STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.

Sean Panikkar: Free From the Burden of Perfection

January 03, 2022 Lisa Hopkins, Wide Open Stages Season 5 Episode 11
STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.
Sean Panikkar: Free From the Burden of Perfection
Show Notes Transcript

Lisa speaks to world renowned operatic tenor Sean Panikkar about his journey to the opera stage, his passion for his role as a father, his experience as a finalist on AGT with Forte , his friendship with Josh Page and how if he hadn't met his wife he would have pursued his passion as a civil engineer.

Learn how  this extraordinary artist keeps himself balanced in all his roles in life and work.

Sean Panikkar continues “to position himself as one of the stars of his generation… His voice is unassailable—firm, sturdy and clear, and he employs it with maximum dramatic versatility” [Opera News].  The American tenor of Sri Lankan heritage made his Metropolitan Opera debut under the baton of James Levine in Manon Lescaut (commercially available on DVD on EMI), and his European operatic debut in Mozart’s Zaïde at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in a production directed by Peter Sellars and conducted by Louis Langrée (commercially available on DVD on Opus Arte).

Sean Panikkar is a member of Forte, the operatic tenor group combining voices from different cultures into one incredible sound.  The trio was created and debuted for the first time ever on America’s Got Talent and had never met until only days before their first audition. During the summer 2013 broadcasts of America’s Got Talent, Forte was seen and heard by tens of millions of television viewers in national broadcasts on NBC.  Their self-titled debut recording on Columbia Records was released in November 2013 and a follow-up recording, The Future Classics, was released in 2015.

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Lisa Hopkins:

This is the stop time podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Hopkins, and I'm here to engage you in thought provoking motivational conversations around practicing the art of living in the moment. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm excited to dig deep and offer insights into embracing who we are and where we are at. My next guest has been described as one of the stars of his generation. Opera News says his voice is unassailable, firm, sturdy and clear, and he employs it with maximum dramatic versatility. The American tenor of Sri Lankan heritage made his Metropolitan Opera debut under the baton of James Lavonne in manaan. Lesko and his European operatic debut in Mozart's XID. He has performed in many leading opera houses both nationally and internationally, including the Metropolitan Opera Royal Albert Hall, Tatra alla Scala, Carnegie Hall and so many more. He recently returned from performances abroad at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, and the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. America's Got Talent fans may remember him from the showstopping performances as a member of forte, the operatic tenor trio combining voices from different cultures into one incredible sound. It is my great pleasure to introduce you all today to Sean Penn. Akar. Welcome, Shawn.

Sean Panikkar:

Thank you so much for having me, Lisa. I appreciate it.

Lisa Hopkins:

It's a pleasure. Where Where are you calling in from today?

Sean Panikkar:

I am in Saline Michigan, which is my home.

Lisa Hopkins:

That's so great. So how long have you been home? You've been on the road, right?

Sean Panikkar:

I just got home this weekend. So yeah, I've been gone. With the exception of five days. I have been gone since July 2. Wow. Yeah, I was in Salzburg, Austria. My family was all with me and Austria, came home for five days celebrated my son's 10th birthday. And then was off to London.

Lisa Hopkins:

Wow, how wonderful for them that they got to travel with you.

Sean Panikkar:

Yeah, that's one of the benefits of having a father who travels a lot for work. Whenever there are free, whenever they're free. They travel with me, as they get older, my daughter's 13. Now she used to travel quite a bit, we homeschool both of them. And that made it a lot easier when they were little to travel with me. And so I would just pick one of them up or both of them up and we just hit the road and my wife would get a break at home and we'd have great adventures on the road.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, I love that funny when I was researching you a little bit. I read something about your wife. Is it true that that it was because of her that you actually sort of pursued music?

Sean Panikkar:

1,000% I mean, it's it's kind of been, I guess there's a trend when I was if we go back further in middle school, my choir I had a huge crush on my choir director in middle school. And that's kind of why I started trying to be in the Select ensembles. So that was kind of the first introduction to it. But then when I met my wife, the first day of school at the University of Michigan, as freshmen, I was 17 years old. She was 18. And she was in choir she was a trumpet major. But also it was in a piano studio and a voice studio. her Master's has been conducting. She's very I mean, she's multi talented, much more talented than I am. I just happen to focus on one thing. And she just caught my eye across the room in choir and I, I don't think I looked at the conductor at all that day, I just was staring at her. And I was very, very shy. But I found out she was a pianist. I was a double major at the University of Michigan. I needed an accompanist for my voice lessons. So that was kind of my entry point. I said I you know, I paid her to be my accompanist. And that's how I got to spend time with her. And we got to be the best friends. And we didn't start dating till the end of our sophomore year. But by the time we started dating, we were best friends. And it's been that way ever since.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, that's so beautiful. I love that. What was it that attracted her attracted you about her?

Sean Panikkar:

she's gorgeous? And she smiled all the time. She just had a joy that I had never seen in anybody in my life. Do you have an inner joy that just radiated from her. And it was something that was really captivating and wanted me to get to know her more. And it was really infectious. And I she is seriously my best friend. I share everything with her. And it's just been that way since the time we met.

Lisa Hopkins:

Hmm, that's amazing. So much has shifted right since 2020. In the world, goodness, yes. What were the most significant shifts that you've experienced during this time? Would you say?

Sean Panikkar:

Well, I mean, at the start of the pandemic, I was in the middle of what was meant to be about a three and a half month stretch abroad. Family was in Michigan. And I just finished not the final dresser so that the penultimate dress rehearsal for the rise and fall of city of mahagony by Kurt vile, and we were about to start the final act of the opera. And the general director of the company came on stage and she announced that the other ones had imposed a semi Knock down that they weren't going to allow an audience into the theater. And so they had to cancel the show. Through the end of March, I did not think the pandemic was anything I was just assuming it's like, I mean, every few years, there's something that comes up and they say, Oh, this is going to be a crazy pandemic. And usually nothing major comes of it. So I thought nothing of it. In the short term, I was like, Oh, this is great. I get to go home, I've been gone for so long. I just want to be home with my wife and kids. Yeah. And I thought, they said this was only till the end of March, we still had performances in April. So I thought I'd be able to return to Amsterdam, finished the run, and then just go on about the regular schedule. So I came home, I was thrilled I hadn't seen my dog had gotten a dog in the fall of that year and or fall of 19. And so I hadn't been around the dog much other than three or four weeks as I was working. So I was excited to be home with my wife, the kids, the dog. And then it was just like a series of dominoes, because I had a very, very busy schedule. And it's just one after another things just started canceling. And, you know, it was it was a thankfully, all of my work. All of my major work was in Europe, because in Europe, the arts are largely government funded. And so they were still paying percentages of the contracts, even though they're canceling us. It fell all fell within force majeure, but they still gave us some of the money, whereas a lot of the American houses weren't paying their artists, anything, the Metropolitan Opera just cut everybody off. Nothing, too. And I understand, you know, they're in a business too. But I just tremendous, tremendously grateful that the European companies were able to give us a little bit, which was able to sustain us through this. So I was I was thrilled to be home. But then I realized how much I missed what I do. And it got to the point where I've been traveling so much, that when I was leaving for a job, I was always like, God, do I have to go, I don't know that I want to go, you know, maybe I should do something else, because I really am missing time. With my family. My kids are growing up so fast. The pandemic, got my priorities in order, and also galvanized my love for the art form and how much I needed it, which I didn't always realize I loved what I was doing when I was doing it. But I didn't realize I couldn't have imagined how much I would have missed not doing not being in a in a rehearsal room being on an opera stage, and experiencing the the joy of performing. But it really it was it was a time of just kind of restructuring priorities, just realizing, you know, what do you actually need to survive? What can you get rid of kind of decluttering my life and living joyfully in the moment, that really happened in the pandemic. And it totally changed my outlook as we're going to getting back into work. I know we're not out of the pandemic, but we're slowly coming back in terms of performing arts organizations performing again. And it's just I have a renewed sense of joy every time I'm able to experience making art. I mean, it's just such a special unique thing. And in a lot of ways I'm thankful for for the extended time off because it really helped me not take it for granted.

Lisa Hopkins:

Hmm yeah, that comes out crystal clear to me what I'm hearing is that you were getting caught kind of in the race right like you were doing it. You loved it. You loved what you did. You loved your family. We're balancing it, you're making it happen. But perhaps has given you the perspective to realize how much and your why reconnect to your why. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. What would you say? Would you say your why is I mean, I understand that as a fellow artists, I understand. But it's personal, right? Like, can we get a little more granular with with what it is for you?

Sean Panikkar:

Yeah, that's that's hard to say, you know, I was growing up. My parents emigrated from Sri Lanka. My brother was born in Sri Lanka. I was born in the United States in Pennsylvania. And just as they're very much Asian parents, and so they threw me into music at an early age. So at three years old, I started playing Suzuki violin six years old, start playing piano. By fifth grade, I was playing trombone by some through eighth grade, I was playing saxophone, play trombone through college. I was singing in choirs from elementary school. And it was just all part of a well rounded education, not something that my parents ever thought or wanted me to pursue as a career. And I went to the University of Michigan just because I had a great private voice teacher in high school, I was looking to pad my resume for colleges for engineering. My dream in life had always been to have a construction company. I wanted to do civil engineering as an undergrad and do a master's in architecture and have like a all purpose construction company. I was trying to pad my resume for the University of Michigan when I was applying to school, and there was a woman in our town and she was a Juilliard trained soprano. My mother had met her years before when they first moved there. And in the winter In Pennsylvania, my mom used to walk in the mall and she met this lady walking in the mall and found out that she was a music teacher, but had nobody to teach because in my small town in central Pennsylvania, nobody cared about opera. And so my months ago, my son's interested in music, maybe I'll send him to you. So I went. Now at the time, this is probably when I was in sixth grade. And my musical tastes at that time was like Michael Jackson, Billy Joel and Elton John. So if I was going to sing, I just wanted to play the piano and sing pop music. And so she made me sing Michael Jackson, like an opera singer, which is, I wish I had a recording of this because I can you imagine like a fifth or sixth grader trying to sound like an opera singer singing Michael Jackson music. And so that lasted maybe three or four lessons before I'm like, I told my parents, I'm like, this is this is absurd. This is a waste of time, why would I do this? I don't want to sound like that. But in high school, when I was trying to pad my resume, there are these choral competitions in Pennsylvania. And they go kind of level by level. So County, district regional state, and like, well, well, if I could get to the state level, I'm like, Who is I like, had no idea what I was even getting into. I'm like, oh, but if I could get to the state level, that would look great. On a resume, I'll get into the University Michigan for engineering gonna be great. So I went to went to this lady leaping you, and started taking voice lessons every day, I was terrified to sing in front of my parents. So I would never, they never heard me sing ever. Never in life, not even not in the shower, nothing. And so I just do lessons with her every day. And that was my practice time. And my lesson time, I would go to school, at my sports practice, then go to her house have lessons. And she's the one that really trained me. At the beginning stages of being an opera singer, I ended up advancing through the levels of competition, I went to the all state Pennsylvania, Choral Festival. And because of that, I got to sing at my high school graduation. First time my parents ever heard me sing, also my first standing ovation, which is just it was all just so surreal to me. And so then she's like, I had gotten into the University of Michigan then. And she said, you know, Sean, they have a really great music school, can you just apply, you just have to send in a tape, you don't have to do it if you don't want to. But I want you to know that you're good enough to do it if you chose to do it. So I sent an application. And that's why I got in as a double major. And only because of my wife, as I mentioned before, did I stick with it, because I would have happily quit after the first weekend just focused on engineering. And then by my junior year, I at that point had started to get kind of okay at singing. And I had a lot of people around me that were telling me that I could do this as a career if I wanted to. And then my senior year, I decided that I was just going to focus on music. And once I focused on music, it was like, just a tremendous burden had been lifted off my shoulders. And I knew that that's what I was supposed to do. Since I decided to only pursue music, I've always felt like wherever I was, that's exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment. And I can't think of a more affirming way to know that what you're doing is right than feeling like you are where you're supposed to be. Even in the pandemic, when I wasn't working in those jobs were canceled, I was right where I was supposed to be. And that's not to say that every month or so there's one or two days where I was just severely depressed because I'm like, the world is ending, and I'm never gonna get to work again. But having that that realization that you are where you're supposed to be in that moment. And just making the most of that with joy, regardless of the situation around you, is what kind of made me know that music is what I want to do.

Lisa Hopkins:

That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. It's so interesting, too. Because what I what I remarked on, was you might have said, and when I went out on the stage and finally came out and my parents heard me and they stood up, I knew. But that wasn't the moment. It wasn't the applause the standing ovation. It was in fact that sounds like that was perhaps maybe just a little bit of the pragmatic side of you going, Oh, I guess I might be good at this.

Sean Panikkar:

At the end. You know, it's so funny. That has always been secondary to me, the audience in the applause. That's always secondary. And I, I think a lot of performers are there probably a lot of performance that are like that, but don't don't say it. For me. The rehearsal process has always been where I get the most joy out of because that's where I'm experiencing everything for myself. That's kind of my selfish time. The relationships with the people in the room, the discovery, if you're doing a world premiere, that there's the whole creation of the creativity that goes into building a show, is what really gets my juices flowing. Once we get into tech week and we're going about the business of putting the show on for an audience. That totally changes things for me. And it's not that I don't love it. It's just that there's one step removed emotionally from everything. because it's no longer about me doing things for myself, it's about me doing something that brings about emotions out of an audience. And so there's a level of removal that has to happen for a singer anyway, where you can't sing and cry your your face off when you're on stage, because then you're not doing your job well, and you're not getting the emotion out of the audience. So in the rehearsal room is when I get to have those emotions, and I experiencing that. So my joy is in the rehearsal room, and developing the relationships with everybody in the room. Once you're on stage. It's a totally different thing. And I I appreciate the applause I love when when standing ovations happen. I loved that in London. Every performance there were standing ovations, they love to show, but I'm not I'm not. I definitely don't think that was me. I think that's the composer that wrote the music. That's the the director that that created this this vision. My job is to be a good steward of their visions. I totally give all the credit to them for that, and I just get to play a small part. That's what I love about it

Lisa Hopkins:

Absolutely. It's, it's really, you sort of what you described sort of conjures up for me that the difference between the sort of infinite mindset, which is what you're you're able to take on during rehearsal, because you don't know what's going to happen. You're letting go right. You're, you're in the zone. Yeah. Whereas when it moves into, into production, then it becomes a finite game. And you know, because you have, you've got deadlines, and you've got to finish you've got to show up in a different way.

Sean Panikkar:

Yeah, so funny. Another thing too, is when I was just starting out, when even when I was in college, when I had to sing solos, I was terrified, terrified, just just to open my mouth and sing by myself was something even to this day, I don't ever want to be left on stage alone. Being left alone on stage and singing an aria by myself is like the worst experience for me, I so much, rather, I would rather have somebody else's energy on stage with me, even if they're not doing anything, just to feel that changes everything for me. And there came a point where it's so funny when people ask about stage fright, because that's a very natural thing. When you go on stage in front of 1000s of people, you get a little nervous. And I it reached a point, by the time I was doing my master's degree, I just said, it's not worth being, it's not worth having stage fright. I'm not going to be nervous anymore. Because what's the point, if I'm going to do that and be miserable, then I shouldn't do this. I have a weird personality that I can just shut things off. I do. There's things in life where I just say, Okay, I'm done with that. And it's done. And so going on stage with an attitude of fearlessness. That happens as soon as I walk on the stage, in the rehearsal room, I have that fear still. Because I know that I'm cultivating what I need to do on stage. But in the moment I go out, and I'm like, it's going to be what it's going to be, because live theater is full of mistakes, and letting go and just being in the moment and saying, Okay, it's it's gonna be flawed. It's never going to be perfect. But it's going to be what it is, in that moment, it's going to be right for that moment, is what has really liberated me as a performer. So I just walk out on stage, and I'm just like, This is it for today. It'll be what it is. If I crack a note, that's what you get today. And usually, it just makes my performing so much better. Because I'm, I'm free of the burden of perfection.

Lisa Hopkins:

And it makes some it makes so much sense. Because we can't control things that we can't control,

Sean Panikkar:

right? No, you put in the work as much as you can beforehand. And then once you're in the moment, that's what it is.

Lisa Hopkins:

You got to let it go. Yeah. Which kind of segues segues us beautifully to your definition of living in the moment, which is I mean, would you would you want to sort of expound on that at all?

Sean Panikkar:

Yeah, it's just it's a, it's a hyper awareness of every thing that's happening. That awareness of everything that's happening is what keeps you in the moment, focus on all the experiences that are happening around you. And so you can apply that to everything in life when I'm at home. You know, being in the moment being with my kids, being with my wife, playing with the dog, there's all these things that that you are experiencing. And if you're aware of everything that's happening, and not just like glued to your phone or glued to technology, then you get to experience a different level of fullness. And that's kind of what I see as being in the moment just experiencing everything that's available to you. And I don't always do that. I mean I'm there's of course there's times where I haven't given 100% of my home time to my kids or the dog or my wife or whatever. But striving for that is what really kind of brings me joy.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no, for sure. I always I always find it interesting, too, that somehow there's there's almost a limiting belief that that we're supposed to. I mean, it is a great thing, obviously and obviously I'm a proponent of it, but it is interesting that like all Often people's answers are like, well, I don't do it often. But this is what it's like, and I should do it more. And it's interesting, isn't it? And I think what they're really saying is that when they're there when they know it for themselves, when it's a visceral feeling when they're in the moment, and they've experienced it, they want more of that,

Sean Panikkar:

right? Yeah, yeah. Well, it's an adrenaline rush, you just get it's a, and performers experience it frequently when you're doing your job. I mean, it's just just like, it's an incredible thing to be in the moment in performance, which is slightly different, obviously, than being in the moment in everyday life. Because you don't have that immediate feedback and affirmation. But yeah, there's there's nothing quite like it. And then if you can take that off the stage and translate it into your everyday life. It's amazing.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, yeah. 100%. So I'm going to ask you to, if you're willing to put humility aside for a moment, and will tell me beyond what's so sort of eminently clear about, you know, what makes you special? What would you what would you say, Are your unique gifts,

Sean Panikkar:

I don't like to pat myself on the back. I am a very hard worker. And that's, that's something that the people don't get to see, I practice more than most, I would say, and I always do it in the morning. So I try to do it, when I'm at my least vocal level of vocal readiness. So because so often, singers like to practice when they're feeling great. And if you only do that, I can't think of any opera singer that has said to me that they've ever done a performance where they have felt 100% ever. Because the nature of having your instrument inside of your body, it's just never going to be it's just never going to be perfect, kind of doing the work at the worst possible time. sets me up so that if it's just even minimally better, if it's just an hour later in the day, it feels great compared to what I had been doing. So if I can get it to an acceptable level, at a horrible time, first first thing in the morning, then those evening shows feel great. And that's what really helps me is that I do put in the practice work first thing in the morning, when I don't want to even open my mouth. Yeah,

Lisa Hopkins:

that's really interesting. If we had more time, I would really dig into that, because I find it really fascinating. And I'll tell you why. Two things. And one is that when I asked, I asked you what your unique gifts for. And you said that you're a hard worker, and then you went on to describe. It's interesting, because it really it really leaned into I mean, I think I think it'd be safe to say anyone that works on all this stuff that that you do. And that takes care of a family the way you do and shows up on time for things, you know, and all these things would probably recognize that you're a hard worker, would you would you say that's fair?

Sean Panikkar:

I would hope so. Yeah, are working and reliable. I think I think that's being reliable something and that's just the thing for life. You know, if I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. And I'm going to do it to the best of my ability, regardless of whether it's singing or going to help somebody or whatever it is, I'm going to do it. If I say I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it. And and working smarter, not harder to I think that's so that it gets working smarter, not harder.

Lisa Hopkins:

Hmm. Learning, there's not only one way to do stuff, right? And it also sounds like it's not so much a technical or a tool thing. But rather, it's something that in your mindset sets you up for success. Would you agree with that? Meaning that if I can do this in the morning, then later, it won't matter? Because I'm going to be I'm going to be more ready anyways.

Sean Panikkar:

Sure, so much so much of performing is mental. So much of it is yes, like anything and just like any sport, I mean, you can have the skills but you have to be mentally in a place where you know, it's going to work and trust it. So yeah, 100% it's a lot of mental exercise and preparing your mind to know that you can do it later,

Lisa Hopkins:

in the little questionnaire that I sent you. I'm curious about something you said I think I asked what three adjectives might you best use to describe yourself and you said joyful, grateful and hardworking. And when I asked what three adjectives might acquaintances use, you preface it with. That's tough. So that's interesting to me. I want to ask you why. And then you sort of said, well, but probably the same as the previous question. There wasn't much clarity about that, or access to that. Tell me Tell me more if that resonates. You said that's tough. I'm just so curious.

Sean Panikkar:

I. Well, I think it goes back to just not I think it's an ego thing with me. I don't have a big ego. And it's weird to say that you don't have a big ego when you're talking about things like this. Gosh, I try to be, I try to be a good colleague and do my job well, or a good friend to people. But I kind of I beat myself up a lot about things. And so I don't I don't always see what people would admire or appreciate in myself. And I think part of that is just always being self critical. And I think that's what it's it's a double edged sword, because in one sense, I beat myself up about a lot of things. But at the same time, that's what's helped me to be as reliable of a performer as I am, because I do beat myself about things, if that makes any sense. So, yeah, it's it's hard to say. I don't even know how to phrase it. What would people say about me? Because I don't do things for congratulations or awards, I do things because it's the right thing to do. So, you know, if I, if I get a pat on the back for it, great. If I don't, oh, well, I feel okay, knowing that I did what I was supposed to do, or what I wanted to do, or that I was helpful to somebody else,

Lisa Hopkins:

you indicated that you're hard on yourself, if I heard you correctly, but that that's really helped you get where you are.

Sean Panikkar:

For instance, every time I go into a rehearsal room, I said, I used to just travel with a digital recorder. Now I can do it on your phone. So I just would just place it down, I record everything. And then every day after work, I pick it apart and say, Okay, this could be better. This was okay. What can I do to make this sound nicer? So I'm constantly listening and evaluating, as if I'm my own teacher. And hearing what worked, what didn't work and always trying to improve, but I let that all go as soon as I walk on stage.

Lisa Hopkins:

Do you remember the moment that was it, Josh, that called you?

Sean Panikkar:

Yes. For forte.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, for forte,

Sean Panikkar:

I had just finished a run of La Boheme in Fort Worth, Texas, I was flying home, got home, and then got a call. And this group for I had never seen America's Got Talent. So I never watched a show like that in my life. And they had competed on the first round of the show. One of their members, it's a tener trio, and one of their members had a student visa. And for the show's purposes, you need to have a different kind of visa to stay in the competition. And so they either had to leave the show or find a new member. And so Josh, the only reason that I agreed to do it was because he didn't want me to sound like a crossover pop tenor. He wanted me to sound like myself. And so I flew to Las Vegas, and that was their their second round my first round. met these guys are totally strangers, total strangers. Yeah, totally different backgrounds. And I thought, Okay, well, I the only reason is like, how often do you get a chance to be on national TV. I mean, it sounded like fun. So we did that. And we advanced. And every round, I thought, surely this is the last round and we're done with it was fun, you know, we'll be done. And we just kept advancing. And the show only gave us one hotel room. And so one of the other guys used the hotel room, and Josh and I ended up living together that whole summer. And he had two relatives that had an apartment in New York, they weren't there for the summer. And so we lived together that whole summer. And that's kind of how our friendship was just kind of forged in the fire of being on a in a high pressure situation performing in front of millions of people on national TV without having any kind of relationship but that bond was just like we are totally totally different people, but he is one of my very best friends. Yeah, it was just a magical experience. It was a magical summer to get to be finalists on on America's Got Talent and we got a recording contract. And we've done two albums.

Lisa Hopkins:

That's so cool that again, you're just like the why not? That's why not When else would I get to do this? Right? I think that's cool that you just stepped in kind of just trusting the process

Sean Panikkar:

and it thinks like you things in life happen and you're like, Okay, why did that happen? They're they're random things like even right after that. I was cast in a movie. And it was so surreal because there was a the Terrence McNally Broadway show masterclass. They were turning it into a movie, Meryl Streep was going to play Maria Callas. And Mike Nichols was directing. And so they called me in to do like a script reading, which I'd never done in my life, a script reading and to sing for Mike Nichols and Terrence McNally. And so I'm totally oblivious even to because that's not my world at all. So I was not like intimidated by going into a room and performing in front of Mike Nichols because I had nothing to lose. I never thought I would be in that situation anyway. But seeing the people outside In the room, they were so stressed out of their minds because they're about to go meet Mike Nichols. And so I go in, did it, we had a, it was a great audition. He, he hired me on the spot. And a week later he died. And parents called me and he's like, literally the day before he died, he was rewriting the character. So the character didn't have an Italian background, but had a Sri Lankan background. You know, they're they're working on changing the script, so it fit me. And then he died. And I'm like, well, well, why would I get cast in a movie with Meryl Streep told me have the director die and nothing come out of me. There's this these random things that happen in life, that you've just like, what was the point of that? What was the point of that? And I still have no idea. What was the point of that? You never know. But these things pop up. And you're just like, Huh, that's interesting. Yeah, I wonder why? That is? Okay. I'll find out someday.

Lisa Hopkins:

Absolutely. To be continued. Right. Maybe we'll be speaking again, you'll be like, well, this is what happened. That's so cool. How do you how do you want to be remembered?

Sean Panikkar:

I want to be remembered as a good father. And I think I That's it, I don't care if anybody thinks anything of my singing or performing. I can't think of anything better than a better role in life than than raising my children. And it's hard because when you're traveling, there's there is a level of guilt when you're on the road away from your family. And I just want them to remember me as a loving father, who really cared about them and was doing everything that I thought was in their best interest. Hmm.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no, I love that. That's beautiful. Can you finish this phrase? Most people think, Shawn pannacotta is, but the truth is,

Sean Panikkar:

hmm. That is tough. Most people think, you know, off the top of my head, I would say in just in the context of working, I would say that a lot of people think I'm antisocial. But really, I am fiercely protective of my family. And the reason those two go hand in hand, is because I don't go and socialize with coworkers when I'm working, because a lot of bad things happen on the road. And so it's just about protecting myself and my family not to say that I would even do anything but to never put myself in a situation where that could happen. So because of that I think a lot of people think I'm kind of standoffish.

Lisa Hopkins:

It sounds like you, you really have a really firm grip on who you are, who you want to be how you emanate in the world. What would you say? If anything, is your biggest challenge showing up the way you want to show up?

Sean Panikkar:

The biggest challenge for me is that my heart is always with my family. And I'm when I'm on the road, it's really tough. So I if there was a way, selfishly, I wish they were with me all the time. But I know that's not what's best for them. That's the thing. It's kind of like, I love the performing. But I love my family more. If there was a way to keep them all together all the time, I would do it. But that would come at the sacrifice of their joy. The nice thing about it is that in the summer, they always go with me. So we have fantastic adventures in the summer for months at a time that I can't be in two places at once is the huge challenge for me. Yeah, life has gone by so fast. So fast. It just like a blink of the eye and my kids to have a 10 year old and a 13 year old. just boggles my mind because I feel inside like I'm in my mid 20s And I'm not but the greatest joy in my life is being their father. And so it's yep, that's those kind of split allegiances when you're even though I'm working and enjoying that and doing it for them. Not being physically present with them is hard.

Lisa Hopkins:

Thank you for sharing that. That's That's beautiful. Really. And it's who you are. You know the big part of who you are. It's beautiful. Thank you. Before we finish, I'm going to say what makes you and I'm just gonna say a word. And it doesn't have to be rapid fire some it can be but it doesn't have to be you ready? Okay, I'll try what makes you hungry?

Sean Panikkar:

What makes me hungry? Yeah. Gosh, that's tough. What makes me hungry. It depends on what you're talking about. What makes me hungry?

Lisa Hopkins:

What was the first thing that came into your mind?

Sean Panikkar:

Why immediately Got a food like cake? Yes.

Lisa Hopkins:

And then the second thing that came into your mind was

Sean Panikkar:

that I was thinking, Well, how do I apply that to life?

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. See? You made it a directive. Yeah, but isn't it funny how we do that? But But But what I love is that like, like when I asked you and you're honest, so thank you. And I said to you, Well, what was the first thing you said? What was cake? But you edited it? You didn't say that? Yeah, your your brain came in, you're controlling brain came in and was like, Ooh, she might be looking for something more. Isn't that interesting? How you do that? Yeah. Yeah. So it's just great to know, follow, file that away and go Hmm, where else do I do that? What else am I am I not sort of just Am I editing that that might actually be true. You know, you like cake, man. I love it. Well, imagine that you're human. Alright. So here we go. What makes you sad?

Sean Panikkar:

unfairness. People being treated badly. People being unfair to people really gets me down. Yeah. No.

Lisa Hopkins:

What? What makes you feel inspired.

Sean Panikkar:

Going out into nature and seeing creation. It's just the, you know, when you're around art, there's such beautiful art, but nothing compares to the beauty of nature that's outside.

Lisa Hopkins:

What frustrates you.

Sean Panikkar:

People that don't do their work well, really, really, really gets at me if people aren't prepared. If people aren't on time. It doesn't bother me if somebody makes a mistake. But if they repeatedly make a mistake over and over and over and over again, without fixing it that really aggravates me for what makes

Lisa Hopkins:

you laugh.

Sean Panikkar:

My children endless endless laughter at home, and they bring out the silly side of me. So we just make each other laugh and it's just being so goofy. I love being goofy because in my job, I'm not goofy. I'm very put together at work. But at home with my kids and my wife. I'm silly. I'm very silly.

Lisa Hopkins:

I love that. That's so beautiful. You light up when you say it to it's really beautiful. What makes you angry?

Sean Panikkar:

It's same thing with with fairness. I think I think the fairness lack of grace. Politics makes me angry.

Lisa Hopkins:

And finally, what makes you grateful? What are you grateful for?

Sean Panikkar:

I'm grateful for family. I'm grateful for health. Grateful to wake up in the morning. grateful to have a job grateful to have a house over my head. Grateful for the life that has been given to me. Hmm.

Lisa Hopkins:

What are the top three things that have happened so far today?

Sean Panikkar:

Talking to you. It's been pretty great. Yeah, it's nice. It's nice to verbalize things that you're feeling inside because you go through life so often with knowing them but not always cheering them. And it's nice to share those things.

Lisa Hopkins:

What do you most looking forward to Shawn?

Sean Panikkar:

I'm looking forward to some sense of normalcy and being able to freely be with people without being concerned about my health and their health. The Performing Arts has been so affected by COVID. Yeah. And I think the audience's are realizing how much they need it because people don't want to do everything virtually.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, here here. It has been such a joy speaking with you. Thank you so much for taking the time, Sean.

Sean Panikkar:

Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate it.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, I've been speaking today with Sean Panikkar. Thanks for listening. Stay safe and healthy everyone and remember to live in the moment. In music stop time is that beautiful moment where the band is suspended in rhythmic unison, supporting the soloist to express their individuality. In the moment, I encourage you to take that time and create your own rhythm. Until next time, I'm Lisa Hopkins. Thanks for listening