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Tell me about your work: Chris Reza


Photo credit: Bryan Canonigo

What sort of work do you do?

I'm a composer, lyricist, bookwriter, Broadway musician, and activist for labor and social justice.

As a performer, I professionally play 16 woodwinds. I have served as a chair-holder in Radio City's Christmas Spectacular and Broadway's Fun Home, and also as a substitute musician in Broadway's The Book of Mormon, Matilda, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

As a labor activist, I am the Vice-Chair of the Broadway Theatre Committee which negotiates the collective bargaining agreement for the Broadway-musician community, the largest collective bargaining unit of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, American Federation of Musicians, Local 802.

As a writer, I wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the musical Question 1 (currently in development) which explores human equality within social activism.


Photo credit: Jenny Anderson

What do you find most rewarding about it?

This is best described by my experiences as the reed player for Broadway’s Tony-award-winning musical Fun Home. Audience members would send us letters detailing how the show helped empower them to come out of the closet, to face their otherwise debilitating fears, to become true to themselves and others, and to see the beauty that resides within them. I do what I do because I know that my art--whether as a performer, writer, or activist--can potentially bring one person light during their time of darkness.

What do you find most challenging about it?

Simultaneously pursuing what some might consider to be 3 distinct careers requires the utmost commitment to effective time-management, goal-setting, and body-mind mastery.

What led to you doing this sort of work? What role, if any, did your musical education at UNT play in preparing for this work?

Growing up, I played saxophone in my middle and high school jazz bands which required that I also double on flute and clarinet. This consequently lead me to earn two bachelor's degrees at UNT (jazz studies and multiple woodwinds performance). The high demand for--but low supply of--musicians who can play in a jazz style and also play double reeds (e.g. oboe, English Horn) in a classical style really helped me break into the Broadway scene quickly.

I earned a master's degree in jazz composition from the Manhattan School of Music where I was introduced to musical theater writing. I've since used theater's storytelling power as my new passionate medium for activism.


Photo credit: Viva Violeta Photography

What might you have done differently during your time at UNT if you knew you would be doing this sort of work now?

Before listing what I would have done differently, here are a few things I did that proved integral to getting me where I am today:

GOALS

  • Write down your short, mid, and long-term goals and make them SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based)
  • Make your goals known to those who can help you achieve them
  • Track your progress regularly
  • Review and revise your goals at least once per year
  • Acutely manage your time, constantly ensuring alignment with your goals and priorities

THE BUSINESS

  • Before moving to a new scene, ask for as many referrals, connections, and recommendations as you can get from your current network of friends, family, colleagues, and faculty
  • Create your own LUCK (labor under controlled knowledge) by consciously putting yourself in the right place at the right time
  • Perfect your elevator pitch
  • Dialogues--not monologues--result in healthier networking

Below are things I wish I had understood better during my time at UNT:

SPIRITUAL

  • Pursue as much truth, beauty, and kindness in your life and in your art as possible (i.e. minimize the things, thoughts, and people in your life that do not embody truth, beauty, and kindness)
  • Gratitude is the one skill that "takes a second to learn, and will instantly change your life. You'll be more resilient, more humble, and more prepared to take what the entrepreneurial life throws at you."

HEALTH (MENTAL AND PHYSICAL)

  • Meditate 30 minutes per day. If you're too busy, then meditate for an hour
  • Full nights of sleep help your body and mind focus which makes better use of your practice time and retention
  • Show yourself compassion, patience, and respect by celebrating progress big and small--not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good

RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY

  • The three inescapable relationships you have in life are with yourself, with food, and with money, so make them all healthy
  • Consider maxing out retirement contributions starting today
  • Actively manage your cash flow to build financial abundance; living paycheck to paycheck negatively impacts your life and, thus, your art
  • "I am choosing to pursue an artistic career, which means that I have a responsibility to create not just the time to pursue my art, but also the financial stability that allows me to do so from a place of strength."


Photo credit: Kevin Chavez

What else would you like readers to know about your work?

If you or anyone you know wants to learn about breaking into Broadway or NYC living, feel free to contact me at Info@ChrisReza.com.

Greenroom Conversations, a podcast dedicated to inspiring students and those finding their own path to "making it" in the performing arts, interviewed me in 2014. It is available here.

About my musical: "When a closeted politician becomes the center of Maine's heated 2009 same-sex marriage debate, he must choose between being honest with himself and the world, or risk losing his entire career and family. Inspired by true events, Question 1 is a musical dramedy about human equality and the power within each of us to contribute either strife or kindness to humanity."

www.ChrisReza.com

www.Question1Musical.com