Written and Interviewed by Stephen J. Trygar
It is with great pleasure that I get to introduce to you a friend of mine, Roy Wilford Belzer IV. Roy has recently moved to Philadelphia from Chicago, and has already begun making waves in the classical music scene here in Philadelphia. Aside from being an active performer, Roy has co-founded the Philadelphia-based choral group Tutti Allegro. Aside from his musical activities, Roy is also a personal trainer, and he aims to blend the two professions together. To learn more about his career as a personal trainer, visit his Facebook page!
Despite our backgrounds as musicians, Roy and I met in a very unusual place. We were both invited to attend an ASL Happy Hour at the local bar Tavern on Camac where we were both still new to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+-deaf scene and still fairly early in our ASL training. As ASL was our focus at that gathering, I left not realizing that Roy was a musician. I became acquainted with Roy’s musical background and career when he invited me to audition for Tutti Allegro. I found his background and journey as a opera and musical theater singer to be fascinating, and I wanted to share his experience.
Since I met you, I have known you to wear several professional hats, but the two you seem to be most focused on is your careers as a musician and a Personal trainer. To start, I was wondering if you could elaborate on your training as a musician.
So, a little bit of my background: I grew up performing a lot of music. I performed in choirs throughout middle school, high school, and college (I went to community college in my hometown, so… you know… nothing crazy). I eventually moved to Chicago when I was 20-years-old, and as musical theater was my bread and butter while I was growing up, I ended up working with a vocal coach who focused on that style of singing. They helped me make connections, working on rep, building my audition book; then, by happenstance, I got called in for a classical audition for a company that focused on obscure and rare Viennese operetta. I got cast in several shows from that audition and called back for other roles, and that’s when I made the switch from musical theater to classical music as a baritone. A lot of my background knowledge in opera comes from following my sister-in-law. She has all but her doctorate in vocal performance from Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington (such a phenomenal program there!). I followed her throughout her training there and when she was at the University of Iowa, where she started her training. I saw her do roles from Marguerite in Faust to the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. Following her has expanded my knowledge of opera, especially since she started when I was seven-years-old.
Although most of your professional career has been in opera and operetta, your most recent ENDEAVORS haven’t been in that realm. What has been your path since you moved to Philadelphia?
Actually, I had taken a few years off of performing. I had a bit of trauma in the last opera I was in. Prior to that I was working in classical music, primarily opera, Viennese operetta, and choral music. Since moving to Philadelphia, I feel I have gotten past the PTSD where I can start performing again, and I have been mostly working with choral music and cabaret pieces. Although I have been focusing on contemporary musical theater here, I am looking to get back in to the classical music world.
You recently co-founded the choral group Tutti Allegro. What was your and your co-founder’s inspiration for starting this group?
It was actually kind of a ridiculous start! I met my friend Greg this summer playing kickball on the same team. He’s a professional tuba player, and he came up to me and asked, “You sing, right?” I responded with, “Yeah… you know. Keeping it casual.” He then asked, “How do you feel about getting a quartet together to sing Christmas carols this winter?” The next day, I had a little too much coffee and developed a plan to create a full choral ensemble that would develop into a non-profit focusing on more contemporary choral pieces. When I was in Chicago, I was involved with another choral ensemble similar to what I’m hoping to achieve with this group. They were called Allegrezza; the work we did was phenomenal, the people we reached were incredible, and they were a non-profit that worked with other non-profits and charities to share ticket sales and help as many people as we could. It was something I loved to do! I was donating my time raising money through singing, and that’s what I am hoping to do with Tutti Allegro. We just had our first concert. We did a cabaret show consisting of 10 choral pieces and then individual opportunities at a retirement home. It gave us a chance to bring music to people who rarely have the opportunity to see live performances. During intermission we took time to sit with the residents and got to know them a little bit. We brought along some smaller instruments like jingle bells, a tambourine, and other instruments, and we got the audience to participate with us as well!
As previously mentioned, you are also a Personal trainer. Is this more of a hobby or is this a Dream career?
It’s a primary source of income for me, so it’s my full time job. I do other little side gigs as well, but personal training is definitely a career for me. I pursued personal training because any opportunity to help people is so fulfilling to me. I am in the business of helping people change their lives, and there’s really nothing better than that. I got into it because I went through a significant weight loss myself. My senior year of high school I lost 80 pounds, and the impact it had was life-changing. It changed the way I viewed my prospects to the way I got around every day. I think a huge change, and one of the biggest benefits I hate to say, was being more marketable in the music field. I do act, sing, and dance. When I was heavier, dancing was much more difficult. The roles I was getting also changed, I was going from just being the funny guy to being the male romantic lead. It opened up so many more doors for me as far as performance goes. I have a drive within physical fitness to help other performers as well, not just for those looking to lose weight, but for those who are just looking to function better on the stage. I moved from a weight-loss specialty in to corrective exercise, so I help people with pre and post physical therapy rehabilitation, dancers who have specific injuries, actors who need certain level of strength for certain roles, and singers who desire to have a better awareness of their bodies. I was just recently talking to my sister-in-law about how when I have a gig, I will typically run a 5K the day of the gig so I have that full-body awareness. I want to be able to feel it everywhere, not just in my breath and my voice. My productivity and vocal output is much more grand and genuine when I can feel my whole body getting involved.
WHile you’ve been training in both fields, you’ve really managed to combine them quite quickly since you’ve moved to Philadelphia!
It’s really incredible to be able to combine both worlds! I know there are so many people who have their day jobs outside of music where they can’t find that same fulfillment because they can’t find a way to work in both fields contemporaneously. For me, it has been great for networking because I help out so many singers, actors, dancers, directors, etc., who then in turn help me.
Thank you, once again, Roy for taking the time to sit down with me and discussing your involvement in the classical music scene! In the near future, you can be expecting Roy to be starting his own physical fitness blog and a book to be hitting the shelves. Congratulations on all your accomplishments thus far, and good luck with all your endeavors.
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