In partnership with Philadelphia Black Gay Pride, every day throughout the month of February we will spotlight an influential black mover and shaker in the city.
Today: The gifted Cory O’Neill Walker, a recent Philly transplant who has dazzled his way into the local art scene as a singer, actor, designer, composer and all-around lovely spirit. Locally, Cory performs regularly with the Network for New Music, Opera Philadelphia, and The Mendelssohn Club Chorus, but he may be most recognizable for his recent Fringe Festival offerings L’Heure Exquise and Cupids’s Little Prick. Last year he founded Philly’s Artsong Repertory Theater Company (ARTCy), a project that seeks to bring obscure pieces of classical music to the masses. And heads up to any of you aspiring songbirds: He also runs a vocal studio where he teaches people to sing anything from opera to pop to jazz. (Full disclosure: I took lessons from him last year, and would recommend him in a heartbeat.)
What’s your Philly connection?
I grew up in Auburn, N.Y., a small city in central New York state. My partner and I moved to Philly four years ago from Ithaca, N.Y. He got a job here, so we made Philadelphia our home. Apparently, we brought the snowy weather with us. Sorry, Philly.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
First, I wanted to be a doctor, because I thought that would make me rich. Somewhere around third grade it changed and all I wanted to do was music. I didn’t know how or in what capacity, but music was definitely my thing.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I draw inspiration from so many people and places in my life that it’s hard to point to one as the biggest. I am continually inspired by the endless amounts of support, encouragement, acknowledgement and acceptance that I receive from my family, loved ones and friends. Without these people in my life I truly would not be the person I am today.
Finish This sentence: I feel fiercest when…
I am on stage and have just finished singing whatever it is that I am singing. In the couple seconds of silence right before the audience applauds I am connected to everyone in the room and I know that they have all just been on a journey with me. That’s when I feel fiercest, even if it is only for a couple seconds.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Graduate school! I was accepted, but didn’t get any financial assistance from grants, or scholarships or internships. So I had to work a full-time third-shift job to pay tuition. I went to class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., sometimes longer, then did school work and took a nap before going to work at 10:30 p.m. I worked until 7:30 a.m and then did it all over again, five days a week. I was a zombie. And somehow I managed to meet my partner and graduate with a 4.0 GPA! That was really hard physically, spiritually, and emotionally. There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel, but I didn’t. So, I’m pretty proud of that.
If you had one super power what would it be and how would you use it?
I already have a super power! I have been using and perfecting it since I was a kid. I am able to warp reality and create any circumstance I want around me. I use it for protection and entertainment, mostly.
Finish this sentence: In 10 years I …
will be 45, will have started a family of my own, will have successfully realized many of my personal, professional and artistic goals with new ones in front of me, will have paid off a significant portion of my student loans, and will have taken a trip to Europe.