aria (ah-ree-uh) – n: an accompanied, elaborate melody sung (as in an opera) by a single voice; a striking solo performance.
What’s in a Name…?
Your name says something about you; about where you come from. With Aria Properties, the story of our name begins in 1972 when my father, Jerry Jennings, obtained his real estate license in Nashville, TN…
…Ok, it goes a little further back than that, actually…
In the early 1960’s, my Dad- along with my Mother, Nancy, and my sister, Melanie- lived in Washington, DC, where Jerry was Tenor Soloist with the United States Army Chorus. When he wasn’t singing for Presidents, Generals, or foreign Heads of State, studied with the legendary Todd Duncan (the original Porgy in Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”).
In preparation for a career in Opera, Jerry sought and was awarded three Rockefeller grants, and after mustering out of the Army, he took his young family to Germany where he landed a two year contract as First Lyric Tenor in the Municipal Opera in Bielefeld. Now, the Europeans- of that era, especially- take their opera very, very seriously, and the Lyric Tenor of a major opera house was something of a celebrity.
Arriving in Germany, Mom and Dad immediately enrolled in the Goethe Institute for a crash course in German language and culture. My family lived in Europe for a little over 5 years; long enough for me to have been born there, and for my Dad to have done some 400 performances of over 25 leading Lyric Tenor roles in Bielefeld, Hannover, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Brussels. Jerry worked his way to the top of his profession in Europe. He performed the lead role, Tamino, in the Hamburg State Opera’s new production of Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE which was directed by Peter Ustinov and conducted by Sir Georg Solti who, at the time, was also conductor or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Coincidentally, I was born on the first day of rehearsals for this production, causing my Dad to be late! Ustinov, when told why his Tamino was late to the first rehearsal, responded by saying that, as far as he was concerned, it was a “good omen,” because his son was born on the first day of rehearsals for his ROMANOFF & JULIETTE on Broadway. Jerry later performed the role of Lt. B.F. Pinkerton in a German National Television production of Puccini’s MADAME BUTTERFLY, opposite Anneliese Rothenberger. He also made a number of commercial recordings, including a BMG/RCA complete recording of Lehar’s THE MERRY WIDOW, and two recordings for Deutsche Grammophone Gesellschaft, one of which received the equivalent of a Grammy.
In late 1968, wanting his children to grow up in America, he made the decision to bring the family back to the US and established our residence in Nashville. After going back to school to get a Master’s Degree from Vanderbilt, and being told by Columbia Artists Management in New York that, if he wished to continue his career in the U.S. they could certainly keep him busy, he made is New York debut at City Opera opposite Beverly Sills in Mozart’s THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO. He eventually sang several other Lyric Tenor roles there over the next three years. He also appeared as tenor soloist three years running with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center (Beethoven 9th Symphony, Berlioz’ BEATRICE & BENEDICT and Haydn’s THE SEASONS); with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Bach’s ST. MATTHEW’S PASSION, Strauss’ SALOME with Birgit Nilsson at New York’s Carnegie Hall as well as Symphony Hall in Chicago); at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra directed by Seijei Ozawa (Schoenberg’s GURRELIEDER); with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Orff’s CARMINA BURANA); with the Baltimore Symphony (Berlioz’ THE DAMNATION OF FAUST); with the Fort Worth Symphony (Britten’s WAR REQUIEM), as well as numerous Community Concerts around the country.
As his career in this country continued to blossom, he found that he was becoming an absentee father and husband, a situation he did not wish to continue. Needing to find a way to support us all without having to leave town, he got his real estate license in 1972 and immediately began working part-time, eventually going full-time in 1975.
In 1980, he created- and until 1994, ran- the Relocation Services Division of one of the largest real estate firms in Middle Tennessee. While still selling, he became a Life Member of the Million Dollar Sales Club of the Nashville Board of Realtors, (this was when selling a million dollars of real estate was considered no small accomplishment).
Fast forward to 2006: One of Jerry’s clients asked him for help in transitioning the proceeds from the sale of a vacation home into rental property. He identified and recommended to this client 4 outstanding rental properties. The client agreed, and Jerry brokered the sales. When they closed, Jerry thought “Well, that’s that.”
Not. So. Fast…
About 4 months later, the client called expressing displeasure with the property management company he had hired and asked Jerry if he would consider managing the properties himself.
Now, what you have to understand here, is that Jerry once said the following: “If I ever wake up and find that I’m in the Property Management business, I’ll know I’ve died and been sentenced to hell.” But, as the saying goes, “timing is everything!”
Jerry agreed to manage the four rental properties and after a short time, as word is wont to do, word began to get around. One thing led to another until, eventually, Jerry’s phone was ringing as much for property management as it was for brokerage.
Then came 2008…
We all remember 2008. Some- myself included- more painfully than others.
When the bottom fell out of the economy and real estate sales dried up, many who found themselves with a home they could neither occupy nor sell, turned to leasing. It was during this time that, as Jerry puts it, “they started falling out of the sky.” Jerry’s property management business exploded and he ultimately found himself in it full-time (as far from hell as he could be!) and Westgate Property Management, LLC was born. I joined him in 2009 after 15 years in construction management and land development, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 2016 Jerry celebrated his 80th birthday; a fact which, if you’ve met him, you find exceedingly difficult to believe. He decided over the Summer of that year that it was “time to take some time.” He agreed to sell, I agreed to buy, and on 31 December, 2016, Jerry officially retired.
So, what’s in a name?
“Aria Properties, LLC” is an homage to the man who shaped my character and offered me an opportunity to provide for my family as he had provided for me. But Jerry’s legacy is SO much bigger than the decade-and-a-half he spent as a professional opera singer or the 45+ years he spent in real estate. His legacy is in the thousands of lives he touched and spirits he lifted– whether by his commanding voice, his reassuring presence, or his comforting (and unnaturally warm!) hands… And he continues to touch lives and spirits today through his long-standing involvement with prison ministry and, with my mother, as mentors in their church. They enjoy being grandparents to 6 and great-grandparents to 1 (so far).
As a kid, I never wanted to be in real estate. I wanted to be a singer, like my Dad.
I never became a singer, but I’m a lot like my Dad, and for that I will be eternally grateful, because your name says something about you.
I love you, Dad. Stand on it!