Here is a customary situation that most singers struggle with as they feel the burning need to advance their position by stepping up a rung on that professional operatic ladder. This is an excerpt from one of my ongoing career consultations via email/Skype:

“I have a feeling though that it is time to zero in a bit more and accept who/what my voice is even more than our discussion some time ago.  It’s amazing to me the process of evolution.  The more I sing and perform, the clearer my goals are becoming as well as the person and colleague I want to be.  I’m grateful for that, because often times, you think you have an idea of what that is (what you want), but it isn’t until you get out there, you begin to figure it out (I feel like this is what you were trying to help me understand.)  …and then comes trusting that it’s the right decision–which is a whole different matter.  Yet, I find it interesting, because even in the process of preparation, one can scare themselves out of “standing before the firing squad” (although certainly not that dramatic of an image, of course) due to the outside input of others and/or their own conflicting thoughts/opinions or of friends/advisors.  Part of the decision making “thing” (I want to say monster) is the way life works, but in a field that seems to be so riddled with the concept of being absolutely SURE to “make your first impression a good one” it can be downright confusing and intimidating!   “How do YOU know that you’re ready? …and for which level?”

“Everyone wants to live at the top of the mountain forgetting that how we climb is all that matters.” – Gabriel Barcia Marquez, author

This is probably the number one question emerging artists and aspiring singers want an answer to. Like most anything else in life, it is through the natural process of experience that you find the answer.  However you can’t even begin the journey without having completed Phase I of this process, which is to have a really solid vocal technique, have worked with a really good lyric diction coach so you have a handle on and feel confident with languages, worked with a musical coach for a genuine idea of how to express your character through the music, and have had several performance experiences where you have had the opportunity to put all these pieces of the puzzle together while performing.  Now you are ready to go to Phase II of this process.

Phase II is spent with continued honing of those Phase I skills, and in addition learning more about who you are, and your craft by getting more experience in different venues. It’s wonderful when you have the opportunity to gain experience over time by working with an interesting assortment of conductors, stage directors, coaches, colleagues, etc. You can learn what works best for you and also notice behaviors you might want to avoid.  Educating yourself as a person/performer can take place when you simply identify and recognize how and what others in the cast do in response to varying life situations and also how they respond to their characters and the story that is being told. Again, sometimes you learn what not to do as well. Then you can try modeling bits and pieces of what you think might work for you in expanding how you want to take action in different situations and also how you might add some fresh ideas to the portrayal of your own character.

“Life does not consist mainly—or even largely—of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one’s head.” – Mark Twain

Over time, digging deep like this helps define your Brand, and will help you discover nuances as you embody who you are at your core and who your character is at its core.  You have the freedom and responsibility to make your own choices and are better able to deal with the consequences which are how we learn everything. So step up and remain very awake, alert, present, conscious and curious. Enjoy the freedom to know what you really want and how to ask for it as you move through your career. There is only feedback not failure. If you feel you have made the wrong move or decision, learn from your mistakes and move on. That’s how we grow and change. And again, it’s always about creating and maintaining relationships whether it is with another human being, your character and even in your relationship with yourself. Owning up to who you are, the genuine, authentic, and unique person on the inside, facilitates all kinds of character building that the outside world recognizes big time; you don’t have to do anything to have them notice it.  You are enough!!!

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

It’s also helpful to have created trustworthy relationships with a couple of experienced music professionals whose advice you trust, who will take the time and energy to listen to what you have to say and in turn, are worth listening to. You might not agree with all that is suggested all the time, but at least you have a safe and dependable place you can go to ask questions, have discussions and get some advice. In the end, it is up to you to make the choice as to when you move up within the chain of professional performance opportunities.  If you are not sure what your next move should be and feel strongly that you should step up to a higher rung on the professional ladder, see if you can set up an audition for that entry level and give it a try. Nothing gained, nothing lost if you don’t put it out there, but only give this a go if you feel you are ready and have had the occasion to talk it over with the musical professionals you trust to help you make wise choices even if you agree to disagree.  You will know at your gut level when you should step up the game.

In my mind, going from aspiring artist to inaugurating an emerging professional level career happens by osmosis. Let’s use school as a metaphor. It’s like moving through the educational system of a school starting with Kindergarten. After having made the initial adjustment to your new surroundings, your start figuring out your best mode of learning, find good friends, and then the school year is over. The next school year, because you have had one year of previous experience as to what to expect, your learning curve can expand more quickly even though there might be adjustments getting to know new students, teachers, encountering new subjects and even perhaps a different schedule.  Throughout your school years, you are often forced to step out of your comfort zone and sample something completely new, scary, and unique from anything you have done before. But in doing so, you discover several new facets of yourself and begin to grow, change and gain confidence as you repeat this process for the rest of your schooling.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Now the only difference is that you are an independent agent in charge of your own schooling. And you simply continue to do what comes next not skipping any of the steps along the way. It’s a process like most things in life. So continue to get better at creating and maintaining relations and follow-up. Learn that business is not emotional or personal. Get comfortable inviting others into your personal space whether on stage or off. Become even more of your authentic self than you have ever been.  This process increases your prospects for making high-quality choices that will guide you successfully up that ladder to obtaining professional singer status.

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