“The course of life is unpredictable. No one can write his autobiography in advance.” Abraham J. Heschel
Remember the idea of the time capsule? You write a letter when you’re young, telling what you expect your life to have been like in the future and then you bury it and open it up a generation later. This can be a rather humbling experience, since few of us are prepared to recall what we had expected our lives to be like. The twists and turns of life are what provide our biggest challenges and our most cherished experiences. Bass Jack Middleton’s story is a great example of that.
In 1972 at 16, Jack got married and had a daughter. At nineteen, after the birth of his second daughter, he divorced and came out within a month. His family has since grown to include five grandchildren, and he’s recently been told that he’s soon to be a great-grandpa.
Jack has loved singing since before kindergarten. In the summer before High School, he began dabbling in drinking and drugs. During High School, he sang with West Shore Chorale in Lakewood, Ohio and later attended Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music in Cleveland, graduating with a degree in Vocal Music Performance. During college, Jack sang with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorale, but his substance abuse was getting harder to manage. After college, he entered nursing school and become a Licensed Vocational Nurse. In 1983, he moved to Costa Mesa. “My mission was to care for people with AIDS, which I did for many years with the first AIDS/ARC Agency in the country. But I was also making life difficult by getting caught up in addiction until 1992, when I got clean and sober.” By then, Jack had now moved to Laguna Beach. There he began talking to a voice coach who helped get his voice in shape after ten years of non-singing. Soon, Jack was singing Bass solos in Handel’s Messiah and in the Faure Requiem. He went on to sing with the William Hall Master Chorale until it disbanded in 2001.
Jack auditioned for MenAlive in January 2002 at the first rehearsal after the first concert. Two Laguna friends were in the chorus and they suggested he would be a great addition. As Jack tells it, “I just happened to be walking by the local gym in Laguna and they came running out telling me to come in and meet someone. I thought, ‘Me… a gym’?” But after being introduced to Rich Cook, Jack auditioned and became a MenAlive member. Ten years later, he is not only an active member, but he’s not missed a single concert or rehearsal until March 20, when he had to have emergency surgery.
Christmas 2003 was Jack’s scariest but most fun experience with MenAlive. The chorus was performing at Chapman University. The curtain went up and Jack wasn’t standing in his usual spot. He could hear some people saying that he wasn’t there. “But in the midst of the second song, the music stopped, the chorus looked to stage right and…I leapt out onto the stage as The Sugar Plum Fairy! That little leap stopped the show for 10 minutes; the applause was thunderous.” However, Jack states his favorite MenAlive memory was participating in the 2004 GALA in Montreal, where the chorus left the stage amidst a standing ovation. “Of course almost every choir got a standing ovation at GALA, but that made no difference. We were thrilled just the same.” Jack continued to be part of GALA in Miami, and you’ll see him at the upcoming Denver 2012 experience this July.
Jack continues to write his autobiography day by day, enjoying each moment. He says that the bridges MenAlive builds between communities and audiences continues to keep him returning quarter after quarter, year after year. When his eldest daughter passed away from AIDS in 2003, the chorus was there to comfort him. “These guys are my “logical” family. I proudly stand with them for any reason making the best music we can show after show. For as many years as I am able.”
And what about Jack’s battle with drugs and alcohol? “On May first, 2012, I will celebrate 20 years clean and sober.”