Rob Groves, Tenor II

"Singing with Reveille scratches that creative itch, but it’s also emotionally fulfilling and there’s something almost spiritual about it."

This month we are featuring a more recent addition to the Reveille family, Rob Groves. A Professor of Classics at the University of Arizona, Rob joined Reveille last August but is already a seasoned verteran of the chorus. You may even recognize Rob as he played George Bailey in our holiday concert, "It's A Fabulous Life" .

When and where were you born? Dayton, Ohio, November 1, 1979

Where did you grow up? We moved a lot; we moved from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio when I was six months old, then Columbus’ suburbs, then back to Dayton. When I was 10 we moved to State College, Pennsylvania and then we moved to the suburbs of Minneapolis in my last year of High School. 

When did you move to Tucson and what brought you here? I moved to Tucson at the beginning of August 2013 to teach at the U of A.

What do you do for a living? I’m a (Visiting Assistant) Professor of Classics at the U of A, which means I teach courses in Greek and Roman History and Literature and Ancient Greek and Latin Languages. Unfortunately, the visiting part means I’m on a short-term contract and may have to go elsewhere within a year or two. (Let’s hope not!)

How long have you been with Reveille? I tried to join Reveille on my 6th day in Tucson (but Reveille was still in summer recess).  So instead, I had to wait another 5 days until the kickoff party in mid-August.  Almost 7 months now!

What motivated you to join?  I sang all through high school and college and really loved it and even joined an a capella group when I lived in Osaka, Japan (Osakapella--get it?).  While I was working on my Ph.D. in Los Angeles I let it drop, and I missed it.  When I moved here, I didn’t know a single person in town and having just had a five-year relationship come to an end, I knew I had to meet people, found Reveille on the internet and decided to join, both to get singing again and to make some friends.  

What does singing with Reveille mean to you? Reveille rehearsals are one of the highlights of my week. Making music with such a talented group of guys is just inexpressibly rewarding.  It scratches that creative itch, but it’s also emotionally fulfilling and there’s something almost spiritual about it. (And a lot of fun, of course!)

What keeps you coming back? Well, see all of the above; friends, fun, music, creative and emotional fulfillment.

Your debut with Reveille made quite a splash when you played the lead role in the in the holiday concert.  Had you ever acted before? I’d acted here and there in high school and college; chorus parts in musicals—I was too awkward and nervous to be cast as a lead—and the occasional small parts (usually someone’s father) in straight plays. I also act in the (mostly ancient) plays staged at the big Classics conference every January—We throw together a play in about 48 hours, so Reveille is relaxed compared to that!   I had never had a lead role in anything before “It’s a Fabulous Life” so that was a new challenge for me—and a great time!

If you could pick any song for Reveille to sing what would it be? I’m always intrigued by this question whenever I read these profiles and I don’t have a good answer.   I will say that I LOVE anything big, majestic and powerful with men’s voices in four (or more) part harmony sung a capella. Think the Soviet Anthem, or “Bui Doi” from Miss Saigon.   I get goose bumps.  Now that I think about it, a TTBB arrangement of “Anthem” from the musical Chess would be pretty amazing.

What is your fondest Reveille memory so far? This is another toughie; so many to choose from.  Can I have a few?  Okay, one that stands out was that moment in “It’s a Fabulous Life” in which, after my character had quit the chorus, I got to walk down the aisle of the church and re-join the chorus while they sang “Under the Holly Bough.” That song was touching, simple and beautiful; I love the lyrics.  I was really disappointed at first that I wouldn’t be able to sing the song as part of the chorus, but it was actually a blessing in disguise. Every performance, I got to listen to that song and just let it wash over me.  It was an emotional moment for George Bailey, but a pretty emotional moment for me too.

When you were a little boy what did you dream of being when you grew up?  Indiana Jones or a (theater) director.   I never really pursued the theater avenue on anything but a fun, amateur basis (directing little class plays, etc.) But I did end up studying ancient history and languages (albeit without encountering any Nazis or professional use of a whip).

 What do you like to do for fun (besides Reveille)? Anything where I can hang out with friends is generally good, but I do love a good game night (board games especially, video games too), perhaps with some whiskey or good beer.  I love exploring new restaurants and kinds of food.  I do also love hiking, though I don’t go as much as I (or my dog) would like to; I always get distracted in the planning stage. 

What's your favorite place to hang-out here in Tucson? I’m not sure I have one yet.   I’ll take suggestions.

What's your favorite movie? Not sure anymore; I’m not a huge movie guy and I’m not really big on favorites generally. I’d rather do something than sit and watch a movie most of the time. If I had to choose, I’d probably say “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” or “Love Actually” and, as a guilty pleasure, “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.”

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? Mostly musicals. Yes, walking stereotype, guilty as charged. But it’s been true for as long as I can remember. You name it I probably have it and listen to it.   When I break from that I have weaknesses for Billy Joel, Sara Bareilles, and old standards.  At the moment, I’m obsessed with the song “There Will Never Be Another You” and the Puppini Sisters.

Favorite meal?  These favorites questions!   Honestly, I don’t know.  Variety is the spice, etc. etc.   I cook a lot, but different recipes almost every time, and when I go to restaurants I almost never order the same thing twice. 

We hear you’re a game show champion. Tell us about that. Yes, my episodes of Jeopardy! premiered last March. I defeated a long-running champion, on the Ides of March no less, (Very exciting to slay the reigning champ on the Ides—Alex even made a Caesar joke in the opening.)  I won the second game too, again with a little luck.   I could have tied in my 3rd and final game if I had known what my opponent was going to do, but I still walked away with a nice big check (on which I just paid taxes, woohoo!), and had a lot of fun. I was always a trivia buff and played College Bowl etc. but I only auditioned for Jeopardy last fall because I knew I’d be leaving L.A.  My parents had tried out (unsuccessfully) when they were younger and encouraged me to give it a shot.  Glad I did!

 What's your biggest regret? Only one?  Besides not betting more in final Jeopardy in that 3rd game? Probably: not coming out sooner.   I came out pretty young, compared to some people (age 22), but I still feel like I missed out on a lot by being closeted in college and even high school.  At the time, I wasn’t willing to risk my friendships, etc. which I valued more than coming out.  But, perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t really lose anything when I did come out, and I gained a lot.

What really pisses you off? I’m pretty slow to anger, so not a lot of things actually piss me off, but I guess the big one is lack of empathyThinking your way into someone else’s shoes is not really that hard of a thing, but so many people refuse to do it.  A little empathy and compassion would really fix so many problems. Oh yeah, and when students cheat or plagiarize, that really pisses me off too!

What's your best asset? I’m very good at big picture thinking: I’m always thinking about how the little parts contribute to the bigger whole and almost never lose the forest for the trees. The older I get and the more people I meet, the more important a skill I become convinced that is.  That, and I have nice eyes too.

 If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? I would make far fewer decisions based on fear.  From what to wear, to who to talk to, or what to say, I am at constant war with that voice which tells me I’ll make a fool of myself and others will laugh at me. I wish I were better at shutting that voice up (because it’s not usually right).

If you could go back in time and change one decision you made what would that be?

Other than the regret above, I’m not sure I would.   I’m constantly fascinated by the way that decisions both big and small shape our lives in strange and unpredictable ways.  I’m pretty happy with the course my life has taken thus far and am not sure I would change anything. 

If you could choose one historical figure (living or dead) to spend an evening with who would that be? Only one?   I would probably say Jesus.  I am not religious at all, but talk about someone who changed the world!  As a historian it would be fascinating to match all the different historical perceptions against the man himself and find out his opinions on all sorts of hot button issues. Also, I’m sure we wouldn’t run out of wine. If I could add a second, it might be Oscar Wilde.  Now THAT would be an interesting party!

If you won the lottery tomorrow how would it change about the way you live? I’d try not to let it change me too much. I’d still work, and I don’t actually think I’d need a much bigger place than I have right now or anything.  I’d be able to travel more, and visit my family which would be great. The big difference, I guess, is that I could just put down roots somewhere and not have to move city to city looking for a permanent academic job.  That’d be nice.

Who do you admire the most?  I’m really not sure about one individual, but the trait I always find impressive in people is the ability to manage themselves really well.   The kind of people who do a million things and do them all well, mostly because they have a clear sense of their priorities and don’t let themselves get distracted.  I admire people with that kind of self-knowledge and self-discipline.

Any parting words you’d care to share? Thanks to Reveille and to Tucson for making a newcomer feel so welcome!