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Grant Yosenick

Several years ago – it honestly seems hard to remember now – I took part in a summer program at the Arts and Learning Conservatory in Costa Mesa, California. As I recall, I played Mr. Teavee in a stage adaptation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and as I also recall I had an amazing experience! Recently a representative from ALC contacted me with a simple question – “what have you been up to since your time at ALC?” Although things have shaken up recently (for reasons that should be obvious), I will attempt to answer that question here below. I’ll start by talking broadly about the years between my time at ALC and the present, and then go into more detail about my more recent activities.

In the years following my participation at ALC, I remained very active in the arts and specifically in music and singing. I took part in my high school’s marching band, chamber choir and musical productions for all four years from 2008-2012, and after a grueling college application process I was accepted to the University of Southern California to study vocal music and business administration. After finishing my undergraduate studies in 2016, I spent a year working as part on an AmeriCorps service year program tutoring middle school students at a charter school in New York City. After that, I moved to the Boston area to start a graduate degree, and from 2017-2019 I completed a master’s program in Historical Performance at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts – right down the street from Harvard! I ended up making a lot of important connections at Longy, many of whom I have kept in close contact with since graduation.

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Transitioning from school to the “real world” was a big challenge for me. While I loved music and singing, it was always my hope to secure a “day job” (preferably as an artistic or non-profit administrator) in order to have more regular, steady income while still performing and taking gigs as well. After graduating from Longy in May 2019, I spent almost six months applying and interviewing for jobs around the Boston area. Though I was often discouraged, I persisted in my efforts until eventually I secured a job in the box office of Boston’s award-winning Huntington Theatre Company. I still remember, as I celebrated Christmas with my family that December, that the job offer from the Huntington was the best present I got that year.

In the first three months of 2020 I felt like I was on a roll! I loved my job at the Huntington not only because I got in to see Huntington shows for free, but as a member of the box office team I got to meet so many lovely and interesting people. I also saw an uptick in my artistic ventures as well, as I began to add different engagements to my calendar. All the while I kept in touch with many of my friends from Longy – we actually have a standing Dungeons and Dragons group that is active to this day.

Then, in March, COVID-19 changed everything. The Huntington immediately suspended all of its productions and all staff were required to work from home. In addition, I lost most of my scheduled live performances and spent several months in social isolation (though I had my roommates with me as well). Ultimately the Huntington, following suit with other larger performing arts organizations, suspended all performances for the coming season through spring 2021, and as a result my job was eliminated along with the majority of the other box office staff. To be honest, things felt very hopeless for me at the time. My life trajectory had been thrown viciously off-course, my prospects looked dim, and I had little to no idea how I was going to get back on track.

So what I am up to now?

As it turns out, things did eventually get better. I started a new job in August working as an Administrative Assistant for Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), a non-profit organization that promotes advocacy and services for individuals with disabilities in the state of Massachusetts. I find the job incredibly fulfilling and meaningful, not only because I have the potential to help a great number of people through these difficult times but also due to my personal investment as an individual who has a disability. Of course, the job has kept me quite busy, and there have been a lot of new challenges – particularly adapting to a full “work from home” setting. Nevertheless, I am quite satisfied with the work I have done so far, and with several big projects scheduled for the coming months I am up for any new challenges that may come my way.

While my work with MASS has kept me financially afloat as of late, making music during this pandemic has been a tense struggle to say the least. Before COVID-19 hit, I had been singing around the Boston area with such groups as the Boston Camerata, the Cambridge Chamber Ensemble, and the Choir of Men and Boys at Saint Paul Parish in Harvard Square. I had also been working on preparing a kind of cabaret-style recital program combining several different musical styles and elements. Unfortunately, at this time it appears as though live performances will not make a full return until at least the spring of 2021, but I still practice as much as I can in the meantime.

But, even though live performances are off the table, I do have a couple digital projects in the works at the moment. Since fall of 2019 I have been a member of Triad: Boston’s Choral Collective, a chamber chorus dedicated to the performance of choral music written within the last 25 years. I was fortunate to sing on a concert series in person with them last fall, and with the onset of the pandemic we have been planning a virtual concert based on what would have been our spring 2020 concert series. The virtual event is currently set for release in late November, and we will be putting together our individual parts in the coming weeks – a process that has become all too common for musicians amid COVID-19.

In addition to this project, I’ve also been dabbling into some layered home recording of choral music sung one on a part. Although I am a tenor by default, my strong falsetto register allows me to record tenor, alto, and high bass parts comfortably. I’m still getting used to the process, but I hope have a number of recordings in the books by year’s end. I’ve already completed one short piece – a Renaissance madrigal attributed to Henry VIII of England called “Pastime with good company.”

In these uncertain times, I want to give two quick pieces of advice which have guided me for the past several months.

First, you are not alone. Practically everyone struggles with something, even in “normal” circumstances, but particularly amid the social isolation imposed by the pandemic it can feel like you are out on your own. It’s easy to get weighed down when times are tough, thinking that no one else has it as bad as you do and that no one is there to help. In times like these, remember that are lots of other people out there who are likely going through hard times as well. Moreover, you can always fall back on your network for support, whether that is you friends, family, teachers, co-workers, mentors or anyone else who is important to you.

Second, no one else is you. When you encounter personal obstacles while at the same time you see others succeed, an initial knee-jerk reaction might be to sink into jealousy and criticize yourself for lack of results. It’s important to remember, though, that everyone is unique and that success means something different to everyone. Moreover, it’s not always fair to compare yourself to others – it helps from time to time to remind yourself of your own personal achievements and embrace what makes you unique.

On a personal note, I have grown substantially in my Catholic faith over the course of this pandemic. If my faith has taught me anything, it’s that God has a plan for everyone, even if that plan is hard to see. Right now, we have literally no idea how long this pandemic will last, but whatever struggles it may bring to us we will eventually and inevitably overcome them.

I hope this narrative gives you some idea of what I’ve been up to since my time at ALC. I hope you all continue to stay safe and healthy, and God bless you all