College is a time to explore your options, take classes in many fields, and, hopefully, find your passion in life. But, who says you have to stick to one passion? Read the story of B.J. Reed to see how your college major may be just a starting point, and how a techie can become an acclaimed singer and actress.
I saw my first Broadway show when I was 15. My high school drama teacher gave me a theater ticket, so I travelled alone from East Orange, New Jersey, to the Great White Way to see Patricia Neal, Jack Albertson, and Martin Sheen The Subject Was Roses. It was the most magical thing that I had ever experienced. The play was good, but the feeling of enchantment permeated every part of me.
I determined then that I needed to be a part of that magic.
I attended the Howard University School of Fine Arts, earning a degree in directing and production with an emphasis in lighting design. As a lighting designer, I had the opportunity to work with some exceptional people—Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, and many others. I was making magic.
Now I had another talent, but with the likes of Roberta Flack, Donnie Hathaway, and Jessie Norman (opera diva) preceding me at Howard, I hadn’t dared be so presumptuous as to even consider myself a singer.
But my life changed substantially when I returned to Canada. Much to my astonishment, I became a local celebrity—as a singer no less!
I started out taking occasional singing jobs with local bands. Incredibly, as a result, I received a call from a production house asking me to audition for a national jingle.
That jingle launched my professional career as a nightclub singer (chanteuse), musical comedy/cabaret performer, and movie actress. Who knew?
I performed in the Canadian companies of Ain’t Misbehavin (for which I was nominated for the Canadian version of a Tony), A…My Name Is Alice, Mama, I Want to Sing, and Indigo. I was the headliner of a musical revue in Bermuda for ten months, and I appeared in three movies. Then there were countless radio and television jingles, voiceovers, and nightclub performances. But my biggest boast—after being my son’s hockey coach—is having been chosen to sing at the wedding of Wayne Gretzsky and Janet Jones. All this came about as a result of singing about trains.
Lighting will always be my first love, but I must admit that my whether onstage or backstage, I have been fortunate to have made magic all of my professional life.