The phone rang making me jump. I shouldn’t have been startled. After all, I was expecting the phone call. Still, I couldn’t help being nervous as my fingers fumbled while picking up my cell. The screen flashed Rick Bilbee, manager of my fledgling opera and musical theater career.

“Did I get the part?” Okay. Probably not the most gracious greeting ever, but I couldn’t help it. Three days ago, I had a call-back for Lily in The Secret Garden with Skylight Music Theater Company. The pay was good. The part was sensational and the commute…well, Milwaukee was less than a two hour drive from the bed I currently slept in my Aunt Millie’s house in the northern suburbs of Chicago. While I wasn’t keen on making that drive every day, I was willing to sleep in my car if necessary to play this part. A part that would hopefully lead me to bigger and better things.

Rick cleared his throat and my heart sank. My manager only had trouble speaking when it involved bad news. “The director loved you. He thought your voice was one of the best he’s heard in the last twenty years.”


Big sigh. “But they’ve decided to go with an actress who has worked with the company before.”

Damn. My throat clogged with disappointment at the familiar words. Directors loved working with actors they knew. Great for them. Not so great for those of us trying to break in.

Rick rushes into his reassuring manager routine. “I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of other gigs that would be perfect for you. Don’t worry. You’re too talented to be out of work for long. Relax. I’ll be in touch soon.”

I pushed the END button on my phone, rested my head on the cool marble counter in the middle of my aunt’s gourmet kitchen and sighed.

Relax. Right.

That would be easier to do if I hadn’t given up my apartment because I couldn’t afford the rent. Not having a steady performing job in the last couple months had stretched my finances to the brink. Thankfully, Aunt Millie invited me to live here with her for as long as I needed. Not exactly a hardship considering her standard of living as one of the top salespeople for Mary Kay Cosmetics put her in a much higher tax bracket than struggling performer me. But while she was more than happy to let me live here rent free, I wanted to pay my way.

Which is why I would be starting a steady job next week. The good news was the job involved singing and dancing. Both things I loved. The bad news was I wouldn’t be the one doing the performing. The high school show choir I agreed to coach would have that honor.

Show choir.

The classically trained singer in me winced as visions of rhinestones and deranged smiles floated through my head. Still, I told myself, I was lucky. This was a music related job. One I was grateful to have. At least, I was working hard to convince myself of that. Teenage angst, tacky costumes and lots of jazz squares. Yippee.

Nonetheless, the job provided a steady paycheck and allowed me to work with kids who were passionate about performance and music. I mean, really, after working with some of egos in the professional performing world, how hard could coaching a few high school kids possibly be?

You can read more about Paige in Murder For Choir, the first book in the new “Glee Club” mystery series.

** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of MURDER FOR CHOIR to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends July 6. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **

Meet the author
Joelle Charbonneau has performed in opera and musical theatre productions across Chicagoland. She’s the author of the Rebecca Robbins mysteries (Minotaur Books), the Glee Club mystery series (MURDER FOR CHOIR, Berkley) and the young adult The Testing trilogy (beginning with THE TESTING, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, Spring 2013). Learn more at

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