"Right now I actually have 2 careers that I am balancing. I am a Music Director at a Methodist Church in Southwest Florida and also a Human Cannonball! Most weeks I am at a large 1,000 member church creating, rehearsing, and producing our Worship Services, a 5-concert Performing Arts Series, and various church and community musical events. And when I'm not doing that I am traveling around the country getting shot over 100 feet out of a 4,000 pound cannon--oh, and raising 3 kids all under age 5! (I'm not really sure which of those jobs is more dangerous...)
HOW DID THAT COME TO BE YOUR PROFESSION (THE CANNONBALL PART OF COURSE)?
"I attended the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL, pursuing a degree in Music Performance. My main instrument was the trumpet but I have always played piano on the side. I was working as a part-time music director at two Tampa area churches and going to school full time. Then I got a wonderful opportunity to join the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when they were designing a new show in Tampa. While touring with Ringling I met my wife and became best friends with a husband and wife Human Cannonball act. After a few years I bought a cannon from them and ran away again--to join another circus! That took us all over the world and then by (yet another) sheer coincidence I ended up back in Southwest Florida directing a music ministry in Punta Gorda, FL. Now I have the best of both worlds: watch the kids grow up while working at the church, and take them on really neat vacations to watch their Dad get shot out of a cannon in front of audiences of thousands!"
WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING OR SCHOOLING IS INVOLVED FOR THAT?
"My music profession required years of study and personal practice. To be honest, the cannon is not much different. The biggest difference is that my cannon training was more of an apprenticeship. I had to learn trampoline, trapeze, and some basic balance skills in order to have the body control and spatial awareness required to control myself when being hurtled through the air at a speed of 60 mph! There was a lot of training in mathematics and a LOT of practice. My first year of training was spent out of the cannon and when my teacher thought I was ready I actually practiced with about 100 shots out of the cannon before my first public performance. So in my opinion no matter what you are doing in life the motto is always "Proper practice prevents poor performance."
WERE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUPPORTIVE OF THAT CAREER CHOICE?
"I have always been involved in music so it was very natural for my family that I would pursue that as a career. The cannon was another story. Most of my family thought I was crazy but I have always been headstrong and somewhat entrepreneurial. My mother said that I had the drive to do whatever I set my sights on doing, so she was confident that I would be careful and diligent no matter what. So far so good."
WHAT KIND OF REACTION DO YOU GET WHEN PEOPLE FIND OUT WHAT YOU DO?
Disbelief. I usually have to explain exactly what it is and then convince them that I'm being serious. The easiest conversations are at gas stations when people typically point with their jaw dropped and I just say, "yeah, it's exactly what you think it is." Some people want to know how it works--which is a secret. But probably the most asked question is "what does it feel like." I always respond the same way: it feels like getting hit by a bus. Your body goes from 0 to 60 mph in about a quarter of a second. That puts a force on your entire body equal to about 9 times the force of gravity. It's an exhilarating experience but it is so much fun. You have to be in really good physical shape and definitely be careful. Just one mistake could be the difference between walking away or being a pancake. It's fun but also very serious business."
"I think every job where you are working with or around other people poses the challenge of getting everyone focused in the same direction. When I'm in church I'm trying to get a 40 member choir or a huge group of volunteers all aiming at the same target. Organizing and focusing that many people can be very difficult. In the circus it is not very different, ironically. There is a concept for a show or particular performance and it's our job as performers to work as a team and make sure that the audience can clearly see that vision and enjoy every moment of what they are watching. Essentially no matter what you do in life you are selling a product. The interesting thing that I have learned is that the product is not always what you think it is. Watching a human cannonball can be breathtaking and entertaining but the real point of the family entertainment industry is to make people happy and to teach kids to follow their dreams and to imagine things that are bigger than life. Because at the end of the day everyone goes home to their family--and that is what really matters. How you get their isn't so important: it's finding ways to truly enjoy that family experience that everyone longs for."
WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO PURSUE THIS AS A CAREER?
"Absolutely not (laughing). They would be competition for me! I would encourage everyone to find a way to bring joy to other people. In church we do that and in the circus we do, too--the difference is the long-term impact. Obviously the work I do in the church has much greater impact on a person's life and destiny that a circus performance. People definitely need to find God. But if for that person performing or entertainment is where they find their calling then I would advise them to pursue it with a burning desire. People need to be passionate and really sink their teeth in--especially when they are younger. My formative years were spent doing NOTHING but music. Once you get past the technical aspects of music (or whatever trade you are learning) you can focus on expressing yourself and bringing your experience to others. And good luck to everyone--we all need it!"
IF YOU WEREN'T DOING THIS WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE DOING?
"I'm not sure. Most people have one huge dream that if they are lucky they get to experience at least for a while. I have found 2 things in my life that bring me so much joy. If I wasn't doing these things I would probably be doing something in business. I really like reading about leadership and best business practices; I'd probably be a manager or leader of some sort. Maybe a less dangerous business!"