This afternoon three other fellow female resident artists and I had a lovely lunch date with one of the principal artists in the opera who generously offered to share with us her experiences and answer any questions we had. We had two first years (including me) and two second years. The questions mainly revolved around "what's next"? and how to get there.
The Next, being- Management.
Ways to snag a manager:
1. Send out cold mailings. Hopefully you have just done a great role, gotten great press, have a great upcoming gig, or are in a great program- which will catch their eye, and make them want to offer to hear you in New York when you are there anyway for your gazillion summer young artist program auditions. Research the top names, middle names and starting-out names, while avoiding the "hated and problem" names like the plague. Hope you sing well, hope that maybe half of the people you send your info. to are interested, 1/3 want to hear you, and maybe, just maybe you get an offer OR start a dialogue for future signing from a low, mid or high level manager.
2. Be in a show where the principals are already managed. When their managers come to see the shows of the people on their roster, try to meet said managers. Contact said managers after the show and establish a rapport, add them to your contact list, and work on building a relationship of visibility- letting them know when you are performing, etc- until the "time is right" and you request an audition for them, or they request to hear you sing.
3. A combination of the above two, plus good business savvy. Whether you meet those managers of other principals after the show, or get in touch through cold mailings and emails, it's all about contacts. It's about who knows that you are doing what. Word of mouth. Which director or conductor is represented by which manager who is looking for the next whatever--and are you that person.
But what is most important, is don't just move to NYC to move to NYC. So many singers expect that if they have just finished a degree at a prestigious school, have done one or two great summer programs, just completed a young artist residency or whatever their background--if they move to NYC they will be in the middle of it all and somehow make it. They are starry-eyed and according to Ms. Principal today, somewhat misled by the prospect of being discovered in NY.
YES, you are closer to 99,9 percet of auditions in New York City. From October to December, and then again for a while in March/April.
But in the meantime- what are you doing? Paying exhorbitant rent? temping? paying coaches and teachers 150 per lesson?
I get why though. When you finish school you want to be out of there. You don't want to go home. Where else do you go? The general metropolitan area that you like best? Chicago, Boston, NY, LA, DC? All of those will be just as expensive. But let's think about this for a second. Maybe you've been in school for the past 2 years, and maybe you've had a chance to get to know the music community where you ARE. What are the smaller and regional companies around where you are right NOW? And can you audition for those? Instead of just packing up and trying out NYC?
So- to sum up a smaller part of the conversation- New York- not the best idea unless you want to be in New York. But sometimes you don't have other choices. I mean, you finish with the residency, or you finish your degree- and then--where do you go?
Stay and keep contacts that you've already established that are hopefully good regional houses? Audition for the first time for those regional houses in the area of your choice?
Audition regionally but also nationally as an unmanaged singer for a year?
Well, in a word, yes.
I'm not saying you're not going to make it if you move to NY. I'm just agreeing with this successful singer who mentioned that many of her co-graduates who DID move to NY are still waiting for their career to happen, while she is happily managed for over 5 years and is booked for the next 2 years with interesting projects and operas.
The same can be said for those who stay in their hometown or their school town and don't move up a level in their opera house levels.
Now, here were most of our situations, or upcoming situations.
We're singing A roles and B roles in a major opera house. As resident artists. We have visibility in terms of letter B (the principal's agents coming to see us). We have summer YAP experience. But when we leave this program, we will not necessarily have an agent. We may have some interest from an agent. We will have great credits to do a round of unmanaged house auditions, but that is just the situation.
So today's conversation really helped put into perspective our next steps.
It also helped put into perspective the fact that I have to keep sight of the musical process and exploration that is part of this art- and not just the performance.
This particular artist was so passionate about what she did, how she committed to a role- how she spoke about Nicklausse and her relationship to Hoffmann--you could tell that this was more than music and performance to her. It was a part of who she was every day.
And of course, yes, that's what you want to put into your art. But sometimes that only happens when you're onstage. Sometimes it only happens in a fleeting coaching- maybe for one or two seconds. It's rare for me to feel so empowered, so passionate and so committed all the time- onstage, rehearsal, preparation, character development. I want to make that more of a goal, as I work on Act II and III of the opera that I will be singing in April during this upcoming audition break- and to date probably the most challenging roles I've done since Lucia.