I’ve been on a journey to redefine what I do and how I do it. Music, yes. And teaching? Absolutely. Gardening is my latest segue in my creative outlets. It may not seem necessary in the scope of professional matters, and perhaps you think it doesn’t serve a place here on a singing and teaching blog. But, here’s the thing: My desires in life are to fill my cup with beauty and meaning. I need to serve the greater good and I do it with my creative energy, positive work, and learning. A hobby doesn’t have to sit by and waste if I can share it.
We are never indeed just one thing. You see, my journey as a singer is ever-evolving. Once a favored flavor of the month for many regional companies and a frequent guest of revered A houses, I am now a seasoned professional with 20 years and 50+roles behind me. No longer the go-to top three on the casting lists of houses, but I’m in my prime vocally, and I understand my voice and why I express with it. I still have contracts, just not as many as before. Not having a consistent outlet for my expression because of erratic changes in the industry, evolving casting choices, and getting older in the business, I began the vocation of teaching. It is a path I knew even as a young girl I would one day undertake. It’s in giving back to the next generation that I find much of my satisfaction at this moment, especially in the dry times of the performance arena during this Pandemic.
To add a third component to an already saturated creative life might seem ludicrous if not downright opulent and, to some, considerably distracting. And perhaps I will come to see this as another one of my forlorn journeys. After all, I have dabbled over the years in screenwriting, on-camera acting, voiceover, nonprofit development, web design, and floral design. I often dreamed of becoming a writer with a pen name, although I’ve been horrible at developing a consistent writing practice. But I can’t stop myself. Any unscheduled dates from singing have always needed to be filled with learning and growth.
And flowers? I started working in a flower shop when I was twelve years old and I put myself through college as a flower designer. I’m coming full circle, and my attitude of what is allowed to be expressed and revealed as an income stream has changed.
After two years of searching for the right spot to land in a career that would either correlate with my singing and teaching or offer a door to an entirely new path, I realized I was looking at it altogether wrong. They will often tell you to put your eggs in one basket when it comes to a career. "Don’t’ do too many things", they say, or else people will get confused. This message infiltrates even in how you present yourself within a career choice. For instance, we’ve all heard, “Don’t sing a large variety of musical styles, stick to one, especially if you are a classical singer. I had no better example than when I did my CD recording with Jake Heggie and Ricky Ian Gordon. My European managers confidently dismissed the recording as unusable because they couldn’t’ wrap their heads around my ability and desire to sing that type of music as well as the Bell Song from Lakmé. The classical music industry has been rife with the message of being one type of singer for years. Who can forget the strife and condemnation of numerous famous singers when they released jazz and pop albums?
Here’s the thing, I spent half a lifetime trying to decipher the subtle, yet blatant hidden messages in just about everything.
Be pretty, but not so lovely people will think you are vain and certainly don’t threaten anyone with it.
Be talented, but hide some of those talents lest you confuse the casting committee of your fach.
Make a living as an artist, but certainly don’t let anyone know you are creative and compassionate enough to teach. That’s a nail in the coffin for sure.
Be willing to express yourself but not if your technique will confuse those who have a dying pulse on the industry norms.
Hell, it even goes back to first singing in church where I took my first risks as a singer. The message was,
“Please sing, but not too high or loud, or else you will look as if you are stealing the glory from God.” I’m serious totally serious.
And...enter Covid. The world changed in a blink. I wish I could say I had the bravery to break out into my truth on my own. In some ways, I started my transition into multi-creative entrepreneurship in 2017 when I left teaching at a University. However, it wasn’t’ until March 2020, when Covid pulled the rug out from all of us; I became brave enough to announce that I was starting my small flower farm. The truth is, I had already purchased all of the equipment and seeds in January 2020.
I spent 2020 watching the shifting of so many people and concepts. Some lives completely turned upside down and others completely unaffected but reeling in a world shifting in cosmic proportions each day. As I watched the shifts, I saw a pattern emerge. We singers are all more capable than we know and way more than we have been willing to share with the world. Not only are we capable, but we are also multi-layered, nuanced, and uber dimensional. Why have we fallen for the concept that we should be just one thing? Have only one career. Be an expert on one topic? We live such long lives now; how can we justify remaining the same as we were in our early 20’s? Why should we have to deny ourselves the joy of being a singer for 20 years, a teacher for seven, and a new promising flower farmer? Why shouldn’t we announce this to the public? Why have we been hiding all of this for years? Why can’t my website and social media represent all that I do and value? Why should I worry about confusing my clients about what matters to me?
It all matters to me. So many things matter to me. My art and expression consume me, and I regurgitate what matters to me. My creativity in the way I express my voice, my desire to share what I’ve learned, and my ability to help things grow are all part of who I am and how I express myself in the world.
We no longer live in a reality where we, most of us, have the luxury of being one thing. If you desire to work in the arts unless you are in the top 1% of the fabulous few, you will supplement your work somehow.
I want to supplement myself with things that bring me and others joy. If I teach, I want to say I teach without implying I no longer sing or pursue singing jobs. If you wait for tables, you should say you wait tables, and want to promote the delicious food you serve on social media to fully be part of a team and use your creativity to serve the business that is helping you support yourself. Suppose one makes leather goods as a hobby and turns it into a thriving business? That interesting news should be shared with their followers. It would be an added bonus to have support from opera companies and symphonies upon returning to the stage to continue this work while they are on the road. If I work on my flower farm in the spring and summer months, I want to do so freely without receiving messages of “Do you still sing?”
We will soon emerge from this time of isolation. Every single one of us has made a shift. I urge you all to lean into these moments and take with you what has nourished you and honor what has allowed you to survive. Continue what matters to you and be unashamed for it. This creativity we’ve been granted the time to serve is precious and wild. Find what matters. True equal balance is a farce. It’s all about your shifting priorities in these pivotal moments of life. Use it all up and show it. You may have placed all of your eggs in one basket, but it’s the basket that has changed, not your eggs!