Purdue University professor performs personal story through Broadway music

‘Who Am I? I am what I am!’

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Purdue University professor performs personal story through Broadway music

(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian)

By Yurika Yamazaki, Collegian Correspondent

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On Oct. 29, nearly 70 students attended Christopher Cayari’s performance of his show “Who Am I? I Am What I Am! – A Story Told through Broadway Music” at the Bezanson Recital Hall.

Cayari, an assistant professor of music education at Purdue University, was invited to perform by Stephen A. Paparo, an associate professor of music education at the University of Massachusetts.

Cayari’s performance, which was composed of five songs from popular Broadway musicals, was an autoethnography, a study of society and everyday life. Paparo was first introduced to Cayari’s study at a LGBTQ+ studies and music education conference held at the University of Illinois.

“I really appreciated the performative aspect of his presentation because it is not typical for research to be presented as performance,” Paparo said. “It was a thoughtful and innovative approach to both diversifying the type of research on sexuality and the way in which it was presented.”

Cayari explained that his show was aimed at encouraging the audience, in particular members of the LGBTQ+ community, to find empowerment.

“K-12 schools do not represent gender and diverse people very well,” Cayari added as he sang about his struggles as a gay man who believed in Catholicism. Once Cayari began singing, he captivated the audience’s attention with his story of eventually learning to accept his identities.

Cayari began working on his project in 2016 as a representation of his research. While most research “is static” and “never changing,” Cayari said his life story isn’t – his research “is living.”

“Each performance is different because performances before tonight had dancers,” Cayari explained, noting that, for his eighth performance, he was by himself on stage for the first time.

Cayari’s performance featured songs from “Rent,” “Bare: A Pop Opera,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “13: The Musical,” “Altar Boyz” and “35mm: A Musical Exhibition.”

Julia Tuttle, a music education junior with a concentration in voice, was impressed with the performance, saying that she thought  “his story and his experiences are something lots of people throughout the world [experience].”

“As a future teacher, I want to learn as much as I can to help my students understand themselves better and the constantly changing world around them,” Tuttle continued. “[Cayari’s] performance highlighted a lot of the topics I have been wondering about in a classroom and how I would be able to make my classroom as open and accepting to everyone as I can.”

“LGBTQIA+ people should not be afraid to pursue things that relate to LGBTQIA+ topics in their perspectives because it is part of who they are,” Cayari said. “However, they also need to be careful and mindful of their communities, so they do not put themselves in danger from prejudice and angry people.”

Cayari will stay at UMass for a couple of days to lead other events on campus.

Yurika Yamazaki can be reached at [email protected]