By Carolyn Forte
So you're stuck at an admin job you hate. Or maybe you have a day job that you actually like, but still feel like it gets in the way of your performing life every now and then. Balancing office work with a singing career can be tough, but it's not all bad. Here’s how to make the most of your 9 to 5:
1. Your commute
Whether you're driving, walking, or taking public transit, your commute can be some of the most valuable study time in your day. Bring your score, your flash cards, and some earbuds with you on the bus, and get to memorizing! If you drive yourself to work, listen to your arias, do breathing exercises, or even sneak in some warm-ups. I keep a stash of straws in my car for semi-occluded vocal tract exercises. Make a playlist of various singers singing your rep and strengthen your voice identification skills by playing a guessing game with yourself!
Re-purpose those leftover binders and divider tabs and put them to good use! Become an organizational pro. Case in point:
My music collection brought to you by leftovers from the storage closet.
3. Business skills
Yes, your day job might seem mindless and soul-sucking. If you're not in an arts-related field, you might occasionally feel like your day is being wasted. However. I guarantee you can put some of the skills you are learning to good use. If you are doing anything related to accounting, project management, sales, business administration, marketing, and so on, you are learning skills you WILL need as an entrepreneur selling your product: YOU. Even as a receptionist, you are learning valuable people skills that will come in handy when you're schmoozing with patrons after performances, or impressing bored audition panels. Are you making to-do lists? Breaking down projects into actionable items? Learning how to follow through and be accountable to your supervisor? Take whatever you're doing at your 9 to 5 and figure out how to make it work for you in your singing life.
4. A steady income
Do I sound like your mom? Listen, cobbling together multiple revenue streams as a freelance soloist/chorister/teacher/wedding singer/babysitter/plasma donor can be great, artistically fulfilling, and give you the flexibility you crave. However, when you're first starting out - post-college or grad school - having an unwavering paycheck can help get you on your feet and on a path towards your goals. It can also stave off panic attacks once the bills start pouring in. Accepting an office job right after I graduated allowed me to seek out and afford the right teacher, coaches, and summer programs to build my resume and get some momentum going as a singer.
5. A potential fan club
Always. Be. Networking. Now this is somewhat dependent on your work environment, but you have a great potential group of supporters right in front of you! As long as you prove to your employer that you're up to the demands of multi-tasking your career, be open with your office mates about your singing dreams! Never forget how cool/strange normal people think we are for singing opera. Send them links to some of your recordings, invite them to your fundraising concerts, and entertain even the most mundane, tired questions about your singing life such as, "No, I've never auditioned for American Idol" with grace and enthusiasm. You never know who might be a closeted classical music lover, or who might even have a potential connection for you! When I left my day job to go back to school, my employers gave me a nice little bonus check as a going away gift. I still meet up with my former boss every now and then, and send her updates about how my singing life is going. Bottom line: if you work hard, people will like you, they will support you, and they will want you to succeed.