It’s hard to believe that I’m here, taking the subway to downtown Manhattan every day. It’s awesome, scary, and wonderful all at the same time. Suddenly moving to New York City, with a family of four, has proven quite challenging and overwhelming. But one miracle at a time, things continue to work out. And thus I’ve decided to write a blog entry of my transition experience,
For about the last five years, my career plan has been to finish an undergraduate degree in music, then get a masters, then apply to the BMI Workshop for musical theatre writers in New York City. As I approached the conclusion of my masters at JMU this last year, I began applying for teaching positions in music at community colleges in and around the New York City area. I applied to several positions and occasionally received a rejection letter. Mostly, I heard nothing. Time passed and I applied to more jobs every week with the same results. I began expanding my search to teaching at private high schools and music administrative positions. Again, a few rejection letters, but mostly I heard nothing. As months passed I grew more desperate and began applying to jobs all over the country, and was again unsuccessful.
I graduated in the spring, and then started up my own window washing business to support my family through the summer while I continued to look for work. When I mentioned to members of my church that I was starting my own business, the number of people that offered their help was miraculous. Before I knew it, I was borrowing a truck, a rack, and ladders, getting business cards, T-shirts, and even got magnets on the truck that said Kyle’s Window Washing, all through friends at church.
So the summer was spent washing windows and applying for more jobs. While the job front continued to be unsuccessful, window washing was hugely successful. I even hired a friend from church to be my assistant to expand my business. But facing rejection on the job search was exhausting. I expanded my search further by tweeting, craigslisting, cold-calling schools and businesses. It was some of the most discouraging months of my life.
I decided to take action and go to a job fair for adjunct faculty at a community college in Hicksville, NY (which is in Long Island, about an hour train ride from the city). The school was quite taken with me, but had little promise for an opening for me. While I was in New York, I met with a member of my church who works there as a producer. He opened my eyes to the idea that most artists in New York have a random “bread and butter” job to pay the bills while they pursue their art. Perhaps the most valuable part of the trip was the feeling that I was meant to move there to New York. That was an encouraging feeling, especially since I had been void of feeling toward any direction for so long.
Then, in early August, a critical moment of decision came. I was suddenly offered a job teaching a dictation class at JMU, and was given less than a week to respond. I had just barely submitted my application to the BMI Workshop, and wouldn’t know if I was selected for an audition for a couple weeks. Tawnya and I did some serious soul searching that week, and realized that we were not meant to stay in Virginia, but the time had come for our family to go to New York, whatever it takes.
I decided to move my window washing business to Hicksville New York, starting it up the same way I did in VA, and have windows be my bread and butter job. With a healthy loan from my parents, and with some help from friends at church, I purchased an old truck, ladders, rack, and gear, and then took my assistant with me to New York for a week as a test run. In that week, my plan was to start the business and find a place to live, while Tawnya stayed back to pack all our stuff. Well the week went okay; sales weren’t as strong as I’d hoped. But the most difficult part by far was finding a place to live that would accept us. I had no evidence of an income in an extremely expensive place to live, and no landlord would take me.
Then, what seemed like a miracle happened. Down the street from my realtor in Bellrose, NY, was a beautiful house. A cute little two-story cottage-style house in a wonderful neighborhood was available. I met with the landlord, who was terrified by my business plan, but was so taken with me that he gave me a chance and said my family could rent from him. I called Tawnya and confirmed to have our stuff moved to our new home. Then the next day, the landlord backed out. I was now homeless and jobless with a family of four. I have never felt more lost, scared or alone.
There were however, two items of good news that happened that week. First, I had been selected for an audition at the BMI Workshop for musical theatre writers. The second was that my older brother offered my family a place to stay in his family’s basement in Connecticut until we figured things out. And so we packed our stuff into storage cubes and took a few belongings to live with my brother and his family for a few months. I had three goals that were my full-time focus: get into the BMI Workshop, get a job, then get a place to live.
The same week as my audition, I was near BMI in New York City and decided that I would start walking into businesses, introducing myself, and seek a bread and butter job. In order to do so, I would need to print out some nice copies of my resume. At that moment, I saw a Staples. As I walked in to make some copies, I saw a sign on the door that said they were hiring sales associates. So I introduced myself, with my resume, and was told to apply online and that they would get back to me.
Meanwhile, Tawnya and I went to the Latter-Day Saint employment center for members of my church looking for work in New York City. They had little to offer me, but a kind woman there was from Brooklyn, and said that she could help us find a place in Brooklyn once I got a job. She said that she actually owned a basement apartment herself, but that it was too disorganized to rent out.
Then I heard back from BMI. I was accepted as an auditor, meaning I would attend all of the classes and discussions, but not present my work in class. The auditors usually get together and collaborate, performing assignments outside class. Four of the people that were accepted to the workshop this year were auditors last year. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It’s given me a calmer transition into my music career while I get my new life in order.
With a job secured and an acceptance to BMI, we needed a place to live. The Staples job is a small income for a city so expensive, so we began to look for a small one-bedroom place, but no one would rent a small space to a family of four. I called the kind woman from the church employment services and made her an offer. I asked if I could come work on organizing her extra apartment for a week before starting work at Staples, and then have my family rent from her, paying a reasonable price in an unreasonably priced part of the world.
She agreed, and we worked, worked, and worked on the apartment. It was an apartment full of things that needed to be relocated, and I just happen to own an old truck. After a most overwhelming two weeks, Tawnya and the boys moved in, and while I wasn’t working at Staples or attending BMI, we were painting and cleaning the apartment into the middle of the night each night. All of our stuff was then delivered, and we started the process of unpacking.
Now, after a month of living in Brooklyn, it is starting to feel like home. The BMI Workshop is excellent. I feel honored to be associated with such a high caliber of musicians. In my collaborations thus far, I have been a composer collaborating with a lyricist, and I really enjoy it! Staples meanwhile is going well enough. I work a lot of hours for little pay, especially when I compare it to window washing in VA. But I’m beginning to excel at my job and it is fun to have a leadership position at work.
As I reflect on moving to New York City, I think a lot about the miracles that have gotten us here. Miracles happened again and again as I got into BMI, got a job, and especially as I got a home, but the miracles for my family these last few months always came after exercising faith. Sometimes the leaps of faith came with overwhelming struggles and tears of frustration, but as we acted in faith we were blessed with miracles. And in almost every case, the miracle was delivered through a member of our family or our church.
Thank you to the many of you who have helped us make it this far. You have been the miracles for our family. Wish us well on our journey!