Total Pageviews

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Slippery Career Path

I've given two talks this week, first to my students and then later in the week to the young artists in the Atelier at L'opéra de Montreal. I spoke about young artist programs, summer programs, opera company structures, career advice, etc. It was interesting to take the questions about specific programs, interesting to uncover for them the mysteries of Musical America, NFCS,, various blogs, and particularly interesting to dive into the trials of being a young Canadian singer with no paid summer apprentice programs to apply for - here in Canada that is. But that's a whole other blog!

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.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this post Patrick. I haven't had the time to read your entries lately, and am playing catch-up. But I think you bring up an interesting point. I get the sense that when it comes to art, there is no " rightpath". It is at once frustrating, and liberating.