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It’s a Living

Former opera student finds her voice


“The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg…” according to James Allen. Which is why when my eldest child at age 6 got a hole in one at a miniature golf course, I signed her up for golf lessons. It turned out she had no talent for, not even the faintest interest in golf.

Still, I remained vigilant for any indication of a talent no matter how slight that might predict a future career, so that I could encourage and support the hell out of it like any self-respecting helicopter parent of the 1990s. By the third child, I had relaxed a little, but I was still convinced you could always trace the adult’s livelihood back to the child’s early interest.

Now I know, while that may be true, the path will never turn out to be strictly linear.

Cecily Laidman started taking voice lessons in high school. She studied to be an opera singer. But she says, “I realized I couldn’t keep a straight face for that long!” I know what she means. I love musicals, if not opera, but the absurdity of someone breaking into song at every pivotal moment in life, makes me giggle uncomfortably through my enjoyment.

Now, long after those high school voice lessons, Cecily has come full circle taking on a new career doing voiceovers. “The past few years I’ve taken classes at night and started to get to know the industry.” The first audio book for which she gave voice, “Squint: Re-visioning the 2nd Half of Your Life,” by Margit Novack came out in May.

Cecily met Margit while working in the senior living industry, the career she started after realizing opera wasn’t for her. Still wanting to use her voice, she joined a folk singing group, sang in jazz clubs, at private parties, “and even at Odette’s before Bob Egan!”

After graduating from college, Cecily took on various kinds of work. She was a special education teacher. She wrote grants to do various art programs at the (then) Clinton Correctional Facility in New Jersey. She did workshops in dance, art, creative writing, and music, which she calls “fascinating and rewarding.”

She was the crafts coordinator for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, was director of communications for the Hillier Group, an architectural firm, then delved into freelance marketing for a while.

Twenty-five years ago, Cecily happened to join a “boot camp” workout group in New Hope. She describes them as “a crazy 6 a.m. group of people that would convene behind New Hope Solebury High School in rain, snow, or sunshine and work out five days a week.”

Participating in this group led to Cecily’s career of the past 22 years. “I met a woman in the senior living field who asked if I would be interested in helping out at a new senior living community in the Princeton area. I had no idea about retirement communities but learned fast and have enjoyed this field of work ever since.”

“I was the marketing director at a couple of communities in New Jersey, and now for 12 years I have been the executive director of Springpoint Choice, part of Springpoint Senior Living,” a program for individuals who do not want to move to a retirement community but prefer to age at home, hopefully forever.

I asked what she liked best about working with older adults. “Soaking up the wealth of knowledge, experiences, and lives well lived from these individuals.”

And what has she learned from her years of working with them? “Seniors who have continued to work long after retirement age were the individuals who were the sharpest, most physically healthy, and had the most positive outlook on life. That has been my inspiration and the reason why I am still working way beyond the normal retirement age.”

“When I decide to put down the executive director baton at Springpoint Choice,” Cecily says, speaking of her voiceover work, “I hope to do more books, character work, industrials—wherever my voice carries me! My mantra will always be: Have a purpose, a reason and an interest for every day you wake up!”

"It's a Living" is a weekly column showcasing residents who are making a living in an interesting way, or people who’ve reinvented their careers because they could no longer ignore the voice in the back of their heads telling them to start over, take a risk, chase a dream or set out on their own.

These are stories of bravery, persistence, resilience, and vision.

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