laughed and hugged them back, I was hired. After that I started my music therapy MA at NYU. It was horribly expensive, but my next job was in a medical facility, and they always offer tuition aide.
“I read TWILIGHT when I was working in publishing. It was just one many of the books looking for foreign representation. I was forced to read books I would never have read by choice. TWILIGHT was a great fairy tale and I am into fairy tales.
“I have no patience with people who can't make decisions. Years ago, I decided I was going to make fast decisions, and if they turned out wrong, I'd fix them later. I guess that’s why, every time you see me, there’s something new going on in my life.
“As you can see, I am very adaptable. Improvisation is one of my best skills.
“I am not into astrology except what hits me in the face. I am a true Scorpio.
“If you need something done, ask a busy person. They are organized and reliable.
“My best talent is putting on theatrical events.”
Her theatrical gift is something that she plans to utilize for this year's Golden Apple Awards, as Vice President and Chairperson of the event, and I believe she can do it.♥