The Voice

The Voice

The Voice

Finally shaking off cold feets

Blake Klein performing (B. Klein)

Blake Klein is furious.

He’s in middle school and he just got into another fight with his parents.  It’s nothing serious, just normal teenager stuff. It’s about grades.


Klein storms up the stairs to his bedroom where he slams the door with all his might.  The portraits on the walls in the hallway shake. Klein’s father barks at him not to make so much noise.  He knows he has to cool down, so he grabs his little blue stress ball that’s shaped like the planet earth.  He rears back and throws it against the wall as hard as he can.

After the ball ricochets around the room a few times, Klein whips it at the wall again.  This time he has to duck so it doesn’t hit him in the face.  Klein takes a deep breath as he grabs his iPod and puts in his headphones.  He scrolls though different songs until he finds the one that usually settles him down—“Headlong” by Queen.

“And you’re rushing headlong/ you’ve got a new goal/ And you’re rushing headlong/ you’re out of control.”

He drills the ball at the sides of his room a few more times and slowly cools down.  Klein sits on his bed and listens to music until he falls asleep.

He’ll look back in a few years and blame himself for not trying hard enough in school.  He’ll realize that his parents were right all along. But more importantly, he’ll look back and thank himself for putting on “Headlong.”


“Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh.”

“House at Pooh Corner”

Kenny Loggins


He’s sitting in the car, seven years earlier, singing along with his parents.  Klein’s father just put in another cassette he and his wife had bought for their son.  It contained fun children’s songs that Klein would sing along with his younger sister and mother.

“We would sing every day,” said Klein.  “I can remember going to preschool and singing the same songs over and over again.  They never got old.”

It’s hard to say that a passion for music doesn’t run in Klein’s blood.  He was practically born with it.

Klein’s parents both performed in musicals when they were young.  They bonded over having leads, like their senior year of high school when Klein’s mother played the role of Anna and his father played the role of the King in the musical “The King and I.”

Although it has been decades since the two high school sweethearts got married, they both still sing in their everyday lives.

This was important when Klein was young because it set an example for him to follow.

“If somebody says something in the house, my dad starts singing a song that has those words in it,” said Klein.

When he grew up, Klein played the saxophone and various other instruments,  but he put down his instruments. But he stuck to his vocal cords.  He’s glad he did because they would be what made middle school so much fun for him.

But that’s not until later.


“Always on my mind/ you’re in my heart/ you’re in my soul.”

“You’re the Inspiration”



He’s listening to Chicago on repeat and he just broke down again.  After growing up in a household that embraces music daily, Klein took a liking to music throughout middle school.  He started to bond with it and its therapeutic effects.

“Music has so much emotion in it,” said Klein.  “Some people use so much emotion in their music that it’s very easy to use it as an outlet.”

Music was a major outlet for Klein when he went through one of the most difficult periods of his life.

He remembers when he found out that his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. He had just entered sixth grade.  The thought of losing his mother took the air out of him, but the music kept him strong.

“I remember playing rock the entire time,” said Klein.  “I remember it being an ‘I’m not going to be upset about this and I’m not going to show anyone’ kind of thing.”

Klein would also listen to a lot of slower music he had on his iPod, especially the jazz band Chicago.  He accumulated more than 120 plays just on the song “You’re the Inspiration.”

His mother truly was his inspiration.  She still carried on with law school after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she inspired him to carry on with the more difficult part of his life during that time.

“My mom has definitely been a huge inspiration,” said Klein.  “I’ve always been astonished that she had breast cancer and managed to get her degree in law.”

Klein’s mother slowly improved and now is in much better condition.  Nonetheless, the rough patch Klein went through was backed by his love of music.

“I’ve always had trouble expressing my emotions to people, even to my own family,” said Klein.  “It’s always been something I’d always keep to myself.  Music has helped me greatly with that.”


“A new fantastic point of view/ No one to tell us no/ or where to go/ or say we’re dreaming.”

“A Whole New World”



He’s eating pizza at a cast party, and he just performed another show in middle school.

That’s where his musical theatre experience began.  The rush of each show brought something new to his life.  Klein’s passion for music exuded in every show he performed.

“It was just those first few minutes you were on stage, and every time you walk backstage,” said Klein.  “It’s exhilarating.”

Klein was fortunate enough to receive the lead role of Jafar in “Aladdin” when he tried out.

“Aladdin was that first step,” said Klein.  “It was the opening door.”

After performing in “Aladdin,” Klein landed the lead role of Captain Lee Shang in “Mulan” during his eighth grade year.  He also performed in “Les Miserables,” which would be important four years later.

As he performed in handfuls of shows, Klein’s connection with music only grew.  He became more intrigued by it, and it would become monumentally important to him.

“It was always a pretty natural thing,” said Klein.  “It was always a way to deal with any emotion for me.  I could sing when I’m happy, sing when I’m mad, sad, anything.”


“What do I got? Cold feets.”

“Cold Feets”

“The Drowsy Chaperone”


Now he’s in high school, and he just made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. A major regret.

Actually, three major regrets.

When Klein went to school his freshman year, he joined choir and continued his passion for music.  He was wanted to do the all-school musical: “Fiorello!”  And he was determined from day one.


He was talking with one of his friends on their first day of high school and Klein told him that he wanted to, and was going to, do the musical.  Throughout the school year, Klein told his choir teacher, Nancy Cross, that he was going to audition.

But Klein didn’t do the musical.

He made up excuses.

Oh, I have offseason workouts for football.  I can’t possibly fit in a musical.

At the start of Klein’s sophomore year, he still wanted to do the musical.  Although he played football again that year, it was in the other part of the school year, so it wouldn’t have interfered with his musical schedule.  But behind the excuses Klein told himself, there was a deeper cause.

“Every time I didn’t do it, I regretted it,” he said.  “I don’t know if I was nervous of not getting a part.  I think that [it was partly] on a subconscious level because [of] middle school. I’ve never not gotten a lead.  I mean, I was Jafar and then I was Shang.  I was at the front of the thing.  And I did have a bit of an ego about my voice, but I didn’t make it extremely public.

“I didn’t want to do musicals because I didn’t want to not get a part and get upset.  I would’ve been embarrassed, essentially.  I should’ve known that the juniors and seniors get the leads.  Or the people who are the best get the leads.  If I would’ve realized that, I don’t think I would’ve gotten deterred from trying out.”

But, Klein still fought that possible embarrassment.  He was confident going into junior year.

“Junior year, I was ready to do it,” said Klein.

But this time an actual scheduling conflict arose.  After deciding that he was going to join the all-school musical junior year, Klein found out that there was going to be a boys swim team atHuntleyHigh School.  Klein could have taken a small part in the chorus, but he wanted more. On top of that, he had wanted to swim since he was young, and he wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass him by.

After all, there was still senior year.


“Inside my heart is breaking/ My makeup may be flaking/ but my smile still stays on.”

“The Show Must Go On”



He just performed his last show he may ever perform, especially in a lead role. He’s giving his final speech amongst smiles from his supportive cast.

“Senior year came,” said Klein, “and I decided I wasn’t going to swim and I was going to do the musical.”

After all, the musical brought more to Klein than sports did.

“It was that adrenaline rush that you get before you go on stage and while you’re out there,” he said.  “It’s nothing like any other sport to me.”

His seven years of choir with the school district helped him develop his skills, and Klein knew he finally had the opportunity to fill a void within him: a void left unfilled for three years.

“It felt really bad,” said Klein.  “The people who were in the musicals had been in my family, and now I had been completely disconnected.  I knew I was missing out.”

So he prepared.

“I said that whatever song I’ll do, I’ll pick it according to my voice and I’ll work on it non-stop for a week,” said Klein.

But Klein needed to nail his monologue first.

The audition was a three-headed beast: monologue, song, and dance.  Klein knew that all of his colleagues had been acting and fleshing out character roles throughout all of high school, so he was already at a disadvantage. But he had to make it good.

After working on his monologue non-stop, Klein presented a monologue by Andy Clark from “The Breakfast Club.”

He killed it.

Next up was the song.  He decided to perform “Stars” from “Les Miserables.”  He was already

familiar with the song because of performing in “Les Mis” in middle school, so it would be the perfect fit.

On the day of his audition, Klein went to the practice room connected to the choir room to retrieve his book with “Stars” in it.  But he couldn’t find it.  After tearing apart the room and frantically asking musical hopefuls where the music book was, he couldn’t find it.  He would have to improvise.

But he knew what to do.  In his junior year, he was lucky enough to get the solo in the choir concert finale “Wheels of a Dream” from the hit musical “Ragtime.”  It would be the song that saved his audition.

After spontaneously singing his song with precision, Klein went outside in the hall to learn the dance for the audition.   He watched the choreographer, Michelle Sopchyk, outside the corner of his eye to follow her moves because he did not know how to dance.  A week or so later, Sopchyk called nearly all of the boys who auditioned to a callback for tap dancing.

“I think that is what it came down to,” said Klein, who stood next to senior Christian Aldridge.  “Christian was doing really well, which scared me.  I get very frustrated when I can’t pick something up, so I would be trying not to just scream.  As I got home that day, I said ‘This either went really well or really badly.’”

The days went by, and finally, the cast list was up.

Klein saw his name posted on the list.  However, he was confused.  He got the role of Robert Martin, but he didn’t know if that was the male lead or not.  It turned out to be one of the most important leads, with a tap dancing part included.

“I was very, very happy about [getting a lead],” said Klein.  “I was elated especially since I had never done [a musical in high school].  I had expected to get a role, but I had not expected it to be as great a part as it was.”

Klein performed in all six shows of the run.  His dreams culminated in the closing night last Saturday.

“I loved the final night,” said Klein.  “A lot of people cried, but I couldn’t find a reason to cry.  I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time.  I was surrounded by people I loved and I was really happy.  Happy that I did it and that I got to have that experience.  That’s myhigh pointof high school.  That final hour and a half.  I wouldn’t have traded it for any of the other experiences I had.”

As he stands in front of the rest of his cast, Klein grins.  The whole cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone” sits on the leveled floor of the choir room as he stands in front of them all.  The cast’s reactions are reflected on the wall of mirrors behind Klein.  He tells the story of his love of music. In the back of his head, he knows that he most likely won’t have another lead in a musical for the rest of his life.  But, music means the world to him.  And as it was important throughout all of his life, Klein won’t necessarily need a lead for that passion to continue to grow.

“Music is everything,” he said.  “It’s expression of thoughts, feelings, and actions.  It’s a way to tell a story.”

And music tells his story; the highs and the lows.  Whether it be “Headlong” when he needs to calm down during the lows or classic rock to ramp up the highs, music will be there.

And that’s all that matters.


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Marek Makowski, Author

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