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11/21/2013

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Alison Trainer

Thank you for openly discussing this fact of life that we singers have been dealing with for most of our careers! I remember early in my career wanting to wait tables in the Lincoln Center area, but it was clear that this was not an option, because no way could a young singer be seen waiting tables by anyone in the industry, they would assume you were failing as a singer! (Even if meanwhile you were working at NYCO right across the street.) I want to add that in addition to having to support ourselves, in an industry where fees are falling, companies go bankrupt right out from under us, and contracts are often cancelled, there is another reason why many singers engage in other forms of employment. Most singers I know are highly intelligent, multi-talented and have diverse interests. Opera singers, American singers in particular, are some of best trained, hardest working people I have ever met, and they multi-task like no one else. (This is why in temp offices in New York and opera houses in Europe, the American singer work ethic is widely admired.) Pursuing other interests and succeeding in other employment can enhance who we are as humans and artists. My work as a labor doula, yoga teacher, writer, and editor has only enriched my life and thus what I have to offer as an artist. I happen to be working only as an opera singer right now, and I love and am extremely grateful for my work, but I also miss cultivating other areas of my life. There should be no shame in the fact that we want to be whole people with diverse interests, and the ability to thrive and succeed on many different paths is something to celebrate.

Angela Torres-Kutkuhn

I love this. Thank you pointing this out. I'd love to add another facet; the struggle of the young artist. When we graduate from a masters program, and are facing the singing world full on, it costs money. Money most if us don't have because we know we will soon be paying back student debt. We can't make money off of singing exclusively because we need experience to get hired, but we need money to pay for application fees, accompanist fees, lessons, coachings, and travel in order to acquire that experience. Or we must spend thousands of dollars as well on training programs and pay-to-sings in order to gain experience. This is where the day job steps in. Many of us do teach privately and have church jobs, but the regular paid role is still a dream just out of reach. At this point, we must work harder than we ever did in school. We are fully responsible for ourselves, our career, and our finances. I work full time in a cafe, and have a great church job, but the paid gigs are few and far between right now. I'm spending more money applying for auditions (many of which I don't get because I didn't have the money to apply immediately when they were posted and the slots fill up) than I will make in paid gigs. You couldn't have put it better when you asked 'how much more serious could they be?' I, for one, think that slinging espresso 40 hours a week in order to afford a few lessons and apps, makes me more serious about about singing. I'm busting my butt just to scrape by, because I have to....I have to pay bills. But I also have to sing. The fees I need to pay are non negotiable. Yes, they are a burden and a bit ridiculous, but I will do what I have to do to be heard. One espresso shot at a time.

Renee Salewski

Thank you.

Jesse Enderle

Very well said, Cindy. I often read your articles and blog, but never before have commented. I applaud you for what you do on all fronts and how unabashedly you do it. It is some of the very qualities that one needs to juggle a hundred things going on that actually reinforce being a good singer/actor: multitasking, organization, preparedness, etc. Not to mention that a diverse background of activities and interests (dare I say living life) can add to a higher appreciation of our own art, a higher understanding of self (necessary in any art if you ask me), as well as give us more to draw upon in presenting our artistry.

But here, with your usual candor, you exemplify another very specific and vital quality of the stage performer: vulnerability and openness. Every day we get on the stage we have to open ourselves and put on display at least a sliver of our inner truth to portray highly emotional and often difficult or uncomfortable subject matter, and this opens the doors for judgement from others. But it is what we do, and we need to be comfortable with that honesty, not try and hide from it or sweep it away as if it is shameful.

Whatever the accepted public face of 'success' and 'seriousness' about our art form - I truly hope that one day I can be as successful, serious, and honest about my art and business as you are.

Cindy

Jesse, thank you. That is very kind. And I really like what you have to say about vulnerability --- SO true. If we don't share ourselves, the audience feels cut off (though they may not know why). Also your remarks about being able to multi-task: ironically, anyone who has ever had to hire temps knows that actors/singers/entertainers are PRIZED employees because they can do a million things at once, do them well, and be charming all the while.

alene

When people imply that you are not good enough to be solely employed by merit of your singing, just make sure to correct them: The opera company can't afford to pay you for full time employment. And that is the honest truth.

But you would still keep singing whether or not someone paid you a dime, wouldn't you? I mean, if someone passed some strange law forbidding payment to all musicians, would you really throw in the towel all together and chose a different life? No. You would keep singing because that is who you are and you would find a way to make ends meet because that is who you need to be.

So the fact that you get paid at all is the great anomaly of a capitalist market.

On a side note, I am glad singers take on so many other roles in life because it gives more depth to their stage roles. For example, there are so many roles that I couldn't even comprehend until I had kids. I would sit there and think: man, what a strange demented person (so many examples but I will list a few: Azucena, Mother from Amahl, Gertrude in Hansel and Gretel) then you have kids and become that strange demented person (ok, I have never actually tossed a baby into a fiery burning pit but you get the idea) and you are able to see more sides to Carmen and these other terribly complex characters that just cant be pulled off by the naivety of youth. . .

anyhow, great post. dont let people bully you around on such personal matters as how you make your money. that really has no bearing on how you are as a performer. . .

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where's Cindy Singing Next?

  • The Mother, The Consul, Dayton Opera, October 20 & 22, 2018
    http://daytonperformingarts.org/opera-performance/the-consul

Cindy on Stage

  • 13220521_10154382855989305_3685292970235829455_o
    I play dress-up for a living.

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