from the May 2010 issue of KC Stage
Darin Parker has students from Topeka to Liberty. As a vocal teacher, he’s had his own private studio for 17 years now. But when asked why he’s drawn to music, Parker isn’t quite sure how to articulate. “I have thought of that many times, and I just don’t know. It just seems right.”
Parker grew up in Sibley, Mo., and you can hear that slight Midwestern twang in his voice. His career started out as a choir teacher: first in Liberal, Kan., but then he moved back to the Kansas City area (and taught at Richmond High School) when his grandfather passed away. “I felt the need to be closer to home,” he explains. It also helped that Brad Zimmerman, knowing Parker’s desire to start a studio, had let him know that there was a need for signing teachers in the area. “And he was right. There has been a need, and I’ve been really fortunate to be able to fill that void,” Parker says.
Parker has had up to 55 students at once, but really feels that his current load of around 30 is better for everyone. “That’s a good place where I want to be, because I can stay focused for everyone, and at the end of the day, I’m not so tired that somebody’s getting cheated.”
While he’s had students of all ages, from five (although he thinks that’s too young to start voice lessons) to students in their 70s, he has mostly high school students preparing for auditions for high school or community productions. They also are preparing for contests or for scholarship auditions for college. He’s a dedicated teacher, having extra sessions when it’s festival time. “They’ll come in and we’ll go ‘til all hours of the night just to get them prepared for whatever they need.”
Parker’s friendship with Zimmerman is partly responsible for his current production, being involved in the Chestnut Fine Art Theatre’s production of Leading Men of Broadway, performing May 20 - June 20.
“Brad’s fun to work with,” Parker says as to why he auditioned for the Chestnut. “I’m one of his Dickens Carolers, and have been for about 11 years. The first time I ran into him was doing Oklahoma at The Park years ago. I know that I enjoyed working with him in that show and enjoyed working with him caroling every year. “ Parker laughs, and adds, “It doesn’t hurt either that it’s in Olathe and right down the road. I love that, so I can boogie over there without too much delay.”
On a more serious note, Parker continues, “It’s just nice to be able to sing with people you enjoy and for people you enjoy.”
This singing has helped land him a Grammy - in a way - as part of the Kansas City Chorale’s Grammy win two years ago. “It’s obviously not something that I did personally,” he says modestly, “it’s not my award. I sang with them for six years, and to be nominated on two different recordings for the Grammy award is ... it is somewhat overwhelming. I really feel blessed that I have had that opportunity and to actually go to the awards.”
While the Chestnut program is mostly singing, Parker also has acted, most recently as “Tom Collins” in Rent. While his interest in acting came about mostly due to his interest in musicals, it’s become more important as time progressed. “At that point [in high school], that was an outlet to sing. And I probably didn’t focus on the acting like I do now. At that point, it was just, ‘How can I sing more?’”
He laughs as he recalls why he started focusing on acting. “When you start watching videos back of shows that you did where you weren’t necessarily thinking about acting, it was just painfully obvious that something needed to change. So I started working on that in high school and through college.”
He also works on his acting as a way to get cast more. “I think good singers are a dime a dozen,” he says. “You can go into an audition and you can sing technically better than anyone else, but if you cannot connect with the character, you’re not gonna get the part. And I feel that acting is primary.”
Parker is well-rounded, having done his share of song writing and choreography as well. It comes from his philosophy of “the freedom to do. Not given any confines.” He also feels he is constantly trying to better himself. “If you become content, then it suffers,” he says. “I’m constantly working on it, and I think if you’re not, then you need to get out of it.”
This idea of “the freedom to do” also applies to the one piece of advice he wished he had sooner. “One thing that would get me in a lot of trouble mentally, is I would obsess over correct technique. If I didn’t do something technically the way I had planned in an audition, then it would just eat at me at that moment.”
He smiles, and says, “So one thing I’ve learned is just let it go. It doesn’t matter. Your voice cracked? So what? They most generally don’t care if your voice cracks, you know. You can learn from that. Turn it into a character choice. Because it could very well happen in a performance.”
His enthusiasm for music and theatre is apparent: from signed show posters and programs decorating his studio to talking about Glee. He talks with a passion about the current challenges facing the performing arts. “It’s not solely about having fun,” he says. “It is feeding a need of the soul. I think that society as a whole does not feel that it is a need. I think that they feel it’s an elective in life, rather than a core subject.”
Chestnut Fine Arts Theatre
chestnutfinearts.com, (913) 764-2121.