I was recently asked, how do you stay connected after you leave school? How do you keep close to the action? I think this is a common issue, and one that I have personally wrestled with.
And I think we all know the power of staying connected: that is where you draw energy, learn insider information about auditions, teachers, etc, and that is how you (for better or worse) measure your progress. I often mention this in my seminars — that singers should do whatever they can to connect with other singers who are a notch or two “ahead” of them in the process.
It is like playing pickup basketball with Derrick Rose. It will make you better.
But how do we do this after school? Keeping up with it can be like following a shifting school of fish or flock of birds. Ugh!
There are several traditional ways which come to mind, and which I am sure you have thought of. And I will try to throw out some out-of-the-box ideas too. But the bottom line is that this pursuit of a peer / mentor group has to be something singers consider to be part of the fun, part of the challenge, part of the love of being a singer. We have to have find delight in the creative pursuit of information and connectedness, rather than viewing it as “they are all against me.” Have confidence, enjoy the little victories, don’t get down.
Some ways I have found connectedness:
Chorus / church gigs
- Even the smallest church gig is likely to have some other professional singer. And don’t discount the amateurs — some are retired pros who have sung all over the place, and many love the music more than pros, which can be infectious.
- Study with a teacher who fosters a spirit of connectedness, or one that teaches at a university. Does your teacher introduce you to the person before / after? Ask them if they can help you put together a quarterly “studio class.”
- Even more than lessons, choose a coach who generally coaches people that are singing where you would like to be. I asked a friend a few years back for a list of names of the coaches at Lyric. It took some doing, but now I regularly coach with a guy from Lyric, and the singers before and after my are invariably members of the Ryan center.
- Ask a young voice coach to start doing aria nights at their house. Every can pitch in some money to pay their fee, and bring some food. Cram in, have fun.
- Ask a singer who sings your same rep, and is a few steps along if they would coach you. No need for a pianist, just sing through a few things and try to get them to demonstrate too. They probably will have never coached before and might not even want to take your money. Send them a gift card or something so that way you can do it again.
Programs / pay-to-sing
- Find a summer program or short pay-to-sing in the area. You may end up being with singers who are younger than you, and you will probably not like paying the money. But if you can bury your pride, some short programs are a great way to get re-connected.
- Do a show outside of your normal area. Do a musical or drama or even an early or new music concert. Even though you may be doing it for no pay, you can establish some relationships which are mutually artistically beneficial as well as good gap-fillers for when your schedule is a little light.