The Voice of Music is Love

The+Blaisdells+say+they+have+a+blast+teaching+and+working+together+in+the+music+department+at+CWU.
The Blaisdells say they have a blast teaching and working together in the music department at CWU.

The Blaisdells say they have a blast teaching and working together in the music department at CWU.

Mikaela Nickolds

Mikaela Nickolds

The Blaisdells say they have a blast teaching and working together in the music department at CWU.

Anakaren Garcia, Staff Reporter

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Love has a way of changing our lives. When Torrance “Tor” Blaisdell met his wife Gayla in Boston, he never expected to be teaching classes with her 30 years later and thousands of miles away from where they first met.

At first glance, you might not even know the couple was married, but Tor knew Gayla was “the one” even in 1991 when they were both students.

When the Blaisdell’s first met, they were both attending the New England Conservatory of Music. Tor was a second year in the opera program and Gayla was a transfer student. On their first day of class, they had to sing in front of the class and the instructor as if auditioning for a part.

When it was Gayla’s turn to sing, she was extremely nervous but Tor was captivated by her performance.

“It was great, she just nailed it,” Tor said who could tell his future wife was stricken with nerves after her song. Impressed by her vocals Tor offered his crush a Jolly Rancher to ease her nerves.

“She just grabbed that jolly rancher out of my hand and I thought ‘Okay, that’s it, this is the one’.”

Following that fateful day, Tor said he did what anyone would do and started following Gayla around campus. “That worked out really well,” he said jokingly.

Before transferring, Tor attended Dartmouth where nearly a decade earlier he had fallen in love with performance art.

When Tor was 10, he had a brother who attended Dartmouth and played in the university’s production of  Gilbert Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Tor and his parents drove eight hours to see the production before their motorhome broke down and they were stranded at the university for a week.

While the family waited for the motorhome to be repaired, Tor said he attended every showing of the production.

“I sat in the front row of the balcony every night and I was just glued to what was going on,” Tor said. “It looked so much fun.”

From that moment on, Tor felt his love for music and theater grow. He remembers a specific moment sitting in his high school’s empty auditorium thinking that he could see himself spending the rest of his life there.

He said that in high school, singing is what set him apart from other students.

“I always wanted to be in theater and I was passionate about singing,” Tor said. “What I fell in love with when I was learning what opera was about, was creating characters.”

After his time at the New England Conservatory of Music, Mr. Blaisdell lived with his dad for a year, then moved to New York City with his wife Gayla and he began working in big banks while also doing apprenticeships.

These apprenticeships included him singing for big name companies around the country. Along with that, he got an agent and began working in professional operas.

Mr. Blaisdell was then cast in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway in New York City and he was in the show for almost two years. “I like to think or myself as the Stanley Tucci of opera. The guy that does a little bit of everything.”

After graduating, the Blaisdells continued to live in New York for the better part of the next 15 years raising two children while Gayla began  teaching and working on her Ph.D. at New York University.

When she was young, Gayla had been surrounded by music and performance. Both of her older brothers were in stage choir and said she has always admired and looked up to her brothers because of how much fun they had performing.

She knew then that she wanted to pursue a career in performance arts and is thankful her parents were so supportive of her. Her mom enrolled her in piano lessons and she appeared in her first show at age five.

She began taking serious voice lessons in her teens and exploring classical music and opera. While in middle and high school she learned to play the flute and bassoon in the band and sang in the choir.

“I always felt that there was more to learn,” Gayla said. “That’s alway been a big motivator for me.”

Music has always come easy to her, it’s the singing that she felt she always had to work on. It was because of this that she continued to go to school and practice her music.

In May of 2008, Dr. Blaisdell had finished her dissertation and was ready to graduate. The duo then decided to it was time for a change of scenery started looking at teaching opportunities across the country.

“I applied for jobs all over the country,” Gayla said. “Some jobs… I applied for, I didn’t really want.”

When CWU became a finalist for Dr. Blaisdell’s teaching career, Tor accepted a job to run the Season Performance Hall in Yakima. Both professors say the move to Ellensburg was a culture shock for them, especially Tor.

“Here I was in Ellensburg, Washington with an advanced degree in opera and no opera company for 120 miles,” he said. “I tried to reinvent myself.”

However, after about a year at the Seasons, Tor was laid off due to financial issues.  

It was then that Tor applied to the same department his wife had already called home for a year and they began a whole new chapter of their relationship; a working relationship.

“I think it has challenges but, I think we work really well together as a team,” Tor said.

Tor says teaching at CWU has been one of the more intense learning processes he’s undertaken because he’s learning from colleagues and students alike.

“Just because you know how to do something, doesn’t mean you know how to teach other people to do it,” he said.

Now that they’re both working together at the same university both Mr. and Dr. Blaisdell had their thoughts on how it’s been.

“We support each other, we’re best friends,” Gayla said. “We pretty much tell each other everything and talk everything over with each other and really rely on each other for the other opinion.”

Moving forward, the Blaisdell’s hope to leave a legacy of love no matter the circumstance.

“My greatest hope is that students see two people who often do not agree but are just nuts about each other,” Tor said.  

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