This New Year gives us all a glorious opportunity to refocus on what’s essential. Recently I’ve allowed various distractions to take my eye off the ball in my personal and professional life. As 2017 unfolds I’m trying to “make the main thing the main thing.” In the 90’s James Carville coined the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid. “ That catchphrase was simplistic, but it carried Bill Clinton to the White House. My mantra for this year is it’s the singing, stupid.
Last October I embarked on a European audition trip. In Berlin I coached with a lovely lady who filled my ear with endless opinions for my audition. She gave piquant advice about what to say, how to format my resume and how to prepare my binder. She had specific instructions for which shoes, cufflinks, jacket and shirt I should choose. I followed all of her advice, and guess what? I still didn’t get the gig. My voice simply wasn’t the right fit for that role in that opera house. I have no idea which tenor they cast for the opera, but I have a hunch that it had nothing to do with the color of his shirt.
Maintaining an online presence is part of every singer’s job. Social media has thankfully opened up countless opportunities for me. But an online connection can’t replace wonderful singing. Before selling myself to patrons and colleagues, I first have to make sure the product I’m offering (my voice) is the best it can be. Therefore I must keep taking voice lessons and continue practicing every day.
A few singers have told me they can’t afford to consistently study with a coach or teacher. As a freelance artist struggling to make a living in NYC, I fully realize that the struggle is real. But if I’m pursuing a singing career and say that I can’t afford lessons, I’d be just like a competitive bodybuilder who says he can’t afford a gym membership. Vocal training is costly, but if I’m serious about this art form, I honestly can’t afford NOT to keep working on my craft.
The Metropolitan Opera produced my favorite ad campaign of 2016. Instead of glitzy images from splashy new productions, they featured black and white headshots of their most celebrated singers. The idea was basic and bold: “The Voice Must Be Heard.” I often pass those posters in the subway, and each time their message reminds me that my objective isn’t fame; it’s vocal excellence.
There is no app for artistry. There is no substitute for vocal security, style, beauty, polish and power. In 2017 I will continue to engage with the online community, but my goal is to keep first things first. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run back to the practice room to sing more scales.