Saturday, May 1, 2010

story: Opera Singing Lifeguard

Jason Cook: Lifeguard by day... Opera singer by night

I began life-guarding at Percy Norman while I finished up school. I used to work mornings 6am-1:30pm at the pool, then go straight to school after! I received my BA in Music with a major in Voice Performance from UBC in 2009, and have been involved in many operatic productions.

I started playing piano when I was 6. Then I became part of the elementary school choir. I remember the teacher saying that I was a good singer and that I should try out for the BC Boys Choir. I did, and got accepted in as a Boy Soprano! I have continued on with this Choir until today, and will be traveling to Australia and China with them in August. I have traveled all around the world performing with them, but this will be my last year with them. I will now focus on my own career. I am so thankful for the Choir, as they have offered me many connections and opportunities. Over the years my mom got me many voice lessons and throughout my voice change I went from Soprano to Baritone.

I am currently performing in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Ruddigore", presented by the North Shore Light Opera Society. In June I will appear as Ottone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea which will be performed at Vancouver's Metro Theatre. I am also currently the Musical Director of a high school production of Footloose!

Above: Jason as Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore

Above: Both of Jason's worlds. His life guarding whistle and the poster for the opera he is in!

As for how I got into life-guarding, well, I was never a kid who grew up in the pool. My mom swam, and encouraged me to take swimming lessons and consider about a career as a lifeguard. I got up to around green or blue, one of the mid-top levels in swim lessons, back when they used to have colours as levels. I then stopped swimming for awhile, but at about 16 I started to think about life guarding as a job. I talked with lifeguards at the pools and asked how they got started. I used to be a Camp Counselor at summer camps around BC, and always noticed how much fun the guards have on the beach!

I took all the courses, and I discovered that the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. I started out working at Lord Byng Pool where I also went to high school. I worked at almost every pool except the Vancouver Aquatic, which always intimidated me for some reason, I guess because it's so big. Although the new pool is going to be very big too!

I think Percy Norman is a great place. I really enjoy that it's so culturally diverse, and found it to have the closest sense of community than any other pool I've worked at. I find the people actually look you in the eye and say good morning, people bring in baked goods, and everyone wants to know your name. I think the thing I appreciate the most is that people really appreciate each other.

I haven't had to ever give CPR, in fact the most common issue at the pool is people getting heat exhaustion in the sauna. But I have saved a few kids who have fallen into the pool and can't swim. I remember being at an ESL summer camp, and asking one of the kids if he could swim and he nodded yes, but actually he couldn't and didn't understand what I had said. He jumped into the ocean water and immediately sunk right to the bottom! I remember diving in after him and seeing him sitting at the bottom, looking up at me as if to say, "Aren't you going to come get me?"

I try not to stress out too much. I'm only here for 8 hours, I can't dwell on the negative. I look forward to coming to work and talking to the patrons. If I never have to save a life that'd be perfect, but I try not to get riled up, it's not good for my heart!

1 comment:

esl summer camp said...

Nice work bro! Being a life guard would be fun! I love being out in the sun even though it's very tiring sometimes. It seems like i heard an opera singer a while back at an esl summer camp. It was pretty random, but very beautiful. Anyway...take care! Good luck!