Breaking into the industry: a vicious cycle?Op-ed
You know what’s crazy? I mean, even crazier than choosing this career [re:singing]?
What’s crazy is this incessant circle: must keep singing, must keep training, must find work, must keep attending things so people know I exist, must find money to do all of these things, must travel to location for audition, must buy formal wear so I do not look like a 90’s prom queen, must find money to pay for training program… Why do hair cuts cost so much? Does hair have to keep growing? How many days can I book off work to leave town for auditions before they ask me why I even have this job? Why don’t I get paid until I finish a gig and how in the sweet name of all that is holy am I supposed to get a gig if I can’t afford to keep singing?!
Ok. Cool it down there, girl. Just keep breathing. Write the article and then freak out. You’ll pull it together, you always do.
This internal struggle is just one of the wonderful things that come with the territory. Sometimes it feels like it must be a joke, but then it’s not, and you just feel kind of sad.
When you want something like this so badly, you will do pretty near anything to keep going. It makes you feel crazy, sure! But is it crazier to deny yourself what you love, or is it crazier to keep going when there’s no end in sight?
I wish I was here to bring you some hope and be all, “Here is a solution to all your problems! And here, 10 points for Griffindor!” Unfortunately, however, I am not a wizard and cannot wave a wand, say a little charm, do a little dance and have the circle stop and re-order itself into a tidy, chronological line.
To quote the veritable five-year old, “NO! It’s not fair!”
Somehow, we’re supposed to spend years training so we can get work. Unfortunately, to get the work that would so help pay for the expert training and advice we need, we first need the training. Ah, you see.
So you keep training because there’s no other way to move forward if you’re not ready. Sometimes you will get well intentioned suggestions from people who are mentoring you. They don’t realize they’re being unhelpful, they really do want what’s best, but they’ll suggest things to you like:
1. “Could you put on a nice art song recital?”
Inside you see your precious coaching minutes ticking away being spent on Schubert. It’s not a bad thing, but when you can only afford one solitary coaching before a big audition, Schubert isn’t ideal.
And when you start to reconsider, you realize you’ll have to find and pay for the space, pay for the pianist and pray to whomever is in charge of money in this universe that you might break even. All this followed by nights of anxiety dreams that you forgot to bring a gown and have to sing in your jeans…
2. “You should really be at more opening nights and attending more parties!”
While it doesn’t occur to them that those tickets are expensive and that it’s not in the budget this month.
3. “Why don’t you borrow from the bank of mom and dad?”
LOL. The bank of mom and dad is closed.
4. “Have you auditioned for Program X?”
All the while knowing you can’t afford to go because they cannot provide any kind of scholarship or work study or financial aid.
5. “Why didn’t you take that gig?”
Not realizing it will take hours out of your work schedule and you will not be paid for the performance.
It’s hard because you want to succeed and you know they want you to succeed and it’s hard because while the suggestions are so valid and would help so much, end up making you feel guilty that you can’t afford every opportunity.
So what do you do? Well, a wise teacher once told me that if you are going to be in this industry, you just have to be ok with the fact that you’re likely always going to be a little bit in debt. I have come to realize for myself that this is true.
If you stay active in this field, it will consume you financially before you even really get a chance to get out there and you still may not be able to be out as much as your mentors are hoping you will.
While I wish people were a little more sympathetic (or better yet, empathetic!) to this cause, all you can do is to do the best you can with what you have.
It’s rough, not being able to afford everything. Often, you feel extremely isolated, left out and like you’re never going to get ahead. Especially when you see event photos of so-and-so hanging out at a huge event with whats-his-name and you’re sitting at home.
You watch others enter competitions that you can’t afford to apply for, or attending programs you couldn’t make work. Or you’re not as well coached as you would have liked when you get to the program you managed to pull the money together for and you feel horrible when the faculty is disappointed with your preparation and is not interested in your “excuses”.
You try to remind yourself that just because you are not not there doesn’t mean that you are less of a performer or a less capable artist. It doesn’t mean you have failed and it doesn’t mean you have to give up.
You maybe wondering if I am still even interested in trying to “make this work” and you know, I still am. Singing is the only thing that gets me this excited and nothing makes me feel more alive than performing. So I am still here and, despite the financial struggles, will be here as long as I can.
To finish things off, I have written a hilarious and inspirational haiku:
This life is unfair.
It is also expensive.
Get another job.