I’m intrigued by people who live double lives. I’m not talking about secret agents or cartoon characters like Clark Kent, aka Superman. I’m referring to people who hold challenging day jobs they love, while also following an artistic passion on weekends and evenings. It’s hard for me to imagine putting in a full day at a regular job and then leaving all that behind to climb on stage, play in an orchestra, or write a play, but many talented people do it and do it well. (In truth, I can’t picture myself climbing on stage and entertaining even if I had nothing else to do, ever.)
I recently came across three people who excel in leading two distinct lives. The Seattle Times featured one. The headline tells the story: “Sex crime cop by day, improv artist by night.” According to the article, Detective Kyle Kizzier hunts down criminals and persuades them to confess to their crimes during the day, and then spontaneously transform himself into a variety of odd characters on stage at night.
My two other examples of people who do a great job combining disparate passions are Spencer Welch, a university educator and pianist, and Marilyn Pedersen, executive legislative analyst and violinist.
All three performers found the arts at an early age. Marilyn started playing the violin at nine, Spencer began taking piano lessons at eight, and the detective studied drama in college.
Marilyn always finds a way to connect with other musicians, whether she is playing classical music in a trio, jamming with other legislative staffers in the state capitol, or playing with her latest band, “Marilyn and the G Strings,” also known as the “wine drinkers with a ukulele problem.” She describes the group as “friends with shared interests that go beyond the enjoyment of fine wine.” When the legislature is in session, her life is harried. Telephone and email exchanges are often discordant. Creating music at the end of the day helps relieve the stresses of work. She says that legislative aides with bosses from both political parties find harmony as they bow, pick, strum and sing together. When the legislative session is over, one of the G Strings’ regular gigs is in a Kirkland wine bar, an obvious place to indulge her third passion.
Spencer plays solo in a Seattle restaurant, and at weddings, corporate events, and house parties. His fingers glide across the keyboard as he moves from classical to pop to show tunes in less time than it takes to blink. He also writes and performs his own compositions.
Although Marilyn doesn’t know Spencer or Kyle, she is probably speaking for all of them when she says, “I’m not defined by the work I do. There’s a lot more to the experience of being on this planet. I’m a human being, not a human doing.” Words of wisdom for those of us whose day jobs give us our primary identity.