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Artist Profiles


By Published: October 22, 2003

"It didn’t seem rational to just up and quit my job without reassurance of some kind. I’d been at the bank for more than seven years and during that time I had moved from being a customer service rep to training reps how to handle the most sensitive and valuable commercial customers for the bank. I’d developed a new training book and sessions, even trained some of the trainers. And now I was thinking of quitting. Then Claude called me on the phone and said he had talked to Mom and that, between her and the rest of my siblings if worse came to worst they’d see to it that I had a place to live and food to eat if I would just jump."

"Just jump, Rene. Jump."

"I was scared as hell. But I jumped anyway. Didn’t know where I’d land, but I jumped anyway."

"Why? Had I gotten a wonderful record deal, my co-workers wanted to know? No. Was I going on a national tour, they enthused? Uh, no. I was quitting my job because someone whose judgment I trusted implicitly had sent me an e-mail each day for the past week with one sentence only: "Jump and the net will appear.""

"I was scared, but I jumped; I turned in my two weeks notice at the bank."

"What is it like to leave behind what feels like safety and security and willingly go off into the unknowable? To do something so far off the beaten path that even most of those I knew personally IN the music business hadn’t done it? It’s scary and exhilarating and scary and bold and scary and frightening and insane and scary. That’s what it’s like. Let me tell you, I walked out of that bank on that last day and I felt like a ten-thousand watt bulb - powerful. I felt like a straight line - endless. Like a book with only blank pages - full of possibilities. It didn’t matter that I was forty-three years old. It didn’t matter that I was going through a divorce. It didn’t matter that I drove an old car, that I literally didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from. It didn’t matter that I had just left a religion I’d been a member of for the past twenty-three years. I felt rootless and untethered and that felt GOOD. Scary, but GOOD. I was finally gonna do what I loved to do and spend as long as I wanted all day doing it."

I know I’ve done the right thing for me

What happened to René next sounds more like Hollywood than real life. Only in Hollywood would someone do what René had just done and land on her feet. In real life, disaster strikes. But disaster did not strike René. Instead, the impossible happened.

"This is the real kicker. Remember that mantra Claude had been sending me? "Jump and the net will appear." Four days after I quit the bank, I became a believer in that. Here"s what happened."

"My last day at work was Thursday, December 31. The next day was New Year"s Day, 1999. That Tuesday, I got a call from Theater IV, a theater in Richmond. They were in desperate need of a female vocalist to go on the road and perform with a group in a show called Songs From the Soul written by Billy Dye. The vocalist they had chosen earlier had to have emergency surgery on her throat and the theater had called the Richmond Jazz Society asking if they knew of anyone who could do it. B. J. Brown, the director of the Richmond Jazz Society, was a good friend of mine who had been instrumental in getting me connected with musicians and venues in and outside of Richmond since before I moved there. She knew I worked at the bank. But she didn’t know I’d just quit my job three days earlier. Full of doubt as to whether I could do it, but having exhausted her list of available vocalists, she gave the folks at Theater IV my phone number. Of course, I was shocked and delighted to accept the job. I was to report to rehearsal the next day. But the amazing thing, the unbelievable, frighteningly truthful, really off the hook, humbling thing occurred to me only after I’d hung up."

" None of the parties involved in this knew I had quit my job. "

"I went weak with the knowledge - if I hadn’t quit my job when I did, I still would have gotten the call from Theater IV but I would have had to turn them down. I would have had to say "No". I had jumped and, Wham! The net appeared just like my brother said it would! The honesty and courage of the moment frightened me. Without the initial support of my mother and my brother Claude and the support and encouragement of all my family, I wouldn’t have had the strength to do it."

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