What to do next? That is the big question singers ask themselves when they graduate from college, either with a Bachelors in Music or Education. There are so many options; apply for a job, take a year off and just take lessons and coachings, sell everything and move to New York, or apply to get a higher degree such as a Masters or Doctorate. Which option is best? Ultimately, finding the right pathway to success is different for every singer.
In the first degree, teachers and coaches tell you to audition for summer programs, young artist programs, pay-to-sing programs, and any other opportunity to perform. You spend thousands of dollars on application fees, accompanist fees, travel, hotel, and your audition package for these programs. But what if you audition and audition and don’t get a gig? This can be very discouraging and can wear you down as a performer. My advice is to keep auditioning and applying for programs! All it takes is one person to hear you, give you an opportunity, and launch your career.
Some singers believe that you have no other choice than to move to New York City to have a professional singing career. This way of thinking is not entirely true. You can have a professional singing career anywhere, but it takes time. Everywhere you go as a performer, you have to establish a network of contacts and colleagues. It takes at least two or three years to establish some sense of reputation in a large city, especially if you are new to that city.
The opera world is becoming more and more saturated with singers as each year goes by. Technology is partly to blame for this over-saturation with such additions as YAP Tracker, which makes it easier for singers to apply for programs. So if there were 200 to 600 people auditioning for a specific program 10 years ago, now there are more than a thousand applicants (probably ¾ of those applicants are Sopranos). One must also take into consideration the singers that are currently working. The current singers are in a constant audition cycle and that greatly reduces the jobs available to the newly graduated singers auditioning for programs.
With the high number of singers and performers, singers are finding themselves teaching and working in other branches of the opera business. A choice some singers make is to go back to school to get a higher degree such as a Masters or Doctorate. This can be a great way to continue lessons and coachings and also allow for more networking. If you establish a great reputation among professors, conductors, and coaches this can lead to outside performing gigs. Performing in the professional opera chorus can also lead to contacts and opportunities that wouldn’t have been available without that professional connection.
Having a higher degree can also be helpful when opera is struggling. During the recession, many opera singers took teaching positions to supplement their income from singing gigs. It is always great to have a back-up plan just in case your original career pathway doesn’t go as you wanted. Teaching is a great way to learn about your own voice and can help you develop techniques that are also useful in running a business!
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer to the question, “Move to New York City or get another degree?” We all need to know our strengths and strive to develop our talents as much as we are able. There are many options when it comes to having a successful performing career and not everyone takes the same path or makes the same choices.