The singing business is still fairly new to me. However, in the ten years since I started taking voice lessons and soon after began working as a professional singer, I’ve noticed certain themes that continually emerge with my colleagues and in my own experiences. After stumbling a few times and learning things the hard way, here are a few thoughts I hope others can learn as they embark on an artistic career.
Be Prepared: Step one for me is translating and learning the entire text. If the opera is based on a book, I read it and take notes. If the songs are by a particular poet, I read all of the poems and try to find more works by the same author. Learning the score means making sure it’s all secure and comfortable in my brain and in my throat before rehearsals begin.
Be Proactive: I used to bemoan my lack of opportunities, but then I tried thinking of ways to open doors on my own. New music is a passion of mine, so I’ve contacted a few composers, learned their music and coached with them. The results have been incredibly positive, and they have opened up possibilities I never anticipated. Think outside the box and find unique ways of pursuing your dream.
Be Proficient: Each day I work on Rosetta Stone, duolingo and memrise language tools. It’s no substitute for total immersion, but it’s better than nothing.
Be Punctual: Once a general director threatened to fire all of us in a young artist program because we were late for a masterclass. Showing up 2 minutes late might not seem like a big deal to some, but it almost cost me my job.
Be Polite: None of us can afford to make enemies in the deeply competitive singing business. People have referred me for jobs, and I’m not crazy enough to think it’s because I’m the best singer on earth. These colleagues know that I generally keep a positive attitude, and I work hard as a team player, so they gladly recommend me to their conductor and director friends.
Be Purposeful: Whenever I’m distracted or disappointed with career or life issues, it’s important to remind myself of why I sing. My primary goal is to communicate with people as I make music. This philosophy helps me to forget the negativity and to stay energized and focused on my job as an artist.
Practice: My best results have come not just from singing through songs and arias repeatedly, but from fine tuning specific tricky spots and cadenzas. I always work on my scales, and I try to work on my trill each morning. This pinpointed work has yielded much better singing.
Press Pause: Books like Power Performance for Singers have revolutionized my mental prowess for auditioning and performing. When I was singing my first auditions, I could completely derail from a single note that wasn’t perfectly placed. Now I’m learning how to find my center and come back to the present moment. It makes auditioning and performing easier and more fun.
These ideas all boil down to mental strength. For years I chased perfection and strove to make each note a vocal masterpiece. But truthfully, perfection only exists in retouched magazine covers and edited recordings. Achieving that level of excellence is virtually impossible, but other goals are much more attainable for me. If I focus on my preparation and purpose, I find that each performance is a much more satisfying experience for me and for those who are listening.