I have had a very busy few days, with our latest opera in tech week and a number of exciting auditions that have me running all over, seizing the day. I was driving back into Boston today, running through the list of things in my head that I needed to get done and realizing that most of them are bizarre production related things that would be foreign to non-opera folk. This thought literally ran through my mind: “Opera singer? What was I thinking?”
Could it be that this question is one reason so many opera singers are so mental? Walk into any school and you find a number of educators whose parents were also teachers. Daughters inherit their fathers’ medical practices, sons learn the law at their mothers’ knees. Because a musicians’ vocation is accompanied by a rarer gift, far fewer of us enjoy the sense of entitlement that comes with having inherited our lifestyle from our parents. We flock to big cities and gobble up new experiences, all the while feeling like kids playing dress-up, wondering when someone is going to notice that we don’t belong in the world of professional music.
To whom do we turn for advice? Families aren’t familiar with our world, friends count our callings as hobbies, while we contemplate questions: How much of me is my voice? Is something of me lost if I am not hired for a while? Is there something else that would be a better use of my time? Is it selfish of me to do what I love?
How does one answer questions of identity without a sensible profession on which to hang their hat, or when many people think their calling is simply imaginary? Even though going to a liberal arts school set me back vocally when I got to conservatory, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because BC was not going to let us graduate without starting to figure out who we were. In my religious language I discovered myself as a being created out of love with a large capacity for goodness and share in a mission. I learned to be comfortable with my history and with my present, which has served me well in that it has kept me from being ashamed of entering new worlds.
So to answer the question, I’m not sure I was thinking at all when I ‘decided’ to do music. I doubt it is a decision I could have made without the grounding that comes from knowing who I am and where I come from, and the security that those things won’t change no matter where I go or what I do.