The day a singer takes the stage with only partially quelled fears from the warmth in the eyes of the audience, then feels the music roll within to higher and higher levels only to end by being swept away by applause – on that day a performer is born. Not just a singer – the world has billions of singers – but a performer…for he now knows what it means to truly communicate with a shared artful experience. She now knows that combining years of solitary practice and arduous lessons with the great music she’s mastered and which now resonates with people, is a compelling event she wants to repeat, again and again.
A performer never forgets the first performance when the transformation from singer to performer took place. Thereafter, he or she scrambles for more chances to master the stage; to own stage. A non-performer can never know what that means but every performer knows exactly how that feels.
In speaking with many artistic directors of various levels of A to D houses, this topic constantly arises and the words are the same: “Please! Do not send us singers, no matter how incredibly trained they are. Send us performers!”
How, then, can a singer cross the exciting threshold to becoming a performer? The answers will not surprise. “Perform anywhere, anytime, for just about anything.”
Singers often ask me if it hurts to have a beer hall or Elks Club on a resume. In a word…No. But more about that in a minute. First, know that artistic directors have been where you are. They know you must break some eggs to make mayonnaise. And it’s a good thing because with few exceptions where you sing is just another chance to learn to own the stage. One cannot own the stage until you’ve paid the rent of experience.
When Enrico Caruso, the great Italian operatic tenor from the late 19th century and early 20th century, was an aspiring singer, he got his start by having friends pay him to go sing love greetings to girls they hoped to impress. He sang at the equivalent of a pizza/beer hall and didn’t worry about the acoustics. Instead, he sang to those sitting at the closer tables. Combating the hoots, real fights and bawdy language, he tried to perform his music with little more than a scant bit of experience and the encouragement of his friends and family.
In one of his first gigs at the hall, he put his whole self into the climactic money notes of the aria only to have a drunk bump into him, startling him so badly that he had to stop, gain his composure and start again. An amateur’s ploy.
Caruso knew he’d failed to own the stage and worked hard to become a true performer. Sometime later he had his chance to redeem himself when he sang another aria (nice if it had been Esultate but he was too young) and another drunk plowed into him. Without breaking a note or missing a pause he grabbed the drunk and embraced him in a deep backward bow and sang the next few notes as if the drunk were Desdemona and he was seducing with his voice. The audience roared. A performer was enshrined.
Singers must start some place. A young singer’s voice isn’t ready for beefy roles on the main stage. The voice must season and the heart enlarge. We do that by singing in less than sophisticated venues. The good thing about that is those venues are in every city. Not so much in small towns. But a worthy city is rarely too far away. Grab those opportunities. Sing everywhere, anytime. And charge for your service. They get what they pay for.
To see 50 venues (beer halls aren’t included) besides the stage, read chapter 33 of the 3rd edition of Marketing Singers. The book also has numerous ideas on how to get jobs that pay well. Get it at http://mjstoddard.blogspot.com/p/biography.html
As to what to put on your Resume…be patient. You will soon be performing enough that you can pad your resume with some of the great music you’ve sung at events that will impress but never be ashamed of the ladder you’ve climbed singing at any of these 50 venues. They can lead to the ultimate pre-stage performance – an audition you’ll nail.