Posted on April 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I got an email on December 11, 1999.

Jason,

Hi. We’ve met once or twice, but I’m not sure you’ll remember me. I’m
Georgia Stitt, a music director/pianist. I music directed “After The Fair”
this summer and “Stars In Your Eyes” this fall.

Anyway, I’m writing because I’m really, really interested in finding out
about the tour of “Parade.” Have you guys hired your music staff yet? I
would LOVE to go out on the road — potentially as the MD or AMD or even a
keyboard player. I have heard you play several times (starting with the NAMT
presentation of “Songs For A New World”) and I have a great appreciation for
the aggressive way you attack the piano. I’d be happy to send you (or the
music contractor — who is it?) a resume, and there are lots of people you
know who can speak to my playing/coaching/music directing ability.

Thanks. I must tell you also that when I moved to New York (5 years ago) I
thought that someday I’d write the great Leo Frank story that my grandmother
in Atlanta always talked about. You beat me to it. 🙂 Parade was really
wonderful. I’m glad you’re having the chance to do the tour.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Georgia Stitt

Reader, I hired her.

And then we got married and had a daughter, and everything that is good in my life right now and that I am most proud of can be traced back, in one way or another, to that email.

I try to draw some kind of boundary line around my personal life when I write these essays, and I specifically resolve to keep my wife and child out of it except in the most parenthetical ways. I don’t like strangers knowing my daughter’s name. I give a lot of myself in my work, so I reserve the right to hold one part back, and that part is my home, my house, my family. However, that leaves a big gap in the center of my writing, and the net effect is that my readers may not know or understand just how much I value and respect and appreciate and love the people who most intimately share my life. I just read Calvin Trillin’s new book, which is shattering, nowhere more so than the section where a fan writes him to say she hopes to find a husband who will love her like Calvin loved his wife. In reading that, it struck me, sadly, that none of my readers would know how much I love Georgia, and I decided it was time to address that.

Most directly, they wouldn’t know the esteem in which I hold my wife as a writer. And in that respect, they would have something in common with Georgia, who has lived with me for the better part of seven years now and has had to learn to interpret the elaborate and annoying series of grunts, mumbles, looks and fidgets that pass for fulsome praise in my world.

When I was twenty or so, a woman who was trying to be my mentor said to me, apropos some not especially great relationship I was having with an actress, “Listen, kid, there can only be one star in a relationship, and that star is going to be you.” At the time, I thought it was sage advice and more than a little flattering, but in the years since, I’ve begun to consider it the Hag’s Curse, especially when my first marriage collapsed. At that point I thought I should just respect the Curse and try to date a nice investment banker or dentist, but I doubt those would have been very successful relationships given my particular obsessions and lifestyle, and I never really meet anyone outside of “the business” anyway.

Since I met Georgia, I’ve been looking over my shoulder the whole time, trying to outrun the Hag’s Curse, because this isn’t a relationship in which I’m the star, or at least not the only one. As the email above might have suggested, Georgia is an impressively ambitious woman, and her ambition extends beyond some vague definition of success; she made it clear to me from the beginning of our relationship that she intended to be a composer and conductor on Broadway, and she was not going to be intimidated by the fact that that was exactly what I already was.

For the better part of seven years now, we have been bobbing and weaving and feinting around the issues that come from my having had a considerable head start in my career. Sometimes she comes up against a problem and I feel like I’ve been there and know the solution, but knowing when to say something (and how to say it) is a whole art form in and of itself for millions of reasons, some of which I understand and some of which are the kinds of mysteries that straight guys respond to by pulling out their hair and yelling, “Agh! Women!” We’re a very happy couple, and we negotiate each other’s emotional lives better than just about any other Young Marrieds I know, but we’ve got lots of mines to dodge, and that’s just the layer of Our Careers; I can’t even begin to explain the dynamics involved in listening to each other’s work and trying to be supportive even when we feel like “Oh, if you just did this progression instead of that…” There are times when we both sit at the kitchen table and spend hours awkwardly trying to talk around the elephant sitting right there.

I’m very careful therefore about promoting Georgia’s work, both because I don’t want people thinking I’m doing it “just because” she’s my wife and because I genuinely believe she can do just fine on her own without my dubious imprimatur. There’s also the whole weird thing to me about being a “professional couple”; I think it’s spooky and artificial when married actors do concerts together and stand there holding hands and singing love songs to each other, and I certainly don’t want anyone thinking I’m some kind of Svengali where my wife is concerned. But I’m tired, to be honest, of not being able to extol Georgia Stitt “just because” I married her. I love celebrating talent, especially a talent that is as exuberant and pronounced as Georgia’s is, and I’ve become resentful of all the hoops I make myself jump through to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. It so happens that my wife is beautiful and wonderful and manages to make everyone around her feel comfortable and taken care of, and I’ve always made it very clear to her and everyone else how much I value that and how lucky I feel that she has welcomed me and my work into her life. But outside of that, I married an exquisitely gifted writer and nothing would make me happier than to see her gifts embraced by the world.

Georgia did a concert at Birdland on Monday night to announce the release of her first CD, “This Ordinary Thursday” on PS Classics. For the first time in a while, I was able just to sit in the audience and marvel at what an assured and versatile writer she is, and to watch how she inspires actors and singers to bring their hearts and the best of their talents to light. Selfishly, I get to think about what my part is in the story of Georgia’s work, and it gives me great joy to see her playing with musicians I introduced her to, or to hear one of her songs in an arrangement that I did. But whatever my own personal relationship to her and her material, the larger effect of being in a room filled with people who are astonished, delighted, moved, inspired by what she does is overwhelming to me.

Go forth, ye pilgrims, check out Georgia’s website where you can listen to her songs, and then go and dig her new album, of which I’m proud to have been a small part. Nobody else gets to be married to Georgia Stitt, and that’s one of the great joys of my life; but everyone else can fall in love with her, and I encourage that with all my heart.

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