I was talking to my best friend about time. We were reminiscing on the progress we have made over the past 20 years studying and singing. Gosh, our paths were so different! Let me tell you, every path IS different and people arrive to certain success at different moments in their age and development. There's no magic formula. But, common to every career is the passing of time.
The Passing of Time is ...
To the younger singer the passing of time brings a lot of anxiety. So often, singers come into the studio in their mid-20's and are already in the 'compare and despair' state of mind. They are in a rush to get their technique solidified because they are comparing themselves to their colleague or to the path of some famous singer they admire. WHY DON'T I HAVE AN OFFER TO THAT YOUNG ARTIST PROGRAM? I HAVEN'T EVEN DONE MY FIRST MAIN-STAGE ROLE YET! UGH, I STILL CAN'T SING THAT ARIA RIGHT!
To the mature singer the passing of time also brings a tug of anxiety. Time is running out. THERE IS STILL SO MUCH I WANT TO DO! WHY DON'T THEY HEAR ME FOR WHO I AM NOW? I WANT TO SING NEW ROLES.
MY ADVICE TO THE YOUNGER SINGER:
Time is your friend. Simple, yes. But listen, the best part of not being at the front of the pack is that you HAVE MORE TIME! More time to study your languages, more time to solidify technique with your teacher, more time to have life experiences which will inform your artistry, more time to become the most well rounded artist you can. While wanting to be in a different state of your career is ambitious and ambition is really important in becoming a professional singer, don't let ambition make you rush through the important things.
If I could change one thing about my career trajectory, it would be to slow down. I was in such hurry. Roles came in that I should have waited to take. I should have spent more time with a teacher before launching into really difficult things. Yes, I succeeded to a degree, but I always knew I was learning things on stage I should have already figured out in the studio. My experience may have had more grounded peace within it. So, take your time. I'm not saying turn down the young artist program. I'm saying, if you haven't gotten into them yet, or you are still working out some issues, taking an extra year or two, doesn't hurt you in the long run. Saying no to a role because you feel you need a bit more time won't matter if you state your case with clarity. You'll find the support you need.
MY ADVICE TO THE MATURE SINGER:
There is always time to do the things you really want to do, you may just have to do them in a different way than before. This is some advice I'm giving to myself! I feel times' ticking clock and I think, AH! I STILL HAVEN'T SUNG A ROLE IN DON GIOVANNI! It's hard getting older and having to re-brand and invent yourself. You find yourself constantly looking back trying to recreate what you did before. You try to have the career you had before. You think you're not a success when you don't have 4 roles booked back to back. So, instead of thinking that time is pushing you out, think about the one or two things you REALLY want to do. Then spend time thinking of ways to make that happen. Network, ask. CREATE your own opportunity. Maybe you get paid, maybe you don't. But, sitting around waiting on the phone to ring and thinking of the passing of time doesn't get you singing the things you still want to sing.
My dear friend and I had completely opposite careers. He is 50 years old and is tearing up stages all over Europe singing Wagner and other specialized repertoire. HE NEEDED THE TIME to grow into his extraordinary voice. So, stick to you. Do you. Keep working slowly and methodically with a teacher you trust. Stop the debilitating process of 'compare and despair." Trust that the desires you have are waiting for you. IN TIME.