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This is my story

Jonathan Iverson ’98

Under the Big Top

I never expected to join the circus. While a student at The Hartt School I thought I would become an opera singer or a Broadway star. But a year after I graduated, I was offered the chance to become the youngest and the first African American ringmaster of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I couldn't pass that up.

My professors at The Hartt School taught me to concentrate on my craft. They prepared me for the vocal demands of performing night after night. That training has been vital both during my tours with the circus and during my brief time away from the circus doing off-Broadway productions like Dreamgirls and Showboat.

To live up to its reputation of "the greatest show on earth," the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus scours the earth to find talent. It's a multicultural environment; 10 different languages are spoken among the troupe on a daily basis. The diversity of students at the University of Hartford taught me how to relate to different people. Culturally, it was a big leg up for me.

I love that my four-year-old son Matthew Felipe and one-year-old daughter Lila Simone are being exposed to all of these cultures. I am fortunate that my children and my wife Priscilla, a fellow circus performer, are able to be with me on tour. As a family, we travel the country by rail.

While visiting different cities, I enjoy meeting with children from the local community. Watch highlights of a performance at the Artists Collective in Hartford here. Listen to part of my talk to the children here.

Read more about me in the Spring 2010 Observer here.


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