So what about career advice? I've been thinking about this a lot for the last few years. Does climbing the young artist program ladder actually work for most singers? If it does, how is it possible that each summer the U.S. programs employ hundreds of aspiring singers, and yet the majority of those singers simply do not end up with careers? Why are there successful singers out there without any major apprentice programs on their resumes?
I do not believe there is an actual career path that leads to success in this business. I think just the opposite. In fact, I think there may be an illusion many aspiring young singers believe: that if they move from degree A to degree B to summer program C to summer program D to resident young artist program E to professional gig F they'll find "success". It looks to be a most logical and sane path to undertake, it's true. It is certainly a plan that I've heard described by many at various seminars on the subject. Success is simply more complicated - the books to read are Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and Hugh MacLeod's "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity." (The "Martha Stewart Rules" is quite illuminating as well...!)
My wife once asked a rather important person in the opera business which summer apprentice contract she should take, Santa Fe or Central City. She was told that "young artist programs just delay young singers from actually becoming professional singers." We didn't get it at the time, (she went to Santa Fe), but it's a point worth contemplating.