The Landscape

Tyler Samuel: Opera Singer, Woman of Color, Deafblind Advocate

May 02, 2021 Naveh Eldar / Tyler Samuel Season 2 Episode 10
The Landscape
Tyler Samuel: Opera Singer, Woman of Color, Deafblind Advocate
Show Notes Transcript

Tyler Samuel is a gifted and passionate opera singer who happens to be a woman of color; happens to be from a predominantly black high school; happens to be blind; and happens to be hard of hearing. She comes from a family that has never accepted being limited, going back to even before the civil rights movement. This episode is a celebration of art, and diversity and the bonds that can pull us together. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I've conducted to date.

Link to Tyler Samuels website: Here

Link to Tyler's Facebook Page: Here

Links for The Landscape Pages

Link to The Landscape FB Page

Link to The Landscape Instagram Page

Link to sign up News Letter

Link to The Landscape LinkedIn

Naveh Eldar  0:19  
You're you are listening to Tyler Samuel, a passionate and gifted opera singer. She also happens to be a minority. She also attended a predominantly black high school with only one choir. She is a woman with blindness, and is also hard of hearing. While all of that sounds unbelievable, you must listen to her full story to understand how unique an individual she is. It was such a pleasure welcoming Tyler to the landscape podcast. The episode starts with Tyler speaking about when she fell in love with Abra.

Tyler Samuel  1:07  
Well, I would say exactly was when I was five years old. And my grandmother was a big arts advocate. And she worked for the Performing Arts Center here in Nashville, Tennessee, where all the productions came through. And so when I would come up here for the summers, I would go to T pack and I would go see all the shows and go to Symphony. And we happen to go see the Phantom of the Opera. And I had a booster chair because I was too short the stage or anything. And I just remember, just the costumes and just the music. And in particular, Carlotta, the opera singer, the pre Madonna was the one I was drawn to. Everybody else was like john Christine, I'm like, No, I want to be the Prima Donna. That's what I'm that's who I want to be in. Just I think Carlotta sings and the music for that really took that I heard the opera sound. And I was like what is that? What is what is that? noise that is that is kind of drawing me to it. And from then on, I tried to find that try to find that sound. And I was like, oh, that sound was opera. And I was like that's it. That's me. That's what I that's, that's me. I found myself like when I when I heard it. And so I've just followed it since then.

Naveh Eldar  2:34  
And so you're five years old, you fall in love with opera, which is amazing in and of itself. I mean, how did your family or your friends or even too young to process that but how did your family react to the fact that they have this barely out of being a toddler? Who is like in love with opera? Yeah,

Tyler Samuel  2:54  
they they cultivated it, they nurtured it. They want to see what that were that took me they're like, okay, cuz everybody asked me what I was gonna do when I wanted to grow up, I'm saying I'm gonna say and not like not like saying like for that but like saying, right? And so they just nurtured it. They they were very supportive. And I thought that was really unique. And it definitely made sense for my family's history. In music. My great, my great grandmother was a music teacher. And so my aunt was a music teacher. So it just, it made sense that I would have this direction in my life, which is not knowing I was going to be that, that genre and that path.

Naveh Eldar  3:43  
Yeah, and it's, you know, it's a genre that not many people go through, especially, you know, people of color. So, I mean, that makes it all the more wonderful. So how, like, you know, people are listening to this now that have kids or may have grandkids and they have no idea how to cultivate something like that. So what did they do specifically to cultivate your education or your passion?

Tyler Samuel  4:11  
Yeah, they were when I hit recitals that are good, like I took piano when I was terrible at piano, but I try I tried you know, but they would come they would come up here recitals and just be the loudest ones even if I just butchered the whole song playing chopsticks and, but they were there and they they just nurtured it and my eyes she took her time to kind of help me outside of school and nurture music outside of school so I was in the Met singers on a car I was like the mini met before there was even thought to be one and for this choir for like second and third graders, but I was doing that and helping them with those like shows when I was little girl had little solos and things like that. So I remember them just kind of fostering it. And in the Let me get bloom and not rushing it. Because there are a lot, there are a lot of like kind of Jackie Wanko shell churches back then who kind of rushed it? Right. And right now like they're, you know, kind of not doing like opera or classical. Like, they kind of fall off to it because they rushed into it. So for my family, let it to naturally develop and go whatever direction to go, was really helpful too.

Naveh Eldar  5:28  
And so there's a lot of training, obviously, as everybody knows, an opera. So at what age did you like start formally training?

Tyler Samuel  5:35  
Yeah, I was a freshman in high school, I started taking formal voice lessons. And I went to Belmont Academy. And under Sabrina lady wanted, one was my voice teacher. Phenomenal. She's just a beautiful soprano herself. And I think that really honed into me that I could do this. And that I had a voice for it. And my music teacher in high school really nurtured and developed that I was the only one of my high school to do like mid state and all state competitions for the state of Tennessee. And which is really important to me, because my grandmother helped to integrate that. So I can even be able to do it.

Naveh Eldar  6:21  
And so when when did that happen when she helped to integrate?

Tyler Samuel  6:24  
That was she was a teacher at Cameron. And that was in South Nashville. And that was the had to be? I don't know, I don't know. Yes, specifically. But she was the teacher leading for integration of our state and midstate because they used to have, like the white one and a black one for public schools. Gotcha. And so now for those get audition to be selected for the choir, but the blind auditions. So there's a curtain where the judges can't see you. All they can do is hear your voice when you sing. So they don't know who they're going to get. Right. Until they see their choir that day.

Unknown Speaker  7:04  

Tyler Samuel  7:05  
Yeah, yeah. So just so they have to be able to see how come full circle, for me to be a part of something like that was really cool to know that my family had like, a hand in that. So I was, I was very proud to be part of that.

Naveh Eldar  7:25  
And okay, so you're a freshman in high school, and you're and you're really doing something that nobody else in your school is doing. How did the other students respond to you? Were they were they even aware of it? Or did you like fly under the radar? Or were you the weird girl? Or were you like amazing to them?

Tyler Samuel  7:44  
They were they were definitely aware of it, I would say they would be more kind of annoyed and not understanding of it really. Because they will be there will be announcements when i when i got awards, or singing competitions or mice. I got Tyler's going to Europe to saying this idea there. And so it'd be announcements and things like that. So that's the word where I was I was sitting at the school events and things like that, and it will be changed because like there was a time in choir where one person was like, I'll never forget it. The conversation was who seems like outside of school I guess the other thing here and they were like set asides this person, that person. And then Tyler say you too, and they're like, no, like saying like Vyasa he saying that like that? classical stuff. Classical. And some other forget that class. I was at classical start singing. That always stuck with me. I'm like, why? How is it not? It's like the hardest thing and

Naveh Eldar  8:54  
it is it's like hearing somebody say, Oh, they play classical piano. Oh, that he's not a real musician. I mean, it's like why. So did that ever discourage you? I mean, did it ever get to get to a point where you were like, maybe I should do something else?

Tyler Samuel  9:09  
Yeah, well, it definitely. So because I was able to do all state I was, I got automatically into the sound of America on abandoned course. And that was in 2009. And I remember it came to me in the mail at school. And I'll open it up and I read it and I saw the cost of it. And it was something that it was money that we definitely didn't have. I was just like this is impossible.

Naveh Eldar  9:39  
But explain what this is for so explain what is the sound of America.

Tyler Samuel  9:46  
So the sound of America on a band and cores are the top from the country of all the midstate from band and vocalists and so their chairs like first year second tier third tier on down to like 50 of chair, depending on the size of the choir or the band. And so the top chairs, top few chairs are automatically invited to be in the sound of America out of band, The course is about 400 to 500 people in this group from the office in the United States of America, they go to one year, and the countries are Germany, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and the English different towns and stuff they stop and regularly in that goes every summer. And so but do you have to pay to go pay the same? And I think back then it was like nine something like $10,000 for everything. But that got you it wasn't that was good at all your flight, everything like that to go. And so I was accepted into that. And I felt like I wasn't good enough to do it. And I didn't think I was like, sure I ran to it. You know, and I've already accepted into it. But I don't have I don't I'm not in that same social class. As as these people will be, who can just drop 10 grand to go.

Naveh Eldar  11:24  
Okay, so that's like, super interesting to me. So So you were feeling insecurity not based on your talent, but based on your socio economic status, like you felt like this is? This is something that that wealthy people should go to. Wow, okay.

Tyler Samuel  11:39  
Yeah. Because, I mean, I went to a public school where, I mean, it was, it was a predominantly black school, like, you know, we had a lot of low income families and things like that. So it was just, it wasn't. That's why I was the only one really doing the classical stuff there. Because that's just what I was into. Right. And so, I think I think that's why I picked on sometimes, because I think people felt like, I was doing classical music to try to be a different place than, like, put myself into class. And something else, actually was, when I wasn't the case is just that I would just enjoy the genre of music. Sure. And so that was always an issue as well there.

Naveh Eldar  12:28  
And so how did you, obviously you went, so how did you raise the funds for that?

Tyler Samuel  12:33  
So I raised funds to church and I have a team and I had a fundraiser recital that I did. But when it came, it was getting maybe a month or so away, and we didn't have the money raised completely to go. But but they had a choice, you could roll it over to the next year, and just start off where you left off. And so I was like, Okay, well, I'll just go next year, we'll sit we'll just roll it over. And so I was resigned to that, that that was just gonna be what it was. But I went, it was Mother's Day of 2009. And my mom was had just had was sick and didn't come out the house. And I don't want to go to church that day, I was supposed to sing a solo. And I didn't want to go, my mom wasn't going. So it's like, there's no point going and seeing what for Mother's Day, you know, gonna be there. And she's like, just go and do it. And you know what we have to see. So I go and sing. And probably that Wednesday of that week, after that Sunday, my pastor got a letter from a gentleman who was visiting his mom at the mother's day. And her my story and heard like when I was in her basing, and then we do deflection for donations for my trip. I was doing that and hear that. And so he sent a check for the remaining amount that I needed to go.

Naveh Eldar  14:02  
Wow, that's beautiful. Did you ever find out who it was?

Tyler Samuel  14:06  
I did. Okay.

Naveh Eldar  14:08  
Just curious.

Tyler Samuel  14:09  
Yeah. Yeah.

Naveh Eldar  14:11  
And then so what was that? So now you're like, headed to Europe? Yeah, what a bunch of people you don't feel extremely secure to be around. Right? Right. So what was that experience? like for you? Was it awesome? Or was it terrifying?

Tyler Samuel  14:25  
It was it was a lot of things because I didn't know if I would fit in. And I think that just the layers of why wouldn't fit into my brain, you know, with my vision and being you know, disabled and maybe having to add, you know, there's always a way to ask somebody get a friend like to help me and stuff like that. Eventually, that's always an awkward process to go through. Like tell people why, like, what why do you guys look like that? Explain to me this then you had this. Oh, I was gonna look like 400 people like so probably like you We're all from private schools or like, our boarding schools or something. And like, I don't know, I don't know what they like, I don't know what they like the stuff I like. It was just, it was just really nerve wracking to not know what kind of situation you're gonna walk into. But I got there and it was, it was that it was a it was homeschool boarding school private school. But then I was I was the only one who was like, from like, you know,

Unknown Speaker  15:30  
inner city school is 122.

Tyler Samuel  15:38  
There, so I was a little rougher on me. And I was a little rough around the edges. And so it was interesting to see me interact with them sometimes in the beginning, but they got me on a lot of great friends. And it changed me completely at the person to be around peers my age, who liked the same music I liked. Who knew the same like when I tried to sing a song, they knew the song to like, like, when I would go my friends in high school again, the song but they know the words and I'm like Nananana like, I'm just I like one fish, two fish like I don't like I don't know the word.

Unknown Speaker  16:24  
But like,

Tyler Samuel  16:25  
the fun. My friends that I made in Europe, they like we like we know our music winner like different stuff, and I different artists. So I haven't had like a group of people to where I felt that same camaraderie when it came to music. And so that was interesting to me socially and culturally, that music. It is a bonding as you can no matter what your socio economic status is like music, just something different to wear puts you in a different light. You're on the same plane

Naveh Eldar  16:58  
when you spoke to them. But they also experienced that though, like even though they were in private schools that they experienced it like their peers, from whatever schools they came from really didn't get why they were so into opera.

Tyler Samuel  17:11  
Yeah. Yeah, I think a lot of us share that same same sentiment, because a lot of us who have gone to school for music after we left there, were hit like some, like kid graduated. So they're going into school that next year. Most of us were going to music, we still do music, music teachers people performing now. So that was a common thread we have in common where sometimes Yeah, we were just kind of misunderstood. But I feel like they have more. A lot of them have more support because they show choirs they had three different quiet like they had somebody from choir, so many ensembles, so many different things like that, that I didn't have, like I didn't have a show choir, I didn't have like, we had great choir, we had like one quiet class. And so even though they may have felt like it, they still have support system there. And so I don't think it was as a life changing thing as it was for me.

Naveh Eldar  18:07  
Sure. And so was it. I don't know if this is your first time in Europe. But what was just that experience like as well. So not only you with these people that share the same passion, but now you're like, also getting a taste at least of these other cultures.

Tyler Samuel  18:23  
Right, right. So it was my first time in Europe. And I remember actually being at the New York airport. And I come along and I'm like, Mom, I'm like getting on the plane. She's like, Yes, you are. Yes, you will listen to me. Yes. The plane is going over the ocean. It's going like I could I was so freaking out. I was like I got to turn back. I was like No, this is not happening on a double decker plane. 1000 Singapore Airlines playing a double decker plane. I'm like this thing is not meant to get off the ground. When I go make it. I'm telling my mom that and she's like, no, you're going so I take like some Benadryl

Unknown Speaker  19:25  
relax you

Tyler Samuel  19:31  
man thinking about this over and over. Oh my goodness, that that was my first reaction doing it. I remember landing landing in Germany because I didn't get up and down on the plane and my feet were so swollen and everything. I felt like I landed on doing universe the blog forever. But that was I never done I had never had a passport. I never did anything. So everything was just like it was brand new. There was nothing, I didn't know what to expect. And we got there and everybody was going to McDonald's. And I was like, what's wrong with y'all with the McDonald's from anywhere on any corner? In time, I'm trying to find some later food, I'm trying to figure out what the potatoes are worse about worse, like, you know, and so I, I saw that the difference between me and them as well I because I just had, you know, whatever, from whatever lunch the other day, but a chef made it, they would, they would talk about stuff like that, and I can, I can't relate to things like that. So that's why for me, that's like, going to be new, like cultural, like curiosity, like I'm going to learn to, and I didn't really see that there was like, a time for it partying and like, kind of vacationing, whereas me if I never been anywhere. This is the most, like probably, I don't know, if I ever go back again, kind of thing. So I'm trying to take it all in if somebody of my family has never been anywhere like this, my family does not know anything about the country. So from conversations with them, and hearing them talk about their families and things like that. It was that's where that socio economic thing started to, like shine for me. Right during that trip. But it was interesting how our friendships worked, even though there was that divide.

Unknown Speaker  21:26  
Mm hmm.

Tyler Samuel  21:26  
So I think I learned a lot about myself on that trip. I learned about the people. I learned about the world a great lot. But I when I came back to the States, I was a different person. Yeah. Because of that experience. And I must have that experience away. So when I got that letter from school that I talked about earlier, I opened it and read it. And then I decided, I was like, I can't do this. This is nothing more, there's no point in me show my mom, there's no point me taking this home, but open it and read it. So walk to the trash can. And I have in my hand, and I have that over the trashcan. And about to release it. And then I just freeze. I suppose it's I took it and I said, Well, maybe I should my mom, session or mom, she goes, Well, we can try.

Unknown Speaker  22:22  

Tyler Samuel  22:23  
So that was just like you never know what your decisions can do. I could have done that away and never had, like, a life altering experience like that.

Naveh Eldar  22:34  
Right. Exactly. Wow. And so let's back up a little bit. So you alluded to it earlier. And obviously my podcast is around disability issues. And you said that you were a little bit concerned when you went on this trip to try to explain it. So explain to the listeners now. Exactly. What are your disabilities and and if they've changed,

Tyler Samuel  22:58  
yeah, so I have, I was born with congenital glaucoma. And I have her boyfriend syndrome, which is a combination of cedd and hearing loss. So definitely, I'm deaf blind. And Chad is an acronym for congenital hereditary dystrophy. So I have corneal dystrophies, as well. So very thick corneas, and a very a lot of eye fluid and pressure my eyes, which is why I kind of see I seem hazy and kind of droopy looking all the time, but that's just how I look. But um, I have prescriptions, my glasses and things like that, but I don't really wear them. Because my vision fluctuate so much throughout the day. And so it doesn't make sense to wear glasses when they change, like, I'm having six or seven prescriptions for a day. So I just don't wear glasses. And so sometimes I come off as passing to people, especially like if it's not at night, I mean it came or something like that was something identify identifiable. So I think a lot of times they come off as passing to people, as if I may be wearing contacts and people will say things like, if I looked at the close up, you get some glasses or like making comments towards me like, as if I forgot my glasses, glasses at home. You might close that screen man, like, make Thomas's like that Not knowing how to like disability. So I wish people would just make assumptions like that.

Naveh Eldar  24:37  
Sure. And then you said you also had several surgeries. Is that accurate?

Tyler Samuel  24:42  
Yeah, I had three when I was a day old and two days old. And then I've had six or seven laser surgeries. I've had to have a shot in Hi, morning is I have a real shot. And the shots because my tube, the tuber drains fluid in your eyes, everybody has one minute malformed, so they'll drain quickly. And so that's why I have an extra tube that was inserted to help. So to dreams. I'm alpha one and then an artificial one to help drain fluid in my eyes and sand those on both sides. And as I have dry syndrome,

Naveh Eldar  25:33  
and what about your hearing loss? So obviously, you're a singer. So how progressive is it? And how does it impact your ability to sing?

Tyler Samuel  25:43  
You know, it's, um, I'm a pH th by death thing. I cannot hear pH like the fifth, six, like those types of endings. My higher like very high range hearing and I have high range hearing, which is ironic because I seem very high. But it hasn't found to affect my singing yet. I'm sure will in some at some point. I feel fortunate to have my, my rain to be able to match pitch and all those things, right. There's a sometimes, you know, professors will be talking to teachers will be talking about I can't hear them very well. The pitches of people's voice in which tell me speaking, I hear my voices better than I hear female voices. So it just kind of a degenerative thing for me.

Naveh Eldar  26:42  
So thank you for that explanation, because I know people are listening going okay. Well, you know, she just talked about this. So what's going on? Now, let's get back to your career. So when did you have your first lead role in opera? Like when did you progress to that point,

Tyler Samuel  27:01  
my first lead role in opera was in college pretty early. So the thing about the music world is when you're auditioning from high school, there's not a lot of undergraduate schools and universities that would have undergraduate students being leads that to leads are always typically reserved for graduate students. Okay. And for also for school choice thing, there are conservatories that really just mainly focus on music. There are liberal arts schools where you course get your music degree, but you also have liberal education. So they're very concentrated diplomas like so it's just for me to go to kind of different options to take. For me, I knew that I didn't want to go to conservatory really, because I wanted to have a worldwide education. Like I wanted to take the sciences, I wanted to have a random Greek class I wanted to do some other just kind of have a well rounded education from my undergrad. But if I had gone to a school that was a grad school and undergrad school, I would have only had course roles if that an undergrad and I wouldn't have had any lead experience being a lead singer. Okay. So that's what usually takes people a longer time to kind of get out there and start doing more things in the real world. For me, I was very fortunate to have lead roles and my freshman year of college hmm and people can always say that so my firstly was a deal on deflated mouse.

Naveh Eldar  28:41  
And what college were you at?

Tyler Samuel  28:42  
The University of Evansville, Indiana.

Naveh Eldar  28:45  
Okay. And so what was that experience? Like? So you're young you're like 19 Yeah, in college. So that's a whole new experience. And now you get your first lead so so how was that?

Tyler Samuel  28:57  
That was it was very exciting. It's such a fun little opera, it's got some great music and luckily they took it easy on us so we'll have to sing in German and we could speak in English so that was I was grateful for that. But it was it was a great experience a lot of fighting in the dance and having like the kind of FOMO like a breathing kind of about you just just the whole ambience of it is like a

Naveh Eldar  29:27  
and what's your favorite lead or what is a lead that you would love to do?

Tyler Samuel  29:33  
A lead that if so if I was like a professional somebody knew who I was like just like right now but nobody Joe when they hear somebody saying but when I'm somebody saying my ultimate goal would be to have a cleaner the night might be that roll be like my main staple roll from magically Mozart cuz I love that opera. I love The Queen of the Night. She's so backwards and demented. But I love her music and i think i think that'd be my favorite role to just do over and over. I have to go ahead and do musical theater over and over again. I can do that over and over again.

Naveh Eldar  30:19  
Wow. We're gonna get to your future plans in a while, but Rumor has it word on the street is that while you were in college in between doing operas, you were a DJ. Is this true? And how is that possible? from everything we've heard about you so far?

Tyler Samuel  30:43  
Yes, I was a DJ.

Unknown Speaker  30:47  

Tyler Samuel  30:54  
Big dude, our station last year,

Unknown Speaker  30:57  
but um,

Tyler Samuel  30:59  
I was the DJ for party lights. Because the lights Okay, fine. I promise you I think I was the first DJ for that song. Bubble, but Baba Baba, Baba, Baba. I remember getting that song on a DVD like this right case. And I was like, What is this? What is this song and I put it in play. I'm like, What is bubble? But like? Oh, man, but I think I chose party lights because it was the complete opposite of like what I am but also very reminiscent of who I was like, growing up in school and everything. Right? Like sneaking off to parties and stuff like that, like that side of me. Sorry, mom yesterday after some parties. Like Tyler was

Naveh Eldar  31:53  
gonna ground you now. Parents don't care.

Tyler Samuel  32:00  
But um, yes. My mom. My mom was also DJ so running the family.

Naveh Eldar  32:05  
Your family is so interesting. You see this?

Tyler Samuel  32:08  
She She was the little she was a little the little one.

Naveh Eldar  32:15  
That was her name.

Tyler Samuel  32:16  
He had the little one. Okay, DJ, the little one. And then she had a band name exotic.

Naveh Eldar  32:22  
Oh, Lord. I need to interview her next. Yeah, I need to get your whole family on. And so um, so you do the whole college experience? And what was the highlight for you in college? We had it seems like high school highlight was your European trip. Right? Did you have Did you have a college highlight?

Tyler Samuel  32:44  
Um, college, I love college completely. I I definitely lived my college years to the fullest. I definitely my Greek journey I am Greek. My Greek journey was not the most typical one. Sometimes I wish I had gone differently. But then I also am very happy with why ended up and what do I know my life because of my ended up. So I think having that support system and people there to keep you accountable academically really helped me finish college because there were some days off I am I'll make it. I'm not gonna make it through like I was buried, but then they always were there. And I think that accountability that they instilled in me was something that I'll never forget and just kind of helped. It helped me mature a lot. And then just, you know, honestly parties, we have some big parties too. So those are always remember, I still talk about so I still am very close to a lot of college friends. Even still, I've started almost a decade ago, literally a decade, literally a decade ago and doesn't seem that long at all. So that's kind of crazy, because I know that that's when you know that you really take it in. We were all very smart. We have a very talented I would feel very Thomas school like Rami may like is a graduate of my school. Toby I'm new I was on since eight on Netflix is from my school. So we have a lot of talented a lot of AAA cast is from my school. So our school is small, but it's my so I definitely picked a good one. I think it worked out for me. And I'm still very active with them with them now. I'm president of their alumni group to Nashville.

Naveh Eldar  34:36  
Oh, very cool, huh? And so you graduate you come to Nashville. you're originally from Arkansas, is that right?

Tyler Samuel  34:44  
I am.

Naveh Eldar  34:45  
I am. only want to talk about Arkansas right now. I'm very angry with it.

Tyler Samuel  34:48  
Oh, bags.

Naveh Eldar  34:54  
And so you you return and then you start. you're performing here like you even perform What the National Opera is that is that it's not opera I'm sorry, the Nashville Symphony. And so how did that happen? And how was that?

Tyler Samuel  35:08  
That was through Nick Cave featuring Nashville. And it was an It was kind of musicians and artists who are based in Nashville. And he had his own art exhibit that was on at the time, the first and at the symphony. And it was just a wonderful production is still on YouTube. Now you can search for MC k feature Nashville. And watch that production. I'm the first vocalist that you will be hearing. And there and the one that I don't have a microphone on. So it's solid acoustics and how it is so Oh, wow. Yes. Now, check out.

Naveh Eldar  35:51  
And you also, I know you perform with a group that does American Negro spirituals. Yeah. And so why did you decide to do that? Obviously, that's or is it different? so different from opera? And so what got you into that? Why is it important?

Tyler Samuel  36:09  
I've seen the Princip players is a group based in Nashville. And I grew up when I first came up to Nashville, our families were very close. The the settlers family, and they had several siblings involved with this group backup sibling was Cameron's not mistaken. But with the drama teacher camera, nothing to teach the drama teacher I forget his name. I know. I know it, you know, they're gonna be so mad to me. I don't know his name. Sorry, I'm sorry, Robert Smith. But the drama teacher, I think a camera in high school decided to get this group together. And I would always see the programs and things because at the time, my grandmother, and one of the siblings was more engaged at the time, so I would always see them in concert. And so I would just being all of the, the combination of storytelling of emoting, I had, I had seen the Jubilee singers, and I love the fistula singers. But it's not the same as Super singers, there's a lot more drama and acting involved in it. And in the music is, to me is so authentic. It sounds like it comes from the depths of the soul, right? And there's this just a different sound to that.

Naveh Eldar  37:38  
And so where do you perform? Where do you guys perform it.

Tyler Samuel  37:41  
So we have performed at several plantations, this kind of reenactment. When Andrew Jackson hermitage plantation, they found a mass burial site, they moved it and we buried it. We're saying at that I finished doing that it was saved at a plantation. But that type of doing an act on the museum sites and things like that, to just kind of give an authenticity of what they might hear there on the grounds and things like that. Which is kind of for me, it's very, I've always been aware that time is not far, far from where we've been. And to know that I've had people who were Freedom Writers who were lawyers, so much lawyers who were in segregation, who have a great night who knew what about somebody who was the youngest slave in the family like to me like it's almost you can reach out and touch that history. And I think that's what's so different about parts of players and just that genre of Negro spirituals, and, and just the depth of it. It's so deep. It's

Naveh Eldar  38:58  
not that that kind of brings me to you're just a very interesting, very unique individual. But it seems like you come from that you have a very trendsetting family if I can put it like that. So can you tell us a little bit about what you already talked about? You're on to help to desegregate this choir in Nashville. Right. So that's amazing and of itself. Can you tell us a little bit about your great grandfather as well?

Tyler Samuel  39:23  
Yeah, so my great grandfather, Bob pop. He, he unfortunately didn't get a chance to meet me just yet. I missed him a few years. But he robbed rbj Campbell was attended like a law school in a university Kentucky and each Knoxville and Snyder, UT Knoxville, sorry. And he didn't have access to the library. Even have access to to get both he had asked people for them to pay people for them. Like it's It's kind of unbelievable that it's like that. But there's now a scholarship in his name for law students.

Naveh Eldar  40:07  

Tyler Samuel  40:08  
So yeah, and he was a part of the civil rights movement here in Nashville. He would go, there's a picture of him with Jay Alexander looby. I think there's another one in civil rights, where he's downtown in a courthouse with a bunch of lawyers. So he was very active in the scene of the civil rights movement in the city ends here, Nashville,

Naveh Eldar  40:31  
and the first black man to graduate from the University of Tennessee. There. Wow, amazing. And I didn't I knew that he was the first degree. I didn't know it was law school. So that's even more impressive. You think of the the year and the environment back then. Right? Which which we think about it but an honesty we can't imagine. Like, I haven't, I haven't no idea what it must have been like, no. So that has trickled that, believe it or not, that kind of rebellion, and grit has trickled down all the way to his great granddaughter. And so what are you up to these days? And what are your goals going forward?

Tyler Samuel  41:13  
Yeah, I am, I've been doing a lot of background work and practicing work here. And I'm a volunteer for the National Museum of African American music here in Nashville, which if you haven't gone yet, please make plans to go The museum is absolutely phenomenal. So amazing. And I love being able to be a part of that team in some capacity. And then also, the opera will stop soon. And we could be down there, I'll be doing that. I am. I'm thinking about going back to school for performing for grad school. So I've been looking into that. And during those days, I just, I was very sick last year 2020. to a point where I was I gotten really ill. And I actually cannot even phone eight. I couldn't even make any I couldn't make a sound, okay. And I could not sing, I can vocalize I can warm up, I couldn't do any of it. And so I thought I had lost my voice. I thought it had gone. And so to be quite honest, I had not seen professionally since this month. Okay, and what you know, COVID going on a pandemic, and just the lights down on all of the houses, you know, theater houses and things like that. And so I say I saved for the bicentennial of Greek independence. They were free in 1821. So it's their Bicentennial. And I sang in front of Athena abom, and Gilly ad. And that was my first time singing again this year, and my voice is not where I wanted to be. But I realized I still do have a voice. And I feel like I had been in a law, I really needed that performance to kind of like, get that fire back in me.

Naveh Eldar  43:12  
Right? So can I ask what you were sick with? You don't have to answer if you don't want to

Tyler Samuel  43:17  
know I have had what's called him occlusion migraines as well. And they can have like stroke like conditions. And so I had an attack, and kind of put me down and I lost, like, the left side of my body. And so I don't go physical therapy and things like that. So kind of a long recovery for me.

Naveh Eldar  43:43  
But it sounds like you're recovering well now. Yeah. Right. Okay. And, and let's talk a little bit about I think we're gonna wrap up. I always have personal questions at the end. But before we get to those, I wanted to make sure I got to talk to you about like, disability advocacy in general. And and what we need to do to help the disability community in all aspects of life. Yeah.

Tyler Samuel  44:08  
You know, the movie Hunger Games, and at the end, they go fires catching


accessibility is catching. I see it. I had a friend who I never see on Facebook ever, like posting things about disabilities or anything like that. But they they put up like a series of pictures. And then in the comment section, I put image description. Yeah, and wrote everything out. Accessibility is catching.

Naveh Eldar  44:44  
Yeah. On Instagram, too. They're just not having auto captioning. It hasn't even rolled out to everybody yet. I know. I have a friend in England that has some features that has hit her and I don't have them yet. She's like they're on their way to you though. Because she has she has A daughter who's deaf, so she's a big advocate for that. And so, yeah, so we're starting to see in social media, captions more in descriptions more and things.

Tyler Samuel  45:11  
Yeah. And I'm not I'm not like, I'm not the best advocate, we all have our flaws. But I'm an advocate who kind of like, have my hands and all the pots really just trying to like, make sure that like, all my all my teams covered everybody, like, are we like, What do you need? What do you need? What do you need is everything like that? So, and this is I forget myself, my, oh, I got to advocate for myself too. You know, I gotta be there for me too. So, but I do see that people are trying.

Naveh Eldar  45:44  
And this is kind of a side. It's not really directly related, but I just got curious about it. Did anybody ever say maybe you weren't going down the right career path because of your disability, or were you always pretty supported.

Tyler Samuel  46:01  
I was always pretty supportive. And even with the theatre companies, I was so grateful to work and grew up with, for community theater, like street theater, community theater, circle players, very keenly theater. They're always since I was a little kid, they were always very accommodating to make sure they had like extra tape for me, mate gave me time to like, make sure I memorize a set well, and never made me feel like I was a burden. And we're in and that was very freeing and liberating, and to be even tested, and I was in college, my college professor invoice he tested me like he had me up in the balcony he had been where have you running from here to there like he, like it was it was never, there were no boundaries. And I like that that was the case and that I was able to experience and that made me a better performer. Because I wasn't fearful to try new things. I wasn't fearful to go to new heights.

Naveh Eldar  47:05  
It's interesting, because really, when we when you think about the arts community seems to always be on that front curve of inclusion. In general, whether it's, you know, sexual identity or ethnicity or disability, it seems like, you know, the arts community is a very open and encouraging community.

Tyler Samuel  47:27  
It is it is and i think that i think the arts community definitely helped me too. I know that if I wasn't in it, I'd be probably down different paths in life. And I know that that gave me a second family, and a different diverse in all the ways, family that taught me so much, and taught me lessons and values that I appreciate and cherish to this day. And that I mean, I've gotten from my birth family, but then my family too. So I think that I think that's the difference. I think we truly do consider each other family when we do anything for each other.

Naveh Eldar  48:06  
Well, let's let me wrap up with some personal questions. The fun questions. Since we're so into music, and you were a DJ and you sing opera. You just been all over the place. Who is your What was your favorite concert? popular music concert? You've been to?

Tyler Samuel  48:25  
concert popular music, right? I was supposed to. I was supposed to see Adele. And then a lot of them great.

Unknown Speaker  48:33  

Tyler Samuel  48:37  
I couldn't go see Prince.

Naveh Eldar  48:39  
Oh, I got to see him. Oh, by the way. Oh, how do you want to talk about it? What's the best best thing ever?

Tyler Samuel  48:46  
Oh, man, I can go see Prince. Um, okay. It's gonna be so oh

Naveh Eldar  48:55  
50 so it's probably not going to be that old to me. But

Tyler Samuel  48:59  
it was the tours. It was the B 2k omarion little bow. Does one of those tours call? Oh my goodness. I can't remember. But I love the 2k baby Turner and the pedigo bump.

Naveh Eldar  49:22  
You are multi dimensional. So as the best as the best thing ever. You're like irony, right? Like Everything about you is irony if you're deaf blind opera singer who was a DJ. I mean, it's just the bass here the best. And last question, any bingeing going on and binge watching on TV?

Tyler Samuel  49:50  
Oh man, I definitely been some bridge bridgerton I'm benching solo opposites right now.

Naveh Eldar  49:56  
Uh huh.

Tyler Samuel  49:57  
I'm definitely gotta finish me some big mouth. Okay, I love I love like Seth MacFarlane, like Seth Rogen. I love I love it all making Dad I love Family Guy. Like, that's my kind of humor like, I'm on. I'm on that level. Okay. Which which probably seems like very Like what? Like you're not saying like, The Good Place or like,

Naveh Eldar  50:26  
hey, you're laughing but um, first of all, I'm also like on the Family Guy type of humor, but I'm also watching the good place right now. This is all good. It's all good. But is there any you have any last words you would like to say anything you'd like to share to the to the listeners?

Tyler Samuel  50:48  
And no, I just really appreciate you having me on here. enjoy talking with you. I feel like I talk a lot, but I do.

Naveh Eldar  50:57  
And that's what I brought you on for this talk. So you did a great job. Thank you and good luck and I am going to be sharing on my social media. I'll be sharing some links and I will be sharing also some of your YouTube clips if you have Okay, well so, so people will be happy to look out for that and come follow the pages and you can see in here, this wonderful young lady. Thank you again. find links to Tyler Samuels performances and content in the episode description. Make sure to subscribe to the landscape podcast and follow the show on all social media platforms, including LinkedIn. The next episode I interview Lisa Mills, who is a national subject matter expert on supported employment, and has helped over 20 states develop and improve services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and severe and persistent mental illness. I've had the honor of working with Lisa as she helped develop our new Medicaid services here in Tennessee. And her knowledge, skill set and passion are unrivaled. So make sure to tune in next time.

Transcribed by