I Have Been Changed For Good...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 7:27 AM
*currently listening to the Ragtime soundtrack*

Here we are, the day before my flight. Still left to do: get the unclaimed clothing and furnishings out of my apartment and to the Salvation Army or the Dumpster Army (dependent on the item), return the Comcast equipment (which is apparently valued around 200 dollars so they WILL be getting that back even if I have to WALK to the Comcast branch), donate all of my draperies and excess linens to Stage Coach Players', sit on my suitcases and squeeze the zippers together, and...well...thats it. *pause* Wow, that really is IT. And now, as much as I try to fight them, the tears are starting to form and swell with intent and heat. I have been putting off crying because I knew that to be quite honest I didn't have time for it. If I were to stop to indulge the tears, that would have been a full day lost and I just couldn't afford it. Now as the prep process nears its end, the tears that were at bay are making their way to the forefront and its getting harder and harder to hold them back...

But since this is more than likely my last entry as an Illinoisian (is that what we call ourselves if we live in Illinois?? I've always wondered that), I figure this should be a "Thank You" of sorts. Ya know, just in case I don't win a Tony award in the next 10 years (which is the plan, of course lol). PLEASE NOTE - THIS IS A LIST-STYLED ENTRY - You may wish to skip down. LOL

First, I must thank God in heaven for blessing me with a talent that exceeds even what I know. I only ask that You continue to order my steps and stay beside and with me as You always have and I will do all that I can to please You. I want to thank my mother, who doing her time with me experienced great joy and deep sorrow but always only showed me unconditional love in affection and eternal love in music. I thank my family - my beautiful 82 year old Granny who supports my dream and makes me happy to be alive even when I'm annoyed or irritated or doubtful. My sisters, Angela and Rachel - who cry at everything and love for me to express myself. My cousins, both of my generation and the subsequent including Jo (COS-SIN!), Dee, O (you and me us neva part - ma-kee-da-da), Man, Z, and Nikki - who is more like a sister to me than anything else. Nikki, you are one of the people on this earth that make my purpose, whatever that may be, seem feasible. Thank you for always, ALWAYS being there. My aunts and my special aunt Mable - you know that you are one of the most tremendous beings I've ever known so there's no need to say anything further. My instructors - Mrs. Brown -who is an angel that does not yet have physical wings but musical ones for the time being, Robert Sims, Kenneth Lenon, Clarice Hearne, Dr. Johnson, Lisa Johnson (no relation), and Dr. Carter ("Contract, AND! Contract AND! HIT!") Anyone that I have ever worked with professionally - especially Deyci, tu eres mi amor! And thank you Tim Carter for always being so understanding - greatest boss ever.

And lastly, perhaps most important, my dear dear friends - my CHOSEN family (although I can't really call them CHOSEN because I didn't pick them - God did). But (and this is the part that I have dreaded the most because it has the greatest potential to make me cry) to the remaining members of SKEW - though you have been in my life for less than one calendar year, the bond that we have cultivated feels like I have known you for decades. Suz, you are one of the most incredible people I've ever met. Em, your talent and personality are magnanimous. And Wade - my Wadington - not having you within arm's reach is going to be one of the most difficult emotions to deal with. You are so much stronger than you know and I treasure all of you deeply. To Dee, Erica, and Shae - this is only "See you soon," not "Goodbye." And I say that with confidence because you all will remain in my heart for the remainder of my days on earth and then when we all meet up at a club in heaven, we shall all juke together across the way from Jesus. I love you ALL. Dee - don't you EVER change. Not ever. You are my hero. Erica (who will only read this after someone tells her to), I don't think you ever knew how much you mean to me. You are a tremendous force on my spirit and that won't change with location or time. And Shae (who is already crying), everytime you style your hair, know that I'm behind you critiquing and complimenting and loving you all the more for it. You're amazing.

To the Apostolic Church of God, to Phi Mu Alpha, to Alpha Phi Alpha, and to NIU - thank you for making me the man, the musician, the resilient, and the educated person I am today. To

To Brandi Janine - you taught me how to cook and without knowing, also taught me to embrace everything about myself. I adore you. Know that your success in life is already written - just prepare yourself for your deserved blessings. **now we get to the part where I'm about to forget people because my judgment is clouded by water** To my best friend forever and ever (BFFAE) one Ms. Iukes Nicole - I. LOVE. YOU. For the past 11 years, no one has been more consistent, made me laugh more, made me cry more (LOL), or made me juke more. When I'm not physically near, rely on that glorious light inside you. Let not your heart be hardened or cold - its far too gorgeous to be encased in stone or ice. To my IGS - Keep it IGnant and hold fast to the FACT that I am NOT the most Ignant person you know. And to my former roommates, Krisann and Tyler - you both know how much I love you, but I don't think you ever knew how much I admire you both. The love you share inspires me to not settle for anything less. I only ask that you name your first child after me. Yes, a potentially chubby White maybe Ginger-kid named Kiarri would be a first, but it'd be an AWESOME first.

And to anyone that was not named, to all that I have ever hung out with or gotten to know or performed with or wanted to perform with - please do not feel slighted. You are in my heart and in every note that I sing. I am moving on now - to re-join awesome friends like Josh and Allison and Ken and to make new ones and maybe get rid of some (*side eye at Chris*), but your place in my spirit will never falter. To those whom I've loved and to those I have wished to love - thank you for whatever time we shared and for teaching me what I needed to learn.

Ok - so, this is just WAAAAY too much, I know - but if I didn't do it, I would keep feeling like I needed to and being honest, its for the best to start dealing with the emotion in little waves as opposed to being curled up in the fetal position for an entire day later this week.

Everything I Know

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 7:17 AM
*Currently listening to "As I Am" - Alicia Keys*

Hi All!

My blog (for the most part) is now finished thanks to some great advice from my dear, dear friend Luvvie (her blog is at http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/ by the way - good plug, good plug). Most of my clothes are packed and most of the things I need to give away in my apartment are gone or earmarked to be gone soon. I have started cleaning out my office at work and all of my personal spaces are starting to clear. I have began my goodbyes and already purchased a one-way ticket.

I was not sure when the reality of the situation would start hitting me -- and it just did this morning. Something about fully acknowledging the fact that in one week my life will be totally different took my breath away. I started to think about how I'm leaving everything I have ever known for a world that is completely unknown and my eyes just started watering. I'm incredibly excited and anxious and ready for school - but aside from that, New York is this place, this thing, this being that could destroy me in the blink of an eye. And that is terrifying. I know I shouldn't worry as I have faith that it will all work out someway, somehow, but it would help if I had some inkling as to what that "someway, somehow" is. Each and every day is filled with hope and almost simultaneous disappointment regarding a job, finances, and the like. But I resolve to believe that the Lord has brought me thus far for a reason and I don't think He would just leave me here shattered and unfulfilled.

So, back to job hunting and preparing I go. I just made the first payment out of my pocket for school so if it wasn't official before, it SURE is NOW. :-) PLEASE DONATE! (I have the button now LOL)

Make Them Hear You

Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 12:13 PM
Hello All!!! Let me start by saying that I have already started slacking. I was supposed to do TWO posts a week. But I have a good reason - actually an AMAZING reason. Since the first posting, I have been communicating with AMDA and wrote them this letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

Greetings! My name is Kiarri Andrews and I am an admitted student to the wonderful institution that is the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I discovered AMDA almost by accident while speaking at a high school during one of my trips as an Admissions Counselor for my alma mater, Northern Illinois University. I recall being attracted to pictures of that school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which just happened to be above a bulletin board announcing various auditions. There, on this unassuming board, was a poster with a postage-paid response card that within just a few lines of text opened up what I believed to be the door to my destiny.

After successfully completing the application and audition process, I was still slightly cautious about the school. I loved the history and the alumni and of course, the fact that it is located in New York. But beyond that, I realized that I knew very little. I resolved that I needed to visit and become better acquainted, which I did on May 9th’s Admitted Students Day program. After witnessing the awesome faculty members interact with the students on the most eloquent and articulate levels possible, after seeing the utterly gorgeous final products within the Dance program and the acting courses from the Studio track, and after hearing the magnificent pieces of the students on the Integrated Program track, any doubts that I had were dead and gone. I knew and I know there is no other school, program, or establishment that can give me what AMDA can give me and I felt an immediate sense of relief and completion.

Sadly, that sense of relief was cut short when the financial reality of the situation became clear. Even after all the scholarships, institutional aid, and federal loans, I am still about $17,000 away from being able to afford this dream. I have meetings with pastors of churches that I have been a member of to ask for any assistance they may be able to offer. I have applied and unfortunately been denied for two private loans but will re-apply as soon as the opportunity arises. I have considered staying with friends in New York for the first semester and then applying to become a resident assistant to alleviate the housing cost (since I have 2 years of experience from undergrad as a RA and over 5 years of various leadership experience through corporate, extracurricular, and professional sectors), but the fruits of that endeavor remain to be seen. I have already started putting together a website/blog to solicit donations and sending out mailings to any and everyone who has voiced a positive opinion about my talent and potential (and maybe to some who do not have such a positive opinion). However, I worry about coming up short. For students such as myself, who already have one degree but not officially enrolled in a graduate program, there are extremely limited funding resources, particularly in today’s economy. As I have told several people already, “I have faith that I will make it back to New York and to AMDA, but I just don’t quite know how yet.”

I spoke with Stefanie DelRusso, who helpfully suggested that I write this letter to request an increase in my scholarship and/or institutional aid. I know that if an increase is made, it probably won’t be “whopping,” but anything that can be done or that I can do to make this happen I am willing to try. Please consider this request with the knowledge that my art and my heart are totally committed to AMDA to such a degree that the thought of attending brings tears to my eyes. I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for re-evaluating my file.

With Deepest Thanks,

Kiarri Andrews
Hopeful AMDA Graduate

In response, my awesomely awesome admissions counselor called me shortly after I sent it and informed me that he would help me as much as he could. And through his gracious assistance (and the equally GREAT help of the Financial Aid office), a way has been made out of no way and I WILL BE GOING TO AMDA IN 13 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!

I will still be short financially, but I will find a job someway somehow and will still be soliciting donations and everything but I will make it work.

I had an incredibly difficult decision to make though because it is happening so much sooner than expected. I sought the advice of many close people and it wasn't until my cousin, Nicole, challenged me to take it to the Lord in prayer that I remembered the most important decision was not mine, but His. I kneeled next to my bed that night, hands crossed, head bowed, and eyes closed, and prayed. I just talked to God for minutes on end. At the end, I got into bed and slept. The very next morning, all the things that were not in place just fell in and this sense of peace overtook me. I had to give in to it and listen to that voice within that said simply "Go."

So I'm giving away most of my stuff, packing up my clothes and moving to Brooklyn to stay with a double frat fraternity brother who has generously opened his home to me. My eyes continue to water at all the blessings that have come to me but I won't allow myself to cry for fear of it crippling me as I hastily prepare. I'll have my tears, but now's not the time. So the timeline: 13 days til I fly out on the 24th, Orientation on the 25th, Vocal Audition and Placement on the 26th, Dance placement on the 27th, and classes start the 29th. Yeah - its crazy. What would have been my mother's 60th birthday is the first day of the rest of my life. So ready, though...so ready...

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know All About Me...

Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 7:33 AM

*Currently listening to the In The Heights Original Broadway Cast Recording*

Greetings, Hello, Salutations, Bonjour, etc....! Welcome to my blog. My name is Kiarri Andrews and I am a an actor (that is only the 3rd time I've ever called myself that - it still sounds weird). I've been told by multiple people throughout my years that I should have been an actor all along, but I never believed that I was skilled at acting. Did I love performing? Absolutely. But I always just thought that it wasn't my particular calling. But after auditioning for a community theatre production of "Back to the 80s" summer of 2008 and getting one of the lead roles, I realized my personal form of sanctuary is on a stage. My passion for musicals finally made sense; I am meant to be in them. :-)

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back - waaaay back...to high school (gasp!). First off, it is important for you to know that I am a singer. Always have been, always will be - at least until the Lord says that it is no longer my gift. But ever since my mother and I sang together for the first time when I was 8 years old or so, music and song has been a key point of who I am. So I've done church choirs, gospel choirs, citywide choirs, and most notably, my high school's concert choir. I definitely credit that organization and our fearless leader, Mrs. Gloria Brown, with most of my musical development. My voice grew in versatility, strength, and beauty and was trained to an extent that I love, but was strange in that many Black people that I performed for felt like I was overly trained and many non-Black audience members felt that I wasn't trained enough. My art and passion became a bit of a conundrum for me - I won many honors and awards but I felt somewhat out of place because my voice was too different from the mainstream and didn't feel welcomed in most places. But it was during high school that I was able to take my first trip to New York and saw my very first Broadway show, "Aida." I remember being mad that we weren't going to see "The Lion King." I had never heard of this "Aida" and was not pleased with it. Times Square looked amazing, but my anger prevented me from really taking it all in. I took my seat in a huff and sat waiting to be disappointed further. From the moment the lights went down in the theatre, I was completely overwhelmed. The voices, the story, the music, the lighting, the sets - by the end of the show, I was crying and clinging to my friend's arm.

Cut to college, when I stopped taking voice lessons and let my voice grow on its own through various performances at open mic nights and events. My love of musicals grew after more and more of them were made into movies, thereby making them easier to access to the general public. I have been blessed enough to live in the phenomenal city of Chicago that has such a rich and diverse arts community and the great institution of Broadway in Chicago. I have seen "Wicked" (3 times - LOVE that!), "Dirty Dancing," "Rent," "The Color Purple," and I finally got to see my beloved "The Lion King." Because I didn't believe enough in my abilities, though, I chose to major in Journalism and pursue a career in television news reporting. Somehow I justified it by deducing that reporting was an easier career than singing. *pause* Yeah, that one still flabbergasts me. But I went through college once again earning honors like Homecoming King in 2004 and joining prestigious organizations like Phi Mu Alpha Men's Music Fraternity of America (1898) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc (1906). Still, there was something not quite fulfilled within me...but I repeatedly brushed it off and forged my way onward.

And I graduated. I had my degree in hand and a smile on my face. And no job. In all the hub bub of my senior year, I neglected to fully realize that it would end. Returning home after being relatively independent for 5 years was not as pleasant as I would have liked (I think that's the best way of phrasing that sentiment). I finally landed a job that I grew to hate but thought that my life was starting to come together. I resolved that I would move into the realm of higher education. Once again, it just seemed logical based on everything I was involved in during undergrad. I left that job after 4 months and that decision led me back to DeKalb and working as an admissions counselor for my alma mater. Like any job, there are problems, but its all in all a good position and a great place to work. By what many people would refer to as "chance," I passed an announcement for auditions while travelling one day last summer and have been doing shows ever since ("Back to the 80's" Michael Feldman, "The King and I" Lun Tha, "To Kill A Mockingbird" Reverend Sykes).

Thus bringing you (for the most part) up to speed. Now my full attention is on Broadway. If I seem a little scattered, it is only because I was allowing myself to be ruled by fear - fear of the unknown, fear of the difficult, fear of what others would think, and fear of not fully embracing myself. I auditioned for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in March and was accepted a few (incredibly stressful) weeks later. I visited AMDA and New York in May and nothing has ever felt so right. This is not just an "arts school," it is an artistic utopia. Dance training that includes musical theatre, tap, jazz, and ballet - acting with instructors that take you through a scene from "alright" to "amazing" - and voice and musical theatre pieces that made me want to break out in tears of happiness, desire, and completion. Pardon the cliche, but I have truly found my voice and place in the world. Seeing "In The Heights" on Broadway and meeting one of AMDA's alums, Christopher Jackson, only vindicated my already-held belief that the lights of Broadway were designed to warm my very soul.

There will be at least weekly installments on this blog to update any and all interested and as soon as I figure out how, I will upload media clips and acceptance letters and documents and all that other good stuff. If you grow to believe in me, I ask that you donate whatever you can. I have already started setting up a PayPal account so that you may do so (more info to come).

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please come on back now, ya hear?? Be blessed.