I have alot of different interests. Someday, I would love to open a restaurant, a café, a bookstore. I always wanted to become an astronaut. Ever since seeing the movie, Twister, I have wanted to be a storm chaser. If I hadn’t gone to university for music, I would have tried Mechanical Engineering…. but architecture fascinates me, too. I could be a travel agent, mother, web designer, inventor, writer, veterinarian, editor, translator, yoga instructor, tango instructor, salsa instructor, pilot, or even the prime minister. Even more overwhelming than the vast array of things I could do is the fact that I actually WANT to do them.
At summer programs and universities, we often receive the grand warning, meant to scare off anyone that isn’t very serious about entering into this uncomfortable field:
‘If singing isn’t the only possible thing you would be happy doing, then do something else.’
This statement is usually followed with descriptions of performance life which sound vaguely of scare tactics; hours and hours of waiting in the airport on very little sleep, seeing your spouse/family/children/mother/boyfriend/dog only once or twice a year, trudging back to your hotel room every night alone and lonely (uphill, in a snowstorm, wearing your father’s long underwear…). Of course no one can deny that the performance life is not always pleasant, and that it does come with its sacrifices. I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on those that remind us that the singers life is not all sunshine and rainbows. On the other hand, most of us aspiring professional singers would rather be unemployed than spend every day for the rest of our working lives behind a desk in a cubicle. In other words, most of us are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in order to do what makes us feel alive.
However, I am going to argue that many of the singers that are endowed by a career from the career gods would also be quite happy doing something else with their lives. Of course, singing Nessun dorma in a big hall is hard to beat in terms of a career. But an emerging artist that has no other interests or aspirations in life is (dare I say it) boring. How are you to interpret such quirky, varied, dramatic and melodramatic characters if you are not constantly cultivating new interests and seeking out new experiences? And, what if this emerging artist, god forbid, is not successful in making a career? If, indeed, the only singers who should attempt to have a career are the ones that cannot possibly do anything else with their lives, that means that if their career falls through, they are going to be miserable for the rest of their lives!
All this is a roundabout way of saying that the career of a singer has been hyped up in every possible way. A singing career is not, and cannot be, the ultimate badge of success or happiness. We cannot buy into this idea that we need to be single-minded in our goals – that kind of thinking only creates fear and gives more power to the people in the field who really have enough. Each of us is embarking on an endeavor to do one of the things that we love to do. The reality is, most of us do not end up on the same path that we thought we were embarking on. Some of us will sing solo, some chorus, some jazz. Some of us will work in arts administration or become agents. Some of us will end up in marketing, in dance, in theater, in sculpting, some of us will become doctors or engineers and maybe one of us will end up in space. Most of us will probably end up parents. And won’t the world be better off for it?