Opera family: Ross, Jenny and kids
Tenor Ross David Crutchlow is a 6’2” red-headed baritone turned Heldentenor with a booming voice, an infectious laugh, and a huge presence. Soprano Jenny Millsap is his graceful, demure wife, who is anything but demure when popping off high Fs in her dramatic coloratura roles.
Ross and Jenny have worked in opera, operetta, and musical theater in New York and across the United States. They have two children – a very active two year old and a perpetually happy eight month old.
Not every American family would cross the Atlantic to German-speaking Europe to sing there. But then Ross and Jenny aren’t your typical American family. They are highly enterprising, too, and are using the very popular Kickstarter to fund-raise for their audition trip.
That’s why I’ve invited Ross and Jenny to stop in at Operatoonity today: to tell you more about their dreams and inspire you to support their project. Welcome Ross and Jenny!
How did you meet?
Jenny: We were doing Gilbert & Sullivan in NYC together. I had been in the company for a couple of years and already knew everyone. Ross was new. I wanted to make him feel comfortable, so I made a point of being friendly and talkative with him. It didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eyes!
Ross: Yeah, she kept following me around, so I figured I’d ask her out.
Jenny: And the fairy tale began!
Is it hard being married to another opera singer?
Jenny: In some ways yes, in some no. The financial instability is hard. But that’s true for any freelancer in the United States, really. It’s an entrepreneurial way of living, which of course is a lot tougher in the arts than probably any other business. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to work together from time to time, but we’ve also been separated due to gigs. That’s always hard.
Ross: What’s really great about being married to another singer, though, is the support we give each other. She knows my voice inside and out and I know hers. We can say to each other, hey – that phrase sounded a little off, try this. And it’s better. We also get what the other one is going through as far as the psychological demands of auditioning and performing. We can help each other in ways in which non-singers just wouldn’t be able to.
What’s it like having kids while being professional singers?
Soprano Jenny Millsap
Jenny: Ha! Well, there’s not much sleep, that’s for sure! I remember that I used to make a point of getting a lot of sleep before big performances or auditions in my pre-kids days. Now I just make sure I get a lot of coffee!
Ross: I think I worry a lot more. Before Jenny and I became parents, I didn’t think about the future so much or the long-term implications of my decisions professionally. Now I do. I have to.
Jenny: But the kids are really great. We used to take Ewan (our two year old) with us to our rehearsals and coachings. He would crawl around on the floor, watching and listening. His first time in a green room at a performance was when he was five months old! He still loves to hear us practice, and sometimes he conducts us! Nathaniel (our baby) is not as big a fan of opera as Ewan is. He cries when we sing loudly, so we try to practice when he’s sleeping!
Ross: It’s a lot to juggle, honestly, but both our singing and are kids are vital parts of our lives. I can’t imagine life without both.
Germany seems like a big step. What made you decide to head to Europe?
Heldontenor Ross David Crutchlow
Ross: Partly, it’s the repertoire we sing. I sing primarily Wagner. Jenny sings mainly Mozart. We both feel if we want to really do justice to this music, we need to immerse ourselves in the language and culture that made it. I don’t think we’ll ever feel like we truly understand these two composers as long as we are on this side of the ocean. We really need to be in Germany.
Jenny: And part of it is very practical – it’s easier for two singing parents to sing and still raise a family over there than here. It’s a smaller geographical area with a lot more productions –
Ross: And a lot more Wagner!
Jenny: Yeah, no kidding. About 300 performances to the 30 that are done in the US. And the German culture is just a lot more artist- and family-friendly.
So, you would stay over there?
Jenny: Initially, yes. If one or both of us are fortunate enough to get a contract, we’d stay for 5-10 years. We want a long enough stay to really feel like we soaked up as much as we can musically.
Ross: Long-term, we would like to come back to the US and use what we learn from the Germans about how they program, promote and perform opera to help revitalize interest in the art form here – particularly German opera.
Jenny: Mozart has always been seen as accessible even for people who don’t speak German or Italian. But Wagner – well, unless you’re an opera aficionado, chances are you’ve never heard or seen a Wagner opera. We’d like to change that.
Ross: I mean, seriously – The Avengers is popular. Wagner is not that far away!
Jenny as Kathie in "The Student Prince"
What do you do when you’re not onstage or wrangling your two boys?
Jenny: I cook. For me, it’s a no pressure artistic pursuit that ends in eating. What could be a better hobby for a singer?
Ross: I hate to admit it, but video games. It’s my down time and it keeps me sane.
Where can people go if they want to contribute to your Kickstarter campaign?
Jenny: Our campaign is “Jenny & Ross: To Sing in Germany”. Just click! We’ve got some nice rewards for our backers, and we’re open to suggestions for new rewards, too.
Ross as the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance"
Ross: If you want to find out more about us as singers, Jenny has a website, and so do I.
Jenny: We also have Facebook fan pages, if you want the latest updates about our singing: Here’s mine. And here’s Ross’s.
Ross: And if you can’t contribute financially, we would still very much appreciate everyone spreading the word!
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So there you have it. With a point and click, you can help this talented family immerse themselves in the artistic field they love and in which they were born to succeed. But you better hurry. Their Kickstarter deadline is June 28.
Good luck, Jenny and Ross! We look forward to an update someday from across the pond.