Name: Tjaden O’Dowd Cox
City: Mobile, AL
Main Hustle: I own an aerial studio, The Fit Nest. We teach both vertical silk and aerial yoga classes. Vertical silks are the more cirque-style silk work probably more prominent in people’s mind with two fabrics hung to a single point. In these classes clients learn to climb, do basic poses and footlocks, and eventually build up to more tricks and more height. Aerial yoga uses one fabric tied as a swing and used as an apparatus for a traditional yoga flow on the mat. In these classes clients build core stability, full body strength, and increase flexibility while also getting to learn a trick or two.
I am also a professional singer. I sing Opera for companies along the Gulf coast, and I’ve also sung in places like China and the White House. I also sing any other style asked which comes in handy for things like weddings and with jazz bands.
Side Hustle: Recently, I have had the distinct pleasure of joining my two passions of singing and silking. I had the idea that a singing act on the silks would be something really exciting and wonderfully entertaining, so I started working on one about three years ago. In an audition last summer, the gentleman for whom I was singing asked what “aerialist” meant, so I explained. He asked if I had any video of the act, which of course I did. I was hired on the spot for a show this past February in which I got to do two big numbers on the silks. As a result of that, I have had the opportunity to perform the act here in town with Mobile Opera, for whom I got to do four numbers. I also have the exciting chance to sing Evelyn Nesbit in the upcoming production of Ragtime, completely on the silks.
How did you get started?: I started singing as a kid, continued through high school, where I started performing on stage, then got a degree in Musica Theatre from James Madison University. About 5+ years ago, I started silking and almost immediately started teaching. Since then I’ve done a good bit a training, including two levels of a 4 part program in LA that, once I pass all four levels (Fingers crossed! It is crazy competitive), I will get to travel around the world teaching aerial workshops.
When/where do you work on your Side Hustle?: Everyday, at my studio, which I share with JH CrossFit and that wonderful community! They are very patient with the weirdo singing 20 feet in the air while they’re trying to lift heavy things.
What are the challenges of your Side Hustle?: With aerial still being relatively new to mainstream attention, it has been an interesting struggle of either people not recognizing what the art form is or, if they do see the potential, not understanding the logistics of how to do it safely. There is a lot that goes in to the rigging of an aerial apparatus to make sure an act is death defying rather than the alternative. The assumption is that we can set up along any exposed space on a beam. Not necessarily true. Is that beam load bearing? Can it support the added weight generated by some of the more dynamic tricks? That being said, with most stages, rigging a silk is completely doable with relative ease as long as we are allowed the proper equipment. To summarize, one shouldn’t ask an aerialist to just tie her silks to any open point on a ceiling, but also don’t excuse the possibility of an aerial act until you’ve heard them say if they can rig it or not.
The challenges of adding the singing aspect to the aerial is as you might expect. It’s exhausting! Practicing enough and choreographing appropriate moves so as to not compromise the quality of sound is REALLY hard, but 100% worth it.
What are the rewards of your Side Hustle?: Getting down off the silks and having people say “That was the most ridiculous and amazing thing I’ve ever seen” is a pretty cool feeling. It keeps me in pretty good shape too.
Who is your greatest supporter?: My entire family has always been so great. But, my husband, Finn, has been just so amazing. He hates to watch me silks because it still makes him incredibly nervous. But he does it anyway. And as far as my singing, I know for a fact I would have given up on the possibility of performing more a long time ago if I didn’t have him pushing me. He walks the line of loving encouragement and tough love perfectly.
Who/what is your greatest source of inspiration?: My mom. She always knew I could perform if I wanted to. I’m hoping to prove her right.
Have you received recognition for your work?: The Fit Nest won the 2015 Nappie for Best Yoga Studio. As far as recondition for the aerial act, I’m getting hired to do it more, so that’s pretty exciting.
What is your dream for your Side Hustle?: To do it more
No seriously, I want to be able to perform as much as possible. That’s really the only goal. Keep making it better, find more things to choreograph, find more companies interested in using aerial and making that happen for them.
Do you have any advice for others working on a Side Hustle?:
Work hard. Luck helps. But definitely don’t skip the work so you’re ready when luck decides to grace you with her presence.