Redrawing Boundaries and Amplifying Voices: A Journey with Davóne Tines

00;00;10;14 - 00;00;43;08
Rob Lee
The welcome to the truth in this art. I am your host, Rob Lee, and today I'm very happy to be joined by my guest who has been heralded as a singer of immense power and fervor and one of the most powerful voices of our time. A creator, a curator, a performer at the intersection of many histories, cultures and esthetics is engaged in work that blends opera, art, song, contemporary classical music, spirituals, gospel and songs of protest as a means to tell a deeply personal story of perseverance that connects to all of humanity.

00;00;43;15 - 00;00;46;22
Rob Lee
Please welcome Deven Tynes. Welcome to the podcast.

00;00;47;06 - 00;00;47;18
Davóne Tines
Hello.

00;00;48;09 - 00;01;16;26
Rob Lee
Thank you for for coming on. And I really want to do that. I don't know if you follow basketball back in the day. I really want to have that Chicago Bull sort of intro what I give, the longer intros of the music and everything behind me. So before I get too deep into the conversation about your work and things that are are coming up, I want to like let's start off with something that either you'll find like this is easy or you'll find terrifying.

00;01;17;19 - 00;01;29;04
Rob Lee
Share your story. Tell us your story. Like you know some of that. At what point did you want to pursue the classical arts and some of your background? I'm seeing Juilliard. I'm seeing Harvard. So let's let's get into it. Let's dove right in.

00;01;29;21 - 00;01;32;20
Davone Tines
How much time you got?

00;01;32;20 - 00;01;34;01
Rob Lee
Yes. Deploy yours.

00;01;34;17 - 00;01;37;18
Davone Tines
Got 35 years. No.

00;01;37;18 - 00;01;37;29
Rob Lee
Oh.

00;01;38;18 - 00;02;10;12
Davone Tines
So yeah, my story in a nutshell. A very large nutshell, perhaps, but I grew up in rural northern Virginia. I lived primarily with my grandparents. My grandfather was in the military for 30 years and retired. A chief warrant officer from the Pentagon and my grandmother was an educator, mainly in special education. And when they decided to retire, they wanted to go home to where their families were planted, which is about an hour and a half southwest of D.C. in horse country.

00;02;10;17 - 00;02;31;21
Davone Tines
And that was a very complicated context to grow up in because, you know, generations, three or four or five generations back from my grandparents were enslaved on that land. And I grew up maybe 20 miles down the road from where parts of my family were sharecroppers. And part of my family were on various plantations. And those places are now large.

00;02;31;26 - 00;03;01;29
Davone Tines
Virginia Farms. I mean, in Virginia, we call them farms with a really like large ranch states now. And so it's interesting driving around, you know, the remnants of these places as you're on the school bus when you're going to school with people who, you know, may tangentially be connected to all of that context. But I think it led to, you know, a quickening of my awareness of kind of a double reality or behind the veil or a double consciousness.

00;03;02;25 - 00;03;31;13
Davone Tines
And it led to a life of trying to reconcile the life I had with my family and my church family. You know, the Black Baptist Church, Providence Baptist Church being basically the community center that I knew, you know, religious. Yes. But also just a place of gathering in a place of growth and learning from extended family reckoning that with my school experience, which was predominantly white, I was one of very, very few black students in school.

00;03;31;13 - 00;03;56;19
Davone Tines
I was one of only two people of color in the gifted and talented program from middle school on through high school. But I found that I had a strong aptitude for a lot of different things. I excelled in my academics and I really wanted to go to school to do everything but school extracurriculars. I started playing violin when I was in elementary school and ended up playing that for 1415 years.

00;03;56;26 - 00;04;16;28
Davone Tines
Overall, I'm played in the chamber. Orchestra was a concertmaster that went on to play it and in college. But then I also got into singing when I was little. Everybody in my family, my church family sang no matter what you wanted to do, you were in the choir. And I just remember hours and hours long of choir rehearsals.

00;04;16;28 - 00;04;42;26
Davone Tines
And it's interesting that that experience is very foundational. It finds its way into my musical practice right now in all kinds of runs, in classical and beyond. But I didn't really realize I had a real talent for singing until I was in high school. My grandfather actually realized that I had a unique voice in his retirement. He directed some church choirs, and he's a very charismatic man who would come home and say, How are you?

00;04;42;26 - 00;05;06;03
Davone Tines
And one day I thought, I am fine. And he said, Wow, I think you've got it. I think you've got a unique voice and you should try to do something with it. So he encouraged me to join my high school choir, and then I started doing musicals for fun. I kept getting the lead in the musicals, even though I wasn't really gunning for that and it just kind of seemed like a path of least resistance and kind of a surprise, you know?

00;05;06;03 - 00;05;29;26
Davone Tines
It wasn't exactly a focus or, you know, I'm going to be a singer, but it was a lot of fun and I kept getting asked to do it. So I did it. And then I wanted to go to conservatory for undergrad and I thought I would go to Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. But my family said That's not really a job, so maybe you should do it.

00;05;30;17 - 00;05;50;02
Davone Tines
Casting out a little broader and look at something in the liberal arts. And so I ended up going to Harvard University. I ended up studying sociology and music, kind of a dual degree and I realized that I thought I wanted to be close to the performing arts, you know, as a career and older in life. And studying sociology was kind of my best route.

00;05;50;02 - 00;06;15;17
Davone Tines
There. I thought that if I could understand broadly why culture creates and propagates arts, then I could understand how to administrate them at the institutional level. And so that led to a lot of a lot of solid experiences in undergrad. I was in the Harvard record Orchestra playing violin. I was the first general manager of that orchestra and then the President.

00;06;15;17 - 00;06;37;19
Davone Tines
And that was a that's a 200 year old organization that's separate from the school. So, you know, as as a student, you answer to a board, you work a budget, you know, you oversee, you know, a whole staff of colleagues and friends trying to make this thing tick. And I also did some of the work with the choir singing the Renaissance Polyphony Choir.

00;06;38;13 - 00;06;59;10
Davone Tines
But yeah, a lot of kind of real first experiences in college that would kind of be a foundation of the work that I go to now and then graduating. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I thought I'd just like step out and try something. So I got an internship with the American Repertory Theater and I ended up basically working as a as a lowly associate producer.

00;07;00;04 - 00;07;03;17
Davone Tines
You know, they were paying me $4.38, and.

00;07;04;16 - 00;07;04;21
Rob Lee
We.

00;07;06;16 - 00;07;25;26
Davone Tines
A little bit but I learned a lot on the ground and I learned a lot on the ground figuring out, you know, how does a theater run? How does it get program and how do you that's the part of the theater that I worked with, brought in a lot of, you know, traveling acts. So you learn how do different people do all kinds of different kinds of performing?

00;07;25;26 - 00;07;58;10
Davone Tines
And that was really, really foundational experience. And then I ended up moving back to Virginia and working for a symphony actually that I had played for when I was younger, a regional symphony. I wrote their grants and instead of paying me, they asked me to be a board member, which was a very interesting thing. You know, young black person just out of college being on a on a symphony board, which is a predominantly white and older, wealthy space.

00;07;59;11 - 00;08;26;07
Davone Tines
But I was really excited to just figure it out. You know, I had a lot of energy from just having gotten a sociology degree and trying to say, okay, well, if we're going to get grants, we need to understand demographics in the context of this organization. What you're trying to do and I think it was a really great journey for me in that group of people to think, okay, what is the larger mission of this place aside from, you know, just upholding some sort of canon or status quo?

00;08;26;16 - 00;08;56;01
Davone Tines
And I worked for an educational nonprofit that connected low income, high potential high schoolers to academics, celebrities, and met a lot of different artists through that, including the author, Amy Tan, who was very inspirational. And I did all I worked for George Mason University. I was a stage manager, and then I ended up being a production manager. I did a crazy thing where I actually ended up production managing an opera that I was also the lead in.

00;08;57;03 - 00;08;57;10
Rob Lee
Made.

00;08;57;27 - 00;09;21;27
Davone Tines
That was kind of crazy and something I think I could only do when I was 22, you know, singing, singing a role and then sitting in a three hour production meeting afterward and then getting to do it all again the next day. But after doing all these different jobs and different angles and arts administration, I started to think, okay, what is grad school look like?

00;09;22;04 - 00;09;42;02
Davone Tines
You know, what am I going to do next? What's the next step? I've been working in the world for a little over two years, and I wanted to figure out, you know, how do I look for a path forward? And I thought maybe I'll go to business school and become an administrator. You know, forthright and looking at those applications, I realized this isn't me.

00;09;42;17 - 00;09;43;14
Rob Lee
No, I don't know.

00;09;44;04 - 00;09;53;10
Davone Tines
This the that I want to walk down. I didn't want to take the GRC. I didn't want to take accounting classes. You know, I wish I had, though. Now, that.

00;09;53;10 - 00;09;54;29
Rob Lee
Was about a.

00;09;55;03 - 00;10;17;01
Davone Tines
Little bit late. I kind of challenged myself in saying, you know what, I actually do want to try to sing, and if I get into a school, I'll do that. And if I don't, I will look a little more closely at these business school applications. But I applied to Juilliard and a bunch of other schools that got in at Juilliard, and for the grad program and took that as a sign that I should pursue it.

00;10;17;09 - 00;10;40;03
Davone Tines
And from there it was a really interesting experience. You know, I'd come from a broad liberal arts background in a place where interrogation of your academic experience was very encouraged and there was a very clear due process for how you can ask questions about anything, and you can try to chart your own path based on your interests, your passions.

00;10;40;12 - 00;11;03;16
Davone Tines
And in a conservatory setting, you are told what your passions are. You know, you're you're prescribed a role or you know, they're very much forthright about there are boxes and we will find which one you fit into and give you the skills to execute that box to the best of your ability. And that was an interesting and kind of hard transit.

00;11;03;16 - 00;11;28;21
Davone Tines
You know, I went back to school to hopefully attain skills to figure out what I wanted to say as a person or an artist. And so the idea that, you know, those those ideas would be preconceived for me was was a difficult pill to swallow. And so in graduating from Juilliard, I really I had a unique voice. You know, I'm a bass baritone, but not your typical bass baritone.

00;11;28;21 - 00;12;07;04
Davone Tines
I have a very high extension and a very low range as well. And it just it didn't seem like the boxes that they had, you know, were anywhere that I could fit. And I felt a little not in a little bit pretty discouraged. You know, I didn't think I'd have a career in singing when I left. And actually, through encouragement from the maestro, Loren Mizell, who used to be the head of the New York Philharmonic and a lot of other symphonies, you know, an older man who was just very venerated in the operatic field, he had a summer music program that I went to.

00;12;07;11 - 00;12;36;16
Davone Tines
And he was very, very encouraging, which really surprised me because I hadn't received that encouragement and, you know, the other contexts I'd been in. And it kind of started to grow in my own confidence and saying, okay, how can I figure out how to do this? And my way back into it was singing with a really good friend named Nat Aucoin, who now is a MacArthur genius, and he was writing his first opera.

00;12;36;16 - 00;12;54;29
Davone Tines
And I ended up being a lead in that opera, just in the workshops, you know, just as they were trying to figure out what is this piece. And it ended up being taken on by the American Repertory Theater, the place where I used to be an intern. Now I was a lead singer in their new production, which was quite an interesting, you know, spiral.

00;12;55;10 - 00;13;15;12
Davone Tines
Other than that, that led to further exposure. And I met, you know, people like John Adams, who's amazing, you know, opera composer of our time, and Peter Sellers, similarly opera director of our time and doing a lot of new works. And I kind of entered the opera field from a from from left field.

00;13;15;23 - 00;13;16;02
Rob Lee
Yeah.

00;13;16;16 - 00;13;51;09
Davone Tines
I'm doing contemporary work and premiering a lot of work. I mean, my violin chops and piano chops served me well as a musician because, you know, singing contemporary music requires a different foundation and musicianship that I was able to apply. And yeah, just similar to that way, I really loved doing contemporary work. I really loved doing contemporary work because the reason for doing it was always clear, you know, back at Juilliard, I would get confused when they say, you have to learn all these German songs.

00;13;51;09 - 00;14;13;05
Davone Tines
I was like, Why? Why? And they said, That's this is the core repertoire. This is these are the building blocks. Is that okay? But you know, what about things that I connect to more closely? Like I will do this and learn this. But what about a song literature that is a little more close to my lineage or my my heritage and doing new work?

00;14;13;05 - 00;14;52;16
Davone Tines
It seemed like I was invited to be a part of the conversation of why which kind of led me to do what I think was my strongest work, because there was a raison d'etre. And then having had a broad arts administration experience, it led me to be even more curious and say, Well, can I have a hand in making things myself or making things with friends and colleagues that I met along the way, which led to all kinds of stuff that I'm, you know, now in the midst of and in love with, you know, making projects that actually articulate things that I think are deeply important and deeply personal, but hopefully can be of service

00;14;52;16 - 00;14;54;01
Davone Tines
to the people that engage it.

00;14;54;12 - 00;15;23;26
Rob Lee
Well, yeah. And it's like one thank you. Thank you for for walking us through that and condensing it because I'm thinking like as you're describing, that's like how in what time frame, how old are you again? And that's what I'm kind of going through. And I think, you know, being able to one of the key things that that stuck out to me was, you know, being able to connect with something that relates to who you are as an individual way, you know, in this sort of space.

00;15;23;26 - 00;15;40;20
Rob Lee
And I hear from artists all the time, especially artists that look like you and I like, Yeah, this is kind of the zone we're in and I'm kind of making this stuff and I don't know if they're going to get it. I don't know if I'm going to be accepted and so on. And I want to do stuff that actually this is going to be upon because I'm an old man.

00;15;41;07 - 00;16;01;10
Rob Lee
I want to do stuff that sings to me, if you will, and I think that's not often afforded. But when you're able to do it and kind of seeing, you know, one of the things I looked at older interviews, one of the things that I think you touched on earlier, you know, kind of being that that gifted student that's in this class that's full of like people who may not look like you.

00;16;01;18 - 00;16;21;10
Rob Lee
And it's kind of like doing that now and that sort of industry of being within classical music and doing like work that is related to who you are as a person and who your identities and the different tribes, if you will, that you're in. But doing it for an audience. They may not look like you. It's almost like cycling back in going back to what you've experienced maybe in the past.

00;16;22;05 - 00;16;50;07
Davone Tines
Definitely. And I think that way of working in which I share with a lot of close friends and colleagues, is more about honoring people for the fullness of their identity. You know, in a classical music setting, there's this idea that art or this art is about communicating something, connecting to the human experience. But what does it mean for the people that are, quote unquote, executing that art to be treated as functionaries?

00;16;50;13 - 00;17;15;22
Davone Tines
You know, and then it's like, okay, what are they functionaries of? And you think about writers or composers. So composers are writing things that articulate their passions, their ones, their stories. But it's this question of why is the incarnation of someone's existence only happening from one angle, right? And what is it also mean for an institution to bring that work to life?

00;17;15;22 - 00;17;42;19
Davone Tines
You know, they enlist people, but it can happen in a way and seems to have happened in a way for generations that the people enlisted to bring words to life are not actually honored as full human beings. It seems that there is there is a detriment of institutions, not treating the artists and people in general, you know, staff administrators, even as full humans that are engaging in this practice.

00;17;42;19 - 00;18;11;18
Davone Tines
And I think that is something that, yes, exists within the arts to think about and work on. But I think it's transferable to the rest of the world. I think anybody that's in a working context or in community with other people should be considered people. And, you know, part of how that shows up in my work with with the projects that I work on, you know, the most important question is, is the most important question is how are you doing?

00;18;11;26 - 00;18;34;24
Davone Tines
What do you need? You know, before starting any day, you know, checking in with each and every person, whether that's a classmate, an administrator, a musician, a conductor, just to have that connective city and say, you know, before we're doing this work, we are people foremost. And I think if there is that foundation, the work that comes out of that is going to be that much richer and that much more connected.

00;18;34;24 - 00;18;58;19
Rob Lee
Yeah. And I think that's really important. I, I look back and when I go over biographies and any of the notes that people send over, I always find it very interesting of like how weighty it is, how long it is, and how someone describes himself. And I've had a few that are people that are kind of outside of the arts from, but they really focus on the sort of cultural specter.

00;18;58;28 - 00;19;26;27
Rob Lee
And they start off with, I'm a human and a human first. And really kind of checking in and being tapped in. And part of it is like being likable, I suppose, and part of it is being able to relate and be charismatic. There's maybe some politics in it, but I think, you know, looking at it, if we're able to really go back into the personal component because I look at this when I'm doing this podcast, I and I think I talked about it a little bit before we got started.

00;19;27;06 - 00;19;45;21
Rob Lee
I don't want people to come off as this is a transaction. You give me what I need and we're going to go from here. And it's a certain degree of it's a contrivance. Here is, you know, you have the questions beforehand. We know we're going to meet at this time and all of that. But being able to connect on a person to person sort of connection, that's where the important stuff comes in.

00;19;46;00 - 00;19;59;11
Rob Lee
Hey, how are you? What are you into? What are you thinking of? And you know, I joke with people sometimes. I was like, So how long do I have? I was like, What can I talk about? Like, Look, if you want to talk about comics for like 30 minutes, we can talk about that. We can talk about Tom and Jerry if you want.

00;19;59;24 - 00;20;08;25
Rob Lee
And I don't want to make it feel like the guest is. It's only about their work. It's only about why do people know who you are? It's about who the person is. In my opinion.

00;20;09;15 - 00;20;10;20
Davone Tines
Here.

00;20;10;20 - 00;20;28;10
Rob Lee
What does it mean for you? Like from from from from you? What does it mean to, like, be a classical singer? Like what? How do you define it? What do you put around it? When people come to me and I'm like, So your podcast, I was like, No, I'm facilitating people telling your story, they're telling your story. I'm just providing a framework.

00;20;28;19 - 00;20;33;17
Rob Lee
That's how I define it. Oh, have you? From what I do. So from what you do, how do you define what you do?

00;20;33;26 - 00;21;03;26
Davone Tines
Definitely, yes. I'm a classical singer, but also more so. I consider myself a singer and a creator. And it just so happens that the technique upon which my singing is built is derived from a Western European tradition, but by the very nature of the broadness of my identity, there's a lot of other cultural lineages and techniques at play, but also my voice lends itself to a certain repertoire or a certain sort of sound that is connected to a certain genre.

00;21;04;19 - 00;21;29;28
Davone Tines
But in terms of what does it mean to functionally be a classical singer, I think I've already been getting at I really took this idea of art as a means of personal expression, really to heart. And it's made me have that lens and interrogating everything that I interact with in everything that I do. You know, if it's not directly in service of honoring the humans involved, it's not necessarily something I want to be connected to.

00;21;30;05 - 00;22;19;06
Davone Tines
And so this notion of maybe changing what it might be to be a classical singer, I think is just a byproduct of trying to walk down what is a in an incarnation of being a singer in the classical realm that feels like it is true to the integrity of that idea. You know, so the expression as an individual, which has led me to make things, I do think something that is unique about what I'm up to is that I do make things, you know, a personal accomplishment that happened this year was I was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a piece for them and the Hollywood Bowl and I made a piece called

00;22;19;06 - 00;22;46;05
Davone Tines
Concerto Number two Anthem, and it was the second concerto I made. I've started this concerto series because I used to play violin, and I realized I was never going to play a concerto and violin with an orchestra, but I thought maybe I can sing one. And so there's this second concerto called Anthem is a piece that, you know, met this fun opportunity to do the all Americana concert at the Bowl.

00;22;46;12 - 00;23;10;03
Davone Tines
And it made me think, okay, it's got to be something that utilizes that scale and utilizes that context. And I want to do a magic trick. And in this magic trick, I want to try to turn The Star-Spangled Banner into the black national anthem, lift every voice and sing over the course of three concerto movements as a means of saying, you know, here's The Star-Spangled Banner.

00;23;10;03 - 00;23;39;07
Davone Tines
And it represents a lot in this country that perhaps is a faulty foundation and maybe has not upheld something that we're all happy with right now. I think you could ask a lot of people and maybe they're not exactly happy with where things are in this country. And I think we can look to our larger symbols like an anthem and The Star-Spangled Banner being something that was born of or born of dualist ideals, born of things like calling people slaves.

00;23;40;06 - 00;23;58;12
Davone Tines
Or there's the argument about how they may be referring to indentured servants, but in any case, talking about the subjugation of another for the victory of a different group. You know, I don't think these are great morals to be to be standing on. And it maybe hasn't led us to the greatest place, but I love the black national anthem.

00;23;58;12 - 00;24;19;19
Davone Tines
You know, James Weldon Johnson and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson made a beautiful thing that is about honoring the individual within the collective to honor the past so that we can stand united in our present and look towards some sort of brighter future. Facing the rising sun of our new day begotten. So I wanted to say, okay, here's the Star Spangled Banner.

00;24;20;00 - 00;24;47;08
Davone Tines
Let me sing to you the other verses that might be a little more problematic and kind of show music that underlines that. You know, it gets a little scary, it gets a little more light. And then in the second movement, we walk through some parts of Americana, but trying to reframe them in a way. One example is the song God Bless America, which was sung by a woman named Kate Smith, who championed that song, premiered it for Irving Berlin, and sang it quite a lot.

00;24;47;15 - 00;25;28;15
Davone Tines
But Complexly and Kate Smith also sang the song Pickaninny Heaven, which, you know, is is a pejorative for those that don't know. And it's a pejorative about, you know, children of color. And it's it's it's not about, you know, condemning this person, but it's about acknowledging that people can have, you know, complicated relationships to race and what it means to make art about that and what it means to be a person that you may not overtly understand that what they're doing can be harmful to other groups of people, but that people hold multiple truths.

00;25;28;22 - 00;26;03;06
Davone Tines
And in facing that is critical. And but I had some fun in trying to reveal this uncomfortable dichotomy to the audience in mixing up the words of God Bless America and pickaninny heaven, the words the kind of conglomeration of words goes something like God Bless America, land that I haven't. You've been told of the place where the good little pickaninny go from the mountain to the prairies to the oceans, white with great big watermelons rolling around and getting in your way and picking any heaven My home, sweet home.

00;26;03;06 - 00;26;28;26
Rob Lee
Oh, wow, that is. That is gold. And I like kind of being able to take these things and turn them on their heads. And I think it's important to in delving towards the truth and in delving and doing storytelling, because I see that as another component of your background. It's, it's funny. Like I look back at, you know, I was in the south on Juneteenth, right?

00;26;29;06 - 00;26;46;03
Rob Lee
And I was watching the coverage and I was like, they just rebrand Juneteenth because I was like, the colors are not the same, you know, as the there is a Juneteenth flag, which ironically had the same colors as the American flag because like, so which one is it, guys? And I see a lot of the Pan-African colors almost like this was a rebrand.

00;26;46;12 - 00;27;10;18
Rob Lee
I'm like, whose choices? This it's like, Are you separating us from this? I was like, It's not that long ago we could see this, this sort of history, like right here and just some of the stuff that came with it. But I think in taking like, Hey, this happened and I'm combining with with this as far as picking any of it and just taking that approach, it's like, you know, these things happen, right?

00;27;10;19 - 00;27;30;03
Rob Lee
You know, it's like reminding people because our memories are really short sometimes. And I think being able to look back at it and tell some of the stories and say, This is my perspective and being a person of color, being the person that is a male, being a person that has this sort of background or what have you, I think that that is important.

00;27;30;05 - 00;27;45;23
Rob Lee
I think that, you know, having those perspective, often they're they're they're they're overshadowed. They kind of swept to the side. But being able to use your background, your acumen and the the opportunities that that you have to really show that as a plotted plotting that.

00;27;46;25 - 00;28;28;05
Davone Tines
Thank you. Yeah. And further to this idea of hopefully shifting what it means to be a possible singer, you know, making something like that or making, you know, other pieces. I wrote a musical that hopefully will end up on Broadway in not too long, but I'm just hoping to offer the opportunity for singers and performing artists to have more agency with what we're doing and have a bigger voice within institutions to say, This is who I am and this is what I want to use my gifts, their talents to do, and furthermore, for institutions to start actually asking the question, Who are you?

00;28;28;05 - 00;28;50;07
Davone Tines
What do you want to do? And how can we offer our master resources in order to support that? You know, the onus shouldn't come completely from the people that are perhaps at a disadvantage in terms of power. So in changing, I'm just hoping to model this opportunity for people to be more broadly supported for their multifaceted existence.

00;28;50;07 - 00;29;09;17
Rob Lee
Thank you. Thank you for that work. So I got I got two more real, real questions. And then I want to hit you with those rapid fire question. So in peeling back the onion a bit, what would you say? Like creatives because like, you know, I've imagine, you know, several creators. You've collaborated all of this great stuff as well.

00;29;10;21 - 00;29;31;21
Rob Lee
What would you say like there's a secret or trait that most creatives have. I remember reading or listening to a clip of Jay-Z saying that all creatives are just really like terrified, they're just scared or have you. And it's it's a thing. And some people say, oh, well, they're all like, they never think that they're good enough, but really they rise to the challenge.

00;29;31;21 - 00;29;38;15
Rob Lee
Or most of them are procrastinators. From your vantage point, what is a trait that you think you know most creative share?

00;29;38;17 - 00;29;40;21
Davone Tines
I'm going to talk and maybe it'll come out okay.

00;29;41;06 - 00;29;42;28
Rob Lee
I'm here for it and here for you.

00;29;43;12 - 00;30;11;26
Davone Tines
Being a creative is a very interesting, you know, role or task to take on or something to embody because, you know, by very the very definition you are, you are making something that otherwise hadn't existed. You know, you are trying to pull together things that perhaps other people haven't seen and perhaps considered disparate, or you're trying to pull something out of the ether or the universe that you know and make it incarnate.

00;30;11;26 - 00;30;35;01
Davone Tines
And that's a very radical act. And it takes, you know, uncommon ways of reaching that. And it takes people that are willing to play within the margins and the borders of what there is in order to imagine a new or different way. You know, you can't create a new thing without kind of shifting or even breaking things that already are existing.

00;30;35;06 - 00;31;05;25
Davone Tines
So that takes a lot of courage and it can be hard to, you know, or I guess a better way of putting it is that involves a certain level of vulnerability. You know, if you are to make something, you don't know how that's going to fare in the world. You hope that or I hope that, you know, things that I make are in service of a broader context or you hope that people will appreciate or understand or connect to, and that that could lend itself to all kinds of behaviors.

00;31;05;25 - 00;31;26;02
Davone Tines
You know, whether that's fear from vulnerability, whether that's insecurity, whether that is seemingly procrastination. I mean, I've just really taken to the idea now that when I'm presented with an opportunity to make something a lot of times it's just got to go in the back corner or it's got to go in the back kitchen in my mind and and just marinate.

00;31;26;02 - 00;31;46;27
Davone Tines
You know, I've grown to a place of just trusting that there is work happening. Even if you're not completely obsessed or focused on it in the front of your mind. Some things just need time to settle. And it's kind of also honoring, you know, a deeper consciousness that hopefully is attuned to this possibility of making something out of what was not there.

00;31;47;06 - 00;31;53;13
Davone Tines
So being a creator is a is a unique and unique way to be in the world.

00;31;53;17 - 00;32;13;27
Rob Lee
Yeah, I agree. And it's it is this this thing where we, you know, as creatives, we we need time just to kind of do nothing that machination that you describe that that is a thing like I try to like to say hey create do it, make it happen. I was like I, I got nothing for you, but it hits me when I'm not expecting it.

00;32;13;27 - 00;32;29;02
Rob Lee
And I was like, All right, let me come up some questions. Oh, this would be a good idea. Or, you know, like like I said, I'm an old man. I'm like, I'm 37. I'm an old man. So everything is a pun. Everything is a dad joke. I'm like, all right, how can I turn this goofy pun into maybe programing and what does that look like?

00;32;29;02 - 00;32;39;24
Rob Lee
And really building off of it. But I can't just say me turn the key and something good is going to come out is like, let me write this down. And then to you, to your point, leave that in the kitchen and come back to it.

00;32;40;25 - 00;32;54;02
Davone Tines
Yes. And that just made me think, you know, so so now I, I co teach a course at Harvard in interdisciplinary storytelling with one of my best friends and collaborators. It's called How to Be a Tool.

00;32;54;19 - 00;32;56;02
Rob Lee
Because great storytellers from.

00;32;56;06 - 00;33;02;03
Davone Tines
Disciplines, you know, we just wanted to say how to how to we teach how to be a tool at Harvard.

00;33;03;02 - 00;33;03;22
Rob Lee
That's amazing.

00;33;03;22 - 00;33;24;26
Davone Tines
I don't know. It also has, you know, a bitter truth. And that is, you know, how to be a tool for storytelling, how to be a tool for change in society and something that we are always working through with our students is the idea that it's okay to not know everything. It's okay to, you know, people say it's okay to fail.

00;33;25;00 - 00;33;45;28
Davone Tines
And I think the saying it that way is really scary to people because you don't want to think, oh my God, I'm going to intentionally fail. But I think another way to frame it is it's okay to try again. You know, it's okay to make something, look at it, conceive of, you know, how did this do how did this live up to my purpose and my values and then go and reassess.

00;33;45;28 - 00;34;12;10
Davone Tines
You know, you're allowed to go back to the drawing board and visit over and over and over again. That's the joy of making something. It's part of a practice, you know, you really can continue to shape and mold until something gets there. No one gets everything right on the first try. And in fact, you probably don't want the first try of a lot of people things, whether that's a vehicle or a musical, you know, you want people to spend some time tinkering and honing that thing.

00;34;12;11 - 00;34;29;09
Rob Lee
Yeah. I mean, I look at comedians, you know, it's a large swath of people that I interview on here, talk to comedians and it's like, all right, when you first were like working through that new material, how did that go? You know, I don't I don't want to see you in that first. Now I want to see you like midway through, like I is polished, is refined.

00;34;29;15 - 00;34;48;23
Rob Lee
You took out that that weird joke at the beginning, and now it's something that's actually good. So this is the last real question I got, and it's more of self-serving, this more shameless plug. But I want to see what's next. I read that, you know, might be a Baltimore debut coming up. Some big things happen in 23, 22, 23 season.

00;34;48;23 - 00;34;51;05
Rob Lee
So let's tell me about what's coming up. What's on the radar?

00;34;51;16 - 00;35;18;07
Davone Tines
Yeah, there's there's some fun stuff coming up most, most closely. I'm going to make my New York Philharmonic debut singing Beethoven nine. I'm about to make my Carnegie Hall recital debut with a piece I made called Recital Number one Mass, which blends a lot of different music from, you know, my earlier experiences to try to tell a story about how people can deal with problems.

00;35;19;01 - 00;35;44;00
Davone Tines
And I am, what are we doing? I'm going to the Cleveland Orchestra and I'm singing in the beautiful, beautiful severance hall, one of my favorite pieces called El Nino by John Adams. And it's kind of a modern retelling of the Messiah story, but from a predominantly female and Latin X perspective and just some of those gorgeous music ever.

00;35;44;00 - 00;36;03;18
Davone Tines
What else? Yes, Baltimore coming to Baltimore on November six and singing this recital program. And I'm so excited to share that with the place that I now call home. And yeah, then hopefully I'll go go eat so much turkey and oyster stew. My favorite Thanksgiving food that my grandmother makes.

00;36;04;08 - 00;36;21;08
Rob Lee
That's great. That's great. That's so great to hear. And it's great to hear that. It's more like folks in the classical arts that are kind of changing like how it's being viewed and bringing that to Baltimore. It's like we're closing at the place. I love it over here. It is not the same. You're not classy, by the way.

00;36;21;08 - 00;36;37;03
Rob Lee
You know, I'm a Baltimore educated. So real quick, I want to hit you with some rapid fire questions. And since you talked about food is great because I have a food related question in here to start off, I said overthink it. Let's not overthink it. Here we go. Breakfast food or dinner food. Which one of you go with?

00;36;37;03 - 00;36;41;08
Rob Lee
What? What is your favorite between the two? Your breakfast food or dinner? Food sort of guy?

00;36;41;20 - 00;36;46;00
Davone Tines
Definitely. Dinner. Food. Breakfast is functional. Dinner is joy.

00;36;46;03 - 00;37;05;08
Rob Lee
I love it. So I'll take that oatmeal dinner. Yes. So that turkey sandwich, right. Can we get all the trimmings? Definitely. This is ridiculous. What was the what was the last word that you looked up to? See what it meant. Like you're very verbose. You have some terms. I heard some things come out. I'm looking them up now.

00;37;06;21 - 00;37;30;07
Davone Tines
There were there were two. Yeah. My, my best friend used two words that I looked up. I kind of knew what they meant, but I never heard them use that way. He used the words agita and imbroglio, you know, Italian terms that might be an opera, but adjectival meaning like a lot of nervous energy around something and imbroglio meaning it's kind of like a big dense mess.

00;37;30;14 - 00;37;50;22
Rob Lee
So you're just describing me as a podcaster and both words. Thanks, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. I throw out every now and again. I throw all these marketing phrases when I talk to people. I was like, Oh yeah, you're cultural impresario. I told you. He looked at me. He's like, I'm still around. He's like, I'm using that for when are you most productive?

00;37;50;22 - 00;38;06;07
Rob Lee
It could be, you know, time of the day, time of the year, like, you know, in terms of like planning now, like looking at things like on a monday, I'm at my most productive in terms of prepping, but during the course of the week, it's like, you get me on a Friday, I got no questions for you. You just got to be just to work.

00;38;06;07 - 00;38;10;21
Rob Lee
None of the practice has to work completely.

00;38;10;21 - 00;38;33;24
Davone Tines
I don't know. I mean, I guess sometimes I have that, you know, 11, 11:00 at night burst of of some sort of inspiration. But I think in terms of like doing hard focus work late morning is good and then once I get past a certain hour in the day, say six or seven, the brain shuts off or can only do, you know, a certain style of work.

00;38;34;03 - 00;38;39;26
Rob Lee
Yeah, it's like early mornings. Like, here's some algebra I can work on that afternoon. It's like, look, what? What is this? What are we doing again?

00;38;41;28 - 00;38;56;07
Rob Lee
This is the last one I got for you. And this is I've said it before multiple times on this podcast, and I'm an old man and I like puns. So I hope you get a sense of what I'm looking forward. This next answer. What would the name of your autobiography Day? Huh?

00;38;57;05 - 00;39;02;16
Davone Tines
Let's see. Do we want the G-rated or the.

00;39;02;16 - 00;39;08;05
Rob Lee
You can have more than one. It's like, oh, this is my memoir. This is what leading up to the real one? I don't know.

00;39;08;05 - 00;39;12;26
Davone Tines
I think it could be something like how can you do better?

00;39;13;21 - 00;39;15;18
Rob Lee
Okay, look, you know.

00;39;16;07 - 00;39;40;07
Davone Tines
Or try harder or something. That's kind of a provocation that, you know, I've had to have for myself, but hopefully invite other people to hold as well. You know, something that goes with a continual process of reflection and so so, you know, change and refinement, just as any creative process is better, is, you know.

00;39;40;26 - 00;39;52;00
Rob Lee
See, here's the thing. Given you didn't she didn't do the thing I was hoping for best. I was hoping for best of times. But you didn't go for you didn't take the bait.

00;39;52;00 - 00;39;52;28
Davone Tines
All right. All right.

00;39;53;05 - 00;40;05;18
Rob Lee
Me think I mean but I think that I think but yours absolutely works. Me I'm just low brow and everything is a bit to me. But would you describe works?

00;40;05;18 - 00;40;07;14
Davone Tines
I think I might just name it imbroglio.

00;40;08;21 - 00;40;26;02
Rob Lee
You know what that actually worked. That works really well. It works really well. So shout out to you and thank you thank you for that and thank you for indulging the rapid fire questions. So of course, with that, I want to again thank you for coming onto this podcast and I want to invite and encourage you to tell the fine folks where to check you out, where to follow you.

00;40;26;02 - 00;40;29;01
Rob Lee
Social media website. The floor is yours.

00;40;29;12 - 00;40;44;13
Davone Tines
Definitely, yeah. You can follow me on Instagram. Also, an opera singer try to share more about. You know what I'm up to and just what process is like. And yeah, feel free to message me. I always try to respond to people.

00;40;44;13 - 00;41;05;16
Rob Lee
Well, there you have it, folks. I want to again thank the Valentines for coming on to the podcast. And I'm Rob Lee saying that there their voices, big voices are both voices and charismatic voices in and around Baltimore. He's got to look forward.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Host
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Davóne Tines
Guest
Davóne Tines
Operatic bass-baritone, Davóne Tines, is an American known for creating roles in new works and for his collaborations with director Peter Sellars.
Redrawing Boundaries and Amplifying Voices: A Journey with Davóne Tines
Broadcast by