It has been an epically long week. I don’t ordinarily have enough going on for a heartfelt TGIF, but TGIF, blogosphere. (Though granted, I also have a voice lesson tomorrow and church on Sunday and tutoring on Martin Luther King Day, but it’s the principle of the thing.)
I just typed the sentence “I have a lot of work to do today,” and then I deleted it because I realized that I was only referring to the freelance writing work that’s due at 1:30 PM. I always forget, as do many of us, I think, that auditions are work if you’re aiming for a professional career as a singer/actor/musician. Voice lessons are a professional investment, as is gas for long car trips to auditions and gigs, and headshots and coachings and audition fees, and and and…
But the reason singing doesn’t feel like work is because A. to paraphrase a great movie, singing gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy, and B. it doesn’t tend to pay, which means that most of us need full-time day jobs, or, if you’re like me, part-time office work, freelance writing, tutoring and a church gig once a week.
I have recently started a part-time temp job where the people are delightful(without exception, by the way, right down to Omar the security guard, who when I say “This is Anne speaking” replies with “It is? That’s wonderful!”), the work is not difficult to figure out (though it can be stressful at times), and everyone is completely sympathetic to the fact that I don’t want to do this for a living–in fact, everyone I have talked to about singing has been thrilled to have a musician in their midst. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this in an office environment, but it’s still refreshing.
It always grinds my gears a little bit when I hear singers say that they can’t get a job because they don’t know how to do anything but sing. Hit it, Dr. Cox:
My friend Kaelan, a wonderful actor, recently asked me to help him write his own resume for non-acting jobs (in exchange for Shakespeare coachings, three cheers for talented friends!), and I’ve been thinking a lot about how we as artists/actors/singers/musicians can spin the skills that we have acquired in our music careers to make them marketable in non-music professional arenas.
(NB: I am not an expert or a life coach or anything. I believe that my recent experience with writing resumes and my status as a
n aspiring professional singer makes me uniquely qualified to comment on this topic. Wow, that sentence could be on my resume!)
1. My favorite one to talk about is the art of the quick study. I’ve never actually said this, but I’m going to start telling people that figuring out the phone system for a 100+ floor office building is significantly easier than sight-reading Bach choral works. I include church jobs on my non-music resume because they are evidence of my ability to learn complex concepts quickly and accurately, because sometimes I wouldn’t get the music until the morning of the service (see: Advent this year) or because of all of my other work, I didn’t get around to looking at the solo until the night before (last weekend, the weekend before, probably this weekend too, actually)–and I still managed to be note perfect by 10:30 AM. Once you’re in the realm of the professional musician, there is no hand-holding, no spoon-feeding of notes (well, not usually), nobody to hold you accountable for getting stuff done. Professional singers are highly-independent quick studies with enormous capacity for memorization and picky little details.
2. Networking. I bring this up at least once every time I have an interview for a non-music job. It’s huge. I can talk to anybody. I can leave the same voicemail for five different people with subtle changes in wording without missing a beat. I am a chatter, a kibbitzer, a schmoozer–and it’s because I spend so much time strategizing about how to make influential music people remember me. I can also do this via e-mail (must adjust to the times we live in!).
3. When Kaelan and I were brainstorming his resume, we talked about teamwork and how unbelievably important it is to the life of an actor or a singer to be able to collaborate, to work off of somebody else’s energy and be flexible enough to follow their lead–or to take the lead oneself. This is the point in interviews when I bring up the experience of being a part of a choir, particularly a small one like, say, Northwestern’s Baroque Music Ensemble, or a church choir, or a stage company. Nothing screams “cooperation” like twenty women in poofy dresses trying to maneuver a bridge, a maypole and countless roses white and roses red onstage–while singing in harmony!
(That’s me sitting on the floor stage right, by the way, with the short hair.)
3 continued. And the other thing is leadership. I always emphasize that I have served as soprano section leader several times–in church and also with a large Chicago-area choir on Bach’s Mass in B-Minor, which was frankly terrifying. It requires a huge amount of confidence to sing out enough to lead the section, to say nothing of musicality and accuracy, good pitch and rhythm, patience and listening skills.
4. I just thought of this one yesterday. At my new job, I often feel like I’ve been thrown into the deep end a bit, just because of the sheer amount of stuff there is to remember every time I pick up the phone. So when I don’t know something, which is often, I put the caller on hold and ask somebody else for help. Asking for help is not something most of us like to do. But in my singing life, there is so much that I can’t accomplish by myself, and I’m learning to be comfortable seeking assistance from experts. I need a voice teacher to help me improve my vocal technique, I need coaches to work with me on style, accompanists to help me learn music and make recordings, and I need people to hire me so that I can build my career. Oh, and audiences for a little validation. (Just a little–I’m pretty sure of myself, but applause never hurts!)
“Wittle Ewic looks a wittle scawed. Maybe he could use a wittle appwause?”
Anyway. Speaking of work and singing, I have an audition in Naperville at 10:30, which means a nice long drive and hopefully not too much Taylor Swift on the radio (I’m sorry, but if she knew he was trouble when he walked in, why did she get involved? Shame on her no-ow, indeed).
And after my audition I will be parking myself at the Starbucks in downtown Naperville to write resumes, because as Moulin Rouge teaches us, girl has got to eat.