No-Man’s Singing Land

Monday, 16 July 2012

Would you like to sing?

Opera?

Yes.

That’s great.

Well if you do there are a number of ways you can do that. It’s going to take you about 8-10 years to train. There are no job guarantees at the end.

So are you sure you want to do this?

Yes.

Well. Firstly, go to music college at undergrad. And if you don’t do that, then you should study languages at university. If you really want to, study music at university. You could also study pretty much anything else; law, philosophy, english literature, maths. Just keep having private voice lessons and get involved with university societies so you get stage and performance experience.

Then what?

After that you need to do a masters or postgrad diploma. Really focus on your technique for two years. Normally at a music college, though there are masters performance programmes at universities as well.

Then?

Ideally go to an opera school. After that you can also go on to an opera studio attached to an opera house, often in Germany (there are others in Flanders, Switzerland, Austria and France too).

After that?

Well, you may have an agent by this stage and already be working. But if not then, you should think about doing big competitions to get noticed and start applying to agencies.

What if I don’t get noticed at this stage?

We have all been taught that there is a certain way to do this. The career. There is a route from undergrad, to postgrad, to opera school, to winning an amazing competition, to getting an agent and then having a wonderful career that then continues for decades without interruption. I am not sure (other than for the lucky few) that this is reality.

There are a lot of us. And there is a lot of talent. We all love it, we love music, we love making music, we love singing. Who gets to choose who can really have a successful career? Having the best and most beautiful voice in the world actually isn’t enough. What is a successful career anyway? Does it include sleeping in your own bed every night and having a family, or does it involve traveling the world from one city to the next?

We have to be great musicians. We have to be entrepreneurial. We have to understand our own voices, what is good for them, suits them and what doesn’t. We have to gain experience and excel when we do. We have to grab opportunity with both hands. We have to understand social media and marketing. We have to be GOOD people. Treat others as we wish to be treated.

I, in complete honesty, have NO IDEA what I am doing. Honest. I love where I live, I love the people I work with, I love that I can earn (some) money from the singing that I do, and choose the other projects I get involved in. I just turned 25 and I have huge admiration when I hear wonderful voices from wonderful people in wonderful places. I know that I am not in a rush, that I ‘have time’ and I am happy to take my time. I have the time to do a masters, an opera studio, get an agent etc. But time is not finite and there is a lot of work that I have to get on with so that I can be ready when the time comes.

Thinking of ‘time’. There is this no-man’s time, between when you are a student, and when you magically graduate to being a professional. I am trying something a bit different at the moment. Not being at college, living abroad, it probably all seems a bit random and whacky to someone outside looking in. But to me, languages are crucially important, so I am here to get my German to where my Italian is, working on my singing whilst I’m here. And maybe, just maybe, we don’t all have to follow the same route to have a singing career. I think, with good sense, you can make your own opportunities and progress very well. But how long does this go on for? When do I graduate from my current little path to the path I would like to be on (which is of course where I have perfect technique, have a number of roles under my belt and get continuous professional work – hello Suzy the idealist)? Maybe this will NEVER HAPPEN.

But I bet – would put a lot of money – on the fact, that we will all continue, in whatever way we can, for as long as we can, as long as it is ok to hear ‘No’s’ at audition and believe that you are still doing something right.

What are you thinking?

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