Taking ownership of his well-known name

Local opera singer Daniel Snyder and his Web page are unaffiliated with the Redskins.
Local opera singer Daniel Snyder and his Web page are unaffiliated with the Redskins.
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Dan Steinberg
Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Hello, Mr. Steinberg?" said the voice on the phone. "This is Dan Snyder."

Well, sure it was. This was Dan Snyder the tenor, lover of Gilbert & Sullivan, male lead of the Trenton opera company's upcoming production of "Tosca," and owner of the domain DanSnyder.com.

This was the Dan Snyder who earns write-ups like this 2004 clip in The Post: "Tenor Dan Snyder sang a heroic 'Nessun Dorma.' " Or like this, from a 2000 review of "Pirates of Penzance," way before the Spurrier experiment: "Tenor Dan Snyder, as Frederic, maintained the high standards established in his previous roles." That was the Dan Snyder who called me, at my request, so I could ask him about sharing that famous name.

"You've got a name that's just a couple hops away from Joe Smith to start with," the tenor told me.

And in truth, this Dan Snyder has a certain admiration for the other Dan Snyder, since they both rose to fairly prominent positions from fairly modest backgrounds. The tenor Dan Snyder was the son of a piano teacher and an amateur tenor, who traveled around during summers and performed in churches. Wanting to do his own thing, Snyder eschewed music and eventually joined the Marines, which brought him to Quantico, where he worked as a computer programmer.

As he was setting up Web services for the Marines, it occurred to Snyder to grab DanSnyder.com, thinking it might come in handy one day. And during his Quantico posting, he also began getting back into music, a hobby that was encouraged by his superiors after a general heard him sing. He began studying privately in Silver Spring, entered the large D.C. choral community, and began getting some paying gigs, including with the Washington National Opera. (His first audition, as a matter of fact, involved performing "La donna è mobile" for Placido Domingo. Just wanted to get that in the sports section.)

By 1997, he was out of the Marines and a professional musician based in the D.C. market. He joined the Army chorus, frequently performing at the White House, and his name began appearing in The Post right around the same time that the other Dan Snyder entered the local lexicon.

"I think it just kind of gradually happened, this creeping, dawning awareness," Snyder told me. "I'd be at the Blockbuster trying to rent a movie, I'd give them my credit card and they'd go 'Dan Snyder? You're not Dan Snyder?' Then they'd unload on me with whatever they hated about what was going on with the Redskins."

There are certain awkward elements to this. Internet searches, for example.

"I've done a Google search on my name a couple times, and you look at it, and you're like 'Oh, gosh, that's not so hot,' " Snyder said. "You hope that people drill down and find out who you really are."

Snyder's father was actually raised in Silver Spring, and he later coached high school football in Iowa. The family all cheered for the Redskins, but the young tenor, to be contrary, instead rooted for the Cowboys. He was reluctant to give football advice, although he did talk about certain opera productions plagued by too many big names, in which "all the various divas and divos try to crowd each other, upstage each other, sing the highest note, hold it the longest, and what generally happens is the show suffers."

And yes, some opera singers change their names once they enter the business, especially in a circumstance like this. Snyder, though, is staying put.

"It's not surprising that there'll be several guys kicking around with that name," he said. "But I'm the only opera singing Daniel Snyder that I know of."

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