Have you taken a hiatus from your singing career and now want to get back into the game? Do you know what the game is, what the rules are, and how the game is played? Only then can you make a clear and conscious choice about re-entering the performance arena.

Many singers put the brakes on their careers because in their heart of hearts they do not want the lifestyle and commitment that a serious career at any level requires. So, make sure this is really what you want. Are you ready to commit the time, energy, and money it’s going to take to put you back on the playing field again? You need to ask yourself at what level of excellence the playing field needs to be in order for you to feel fulfilled and happy.

When choosing your “playing field”, consider some of the hard truths. For example, with the exception of a singer who has already made an impact on the industry prior to his/her hiatus, still has many real contacts in the business, and/or an extraordinary talent that just needs some brushing up, a singer re-igniting his/her career later in life will probably not sing leading roles at the Met or La Scala. (I’d be very happy for you to prove me wrong.) If, however, being able to say “I am singing at one of the major houses in the world” is really important to you, make it your goal to get into the chorus or get a contract for some of the smaller parts. It’s about what makes you feel good about you.

Don’t get caught up on other people’s definition of success. In today’s world, the perception is that performing has become something of worth only if you are a “star”. Does that mean that performing and sharing your talent isn’t worth the doing if you are not on the front cover of the Opera News or Classical Singer Magazine? There are many ways to have a career. Each is important and helps gives back something precious to the community with whom you have chosen to share your talent. You can become a “star” at any level.

If you are still interested in building a solo career as a singer and performer because it makes you feel good about yourself, you want to contribute to your community, and you simply love performing, there are still many other opportunities out there for you.

Make a conscious choice to re-enter the music industry. Don’t treat your decision as some fantasy. It’s not about wishing that your vague, hazy dreams will come true; it’s not a quick fix. It’s about the hard reality of what it takes to build a career at any level, so be very specific and honest with yourself when going through this process. If you want to get into the game again, it’s like starting at square one, only better because you have more life experience to rely on.


 

Let’s get started.

• Write down “why” you want to get back into singing and performing. Make your statement short enough to memorize. This may take 10 minutes or two weeks. (You want this to become an affirmation that you repeat to yourself hundreds of times a day.) Be brutally honest with yourself. Write a pros and cons list. Remember why you stopped. Look at it from all angles. Will you be happy with singing as an avocation, giving back to the community, and maybe – if you’re lucky – even getting paid? Very few singers make their entire living from performing. If you still feel you want a career, go to step two.

• Seriously assess your talent and strengths. Go to several people whose ears you trust – former teachers, coaches, etc. – and make sure they can be objective and not just tell you what they think you want to hear. Have them listen to you and be honest with their assessment of where you are now and if they feel you have the potential to reach your dream/goal.

• Develop a support team. Let people whom you trust and feel safe with know what your plans are and that you need their support. Make a conscious choice to accept their friendship, feedback, assistance, and encouragement. You deserve this kind of love and care.

• If this is for you, the next step is to construct four general goals. Make them as detailed as you can. First, think ahead to where you want your career to be in five years. Then, moving backward, write down where you want to be in three years, then one year, and finally six months. You need to write down the outcome of these five, three, one, and six-month goals. Be specific. Working backward from the farthest goal allows you to see and understand how all these steps are going to fit together in making your plan of action a reality. You can then activate the strategy I have outlined below to get even more specific when working through this process.

With your affirmation, strengths, realistic assessment, support team, and the general outline for your career in place, you are ready to move forward and make your dreams into a reality. Now its time to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is.


 

Use these 10 steps to build your Plan of Action:

1. Decide what you want, where you are now, and where you want to be when you have achieved your first year goal. (One-year plan)

2. Write your goal down. (If you don’t do this step, the goal will never happen.)

3. Create an elaborate, detailed, inner vision of what having already achieved your one-year goal will be like. Let it encompass all the emotions and feelings involved. Like your affirmation, spend focused time with this vision many times a day.

4. Break the bigger goals down into smaller secondary goals (i.e., find a voice teacher or coach, brush up on languages, redefine fach, find performance venues, connect with old colleagues, etc.)

5. Take these one at a time and write down the obstacles to attaining that portion of the secondary goal, then find the solutions to each of these obstacles.

6. Create a list of people resources. These are people who can help you with your secondary goals. Maybe you need an introduction, mentor, advice, favor, help with mailing lists, money, or just information. (You get the idea.) Then use these resources regularly.

7. Create a daily “to do” list. These are the mini tasks that move you ever forward. Often they are the mundane and boring aspects of getting to your goal, but have to be done. If you put only a couple of them on your daily to do list along with your other chores, you will see that by the end of the week you have moved much closer to your secondary goal, which takes you closer to your main goal and keeps you motivated and feeling like it can really happen.

8. As you finalize each secondary goal, ask yourself if having achieved this part of the goal has moved you on to the next secondary goal, or if you need to create a new one.

9. Repeat all of this with each secondary goal until you have achieved your big, one-year goal. Then, using this same process, build and activate the second-year goal. (Continue to do this until you reach your five-year goal. Once you are there, you may want to set another series of goals to move you even further ahead. Use the same system and enjoy the journey.)

10. To help keep you motivated and confident, start your second year goal a month or so before you finish your first one. They need to overlap. Or maybe you have another goal that is not related to your singing career that is running simultaneously. That’s a good thing.


 

• Once you have your plan in place, find out how many of your old contacts (old colleagues, conductors, stage directors, managers, sponsors, etc.) are still involved in the singing industry. Tell them you would love to meet for coffee, lunch, drinks, or whatever to discuss something very important to you, your treat. Have an idea of what it is you want from each of these people. Have a strategy in place so that when you meet with them you know how to ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is “no.” If they can’t help you always ask if they know anyone else who might be interested and that they would feel comfortable introducing you to. You have to be pleasantly assertive.

• Always network. Carry your business cards with you wherever you go. When you give your business card to someone, always try to get that person to give you one in return. If you have a hard time remembering names and faces, write where you met this person, what they looked like, and what you talked about on the back of their card. The next time you run into them call them by name – it makes a big, lasting impression. You never know what circle of influential friends they might have who may possibly be interested in helping you move forward on your career path.

• Ceaselessly look for venues where you can perform. It may be a recital series you put together for all the retirement homes or communities in your area, it may be going to the schools to sing and talk to the choirs demonstrating your craft and talking about what it is like to have a career in singing, or it could be the local opera company. Look for community orchestras that might like to include some opera excerpts or maybe some show tunes. Check out the local chorus to see if they are performing an Oratorio or other work that requires a soloist. How about a church job, weddings, funerals, local organizations, clubs, or people giving parties who are looking for entertainment? Check out the restaurants in your area. Ask if they would like you to come in one night a week and sing for tips or negotiate a fee. You never know who you might meet that can take you to the next level.

• I know from experience that often one might feel they are performing in venues beneath their level of expertise. It’s also been my experience that others rise to whatever level of excellence is presented to them. If your voice is more mature and professional, it gives those younger or those with less experience an opportunity to bring their level of performance up a notch or two to match what you are doing. It’s fun and exciting to be part of the whole experience, thus making it about the performance and not just about you.

• As you gain more experience and your resume starts looking good, branch out and arrange auditions for the next level up. Make that part of your plan of action. Know where you are going and how you plan to get there. Don’t leave it to luck alone. It won’t happen. Singing is, after all, a business.

Sharing stories through music has been around for a really long time. Before the industrial revolution, music was the means by which friends, families, and communities entertained and were entertained. It encompassed everything from being a lone shepherd tending his sheep out in the wilderness with his flute, to a band of scavengers, to a family sitting around the campfire or fireplace sharing their talents. Everyone in the family contributed by singing, playing an instrument, telling stories, reading verses, writing poetry or music, and/or putting their perspective to canvas. It was an outlet from the drudgery of life, a way to celebrate, a process to pass on a story to those coming after, and an emotional and spiritual release. It hasn’t changed much in all this time. Isn’t it wonderful to be part of something so grand and empowering at any level?

In conclusion, I would like to share my philosophy on why it’s so important to experience great music, either as performer or as audience – why I believe it’s a noble profession, no matter the “star” power associated with the vehicle. It is an opportunity to encounter the internal, intrinsic part of us that doesn’t have to be attached or involved emotionally to any particular person, place, or thing. It connects all who are together for the occasion – performer and audience – at the very core of our being. It does, as they say, “touch our soul.” It allows us down-time for inner reflection and an opportunity to express and experience the inexpressible. It almost feels like we have a quiet space to unfold and just be. As Mike George, author of “Learn to Relax” and “Discover Inner Peace” so eloquently puts it, “Music is not someone else’s achievement, but a mirror of sound that reflects your own inner truth.”


 

Next month, I will talk to you about how to better handle the anxiety and emotion of auditioning. This subject was a request from one of my readers. If you have a subject that you would like discussed, please email me at [email protected] and let me know.

Avanti! Carol


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