When I was small, I had grand fantasies of fame on stage. What I was doing on stage, however, was always a bit blurry around the edges as I never imagined myself as an actress, like most little girls. Years later, after choral singing and developing some stage lust, it seemed logical that I would do musical theater, and that fit into my schemes as I had sung in musicals in high school and had memorized Camelot and could irritate an entire busload of kids with "Where are the simple joys of maidenhood". I had never seen an opera and, although the movie Amadeus fascinated me when my pianist cousin made me watch it, that world was so foreign that I may as well have suddenly contracted a desire to be a Russian socialite as try to be an opera singer. It wasn't until I got half way through college and started loitering in the music department with my fellow choir members who did want to sing classically that I found out that you didn't have to be studying from the time you were twelve and be the product of a stage parent. Hell, I liked Bach, and I thought I could sing the shit out of him. I found out, though, that my drive was lacking. I hated practicing as I could never make my voice do what it needed to do and I'd inevitably end up frustrated and bewildered. I made it through my undergrad recitals by force of will, graduated, moved to Seattle and started over with the teacher my former college roommate was studying with and who had taken her from a light soubrette to a dramatic coloratura in the short space of a year. I found out that my voice was good but my technique was absolutely dismal. So very dismal. Over the next few years, while my voice improved, I never took any chances and I didn't do much to aid it along. I didn't coach with important people and I didn't try to make any connections. And still I never doubted that my turn would come. I just had a feeling, and my feelings tended to be right. Well, at 25, I thought EVERYTHING I felt was right.
Then I utterly crashed. I started having terrible panic attacks and the anxiety that had been subdermal my entire life erupted like shingles. I was incapacitated. For months, I didn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I just cried. As "movie of the week" as it sounds, I knew that the only thing that could disperse the crushing worry was singing. Not practicing at home (I hated being home), but being in a production. I started auditioning for local groups and got some work in operetta. I still didn't do any of the things other college graduates did, namely audition for young artist programs and compete, but I couldn't have as I didn't even know they existed. So, I sang in town and worked at an assistant job and thought that I was doing what everyone else was doing. Well, it wasn't. I was behind. So behind that, when I finally did catch on to where I should be, I had no resume, no professional credits in opera or concert and no way to quit work for singing, which I would have to do if I wanted to be a young artist.
So, rather than take a chance and try as hard as I could, I convinced myself that I didn't have to go that route, that I could keep working my job and audition for local compaines that rehearsed at night, I'd get heard and people would looooooove me. All of my years of not making contacts came back to bite me, though, and other people got cast ahead of me. People who weren't as good but who were known, favored and friends with the director of whatever company couldn't even be bothered to send out a "thanks, but no thanks" letter. I got into the Seattle Opera chorus, and have worked steadily with them, gratefully, since 2002, but I see what happens to choristers. They're always choristers, and I'm way too much of an attention whore to be in the back forever.
So, now I'm 33 and time is almost up. I've made some very painful but realistic observations in the past few years. Most singers I know who are making a career are supported by family or a spouse and have not had to work. They are good networkers, ruthless self-promoters and rarely show emotion. Singing is a business, and like any other business, weakness is frowned upon and the strongest and most cunning survive. Kind of like nature. A singer friend made the astute comment that I often seem self-conscious, an unforgivable failing when dealing with other professionals. We're all teetering on the edge much of the time and no one wants to think that the person they just hired is about to pitch over the precipice.
I've come to a crucial point. I'm sick to death of hating my day job, of being exhausted and frustrated. It's all of my own doing, I know, and I have to struggle with bitterness more often than I care to admit, bitterness directed more towards myself than others (except when I make the grave mistake of reading other singer's bios and then want to hire a hit man to remove them from the competition). I have had some good singing jobs lately, and I need to make them grow into more. I need to get off my ass and stop feeling as though I'm inconveniencing someone when I ask to sing for them or coach with them. I need to prove that I'm capable and strong.
In the next few months, I will audition for two early music events in which I desperately want to be involved. I HAVE to make this happen. I will NOT be a 40-year-old woman who worried her way out of the thing she could do best. And I'm not talking about filing.