Trust the Journey: A Conversation With Michael Idalski
Some of you might have caught Michael Idalski's performance last Sunday at the Rogers City Theater. I was lucky enough, in high school, to have had the privilege of seeing Michael perform live many times, often right alongside him in vocal music class or on stage with drama club. Even back then, it was clear that performing was not just a class or extracurricular activity for Mike. It was a passion, a drive coming from deep within, a calling that totally changed his otherwise laid back and slightly shy persona into a force to be reckoned with.
I often tell clients that there's a point during every session where a switch flips in their mind, and I can see the nervousness and anxiety fall away from their face like a mask loosening and slipping away, revealing a self-possessed and confident individual who knows that they've got this shit, just you watch. My experience alongside Mike in the performing arts was my first glimpse of that transformation, and Mike may have been the clearest example I've ever seen.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Mike while he was back in his hometown, taking a break from his day-to-day life of chasing his dreams, and bringing us all a touch of culture. We talked about growing up in northern Michigan, the impact of the arts on young people, and the best advice he's gotten so far.
When did you get involved with theater and music?
I've been singing as long as I've been talking. I'm constantly reminded that my classmates would complain about my singing in Kindergarten, but luckily Mrs. Bellmore never made me stop. I did school plays all through grade school, and began doing shows at RCCT once I started high school.
What have you been doing since graduating RCHS?
I went on to Central Michigan University. Initially, I was working towards a degree in music education, but as I got closer to graduating, I realized that my real passion was to be on stage. So, I swapped my degree to a general degree in vocal music, and focused my studies on music theater. After I graduated in 2014, I moved out to Chicago, and I've been auditioning ever since.
What sort of training did you receive, and who were your mentors?
I spent 5 years at CMU, while there my mentors were Dr. Oliver Henderson, Dr. Nina Nash-Robertson, and Cora Enmon. Since moving to Chicago, I've taken lessons and coachings with several professionals in the area. But a huge part of who I am as a performer comes from the performers that I idolize, and thanks to platforms, like YouTube, I've been able to study them closely and find aspects that I'd like to replicate.
What has been your best experience, as far as performing, to date?
Oh gosh...I'm always so thankful when I get to do what I love, so I know I've had MANY moments on stage that are heartwarming and I'm grateful for.....the one that comes to mind is actually this past Sunday in Rogers City. One of the young girls in our workshop was getting stage fright on Saturday, and wasn't sure she was going to come on Sunday. We told her that it was entirely up to her, and we would support her no matter what.
She ended up coming on Sunday, and she sat in the front row during the concert. At one point while Dakota (my co-mentor) was singing, I looked down and saw this young girl, completely enthralled. After the show, she ran up and gave us both huge hugs and told us how much fun she had. Seeing the spark in her eyes reminded me of being that age, watching RCHS perform The Sound of Music, and how I knew that the stage is where I wanted to be.
What has been your biggest challenge in life overall?
To be completely honest, my size. I've always been a large person, and while the theater community is making great strides towards inclusion of all-types, being a larger person still has it's draw backs. I tend to stick out, so cast directors don't want me in their ensembles. I'm not a typical "leading man"-type, so I rarely get seen for those parts. It's a bummer, but it's a part of the business.
What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue a career in the performing arts?
I got my mantra from my choral teacher/mentor in college, Dr. Nina Nash-Robertson, which is "Trust the journey."
Everyone's journey is different. I have friends who are younger than me that I have already been on Broadway, or are touring the world, and I am so excited for them, and their journey. Me, my journey, has me in Chicago with my fiance and dog. The performing arts is not easy, and there are no short cuts, so you have to trust your journey.
What benefits do you think are most significant to providing students with access to the arts?
The arts provide inclusion. I was never a kid who was good at sports, and I was only okay at academia, but I thrived in the arts. Through the arts, I was able to excel in an area that otherwise, wouldn't have provided me with opportunities. In High School, the arts weren't about me expressing myself, but they definitely helped me find myself.
What did you enjoy most about growing up in northern Michigan?
My family and their support. It's something I've always known that I have. Whether it was me wanting to change my major in college, or coming out to them, when I finally accepted the fact that I am gay. My family has always stood by me, and let me live the life that I want to live.
I, personally, didn't have access to arts at a professional level. My family couldn't afford to take me to Detroit, or Lansing, to see shows. I saw my first professional show (The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway) at 15, and then didn't see another professional shows (The national tour of Wicked at the Wharton Center) until I was 21. So, I didn't really know what was expected of professional actors.