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How to Start Singing Professionally (part 1)

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

Story of my life.

I am infected by a Great Idea. Enthusiastically run toward it with my tail wagging. Slam into a wall and get knocked down. Sit on the ground for a while and consider just staying down there where it’s safe. Haul my ass up and start moving forward again.

It happened with the Independent Voice Teachers Conference we were planning. I was so excited to have a conference for my kind, after 30 years of going it alone, that I let my enthusiasm get the better of me.

After running into the wall, and while sitting on the ground, I called my opera-singing friend Sheri to tell her I was depressed. She said, “At least you tried. Most people never even try."

That got me thinking about students I’ve had who have taken voice lessons forever and never taken the leap to actually get on a stage. And that got me thinking about how I went to college to become a singer because I thought that, somewhere along the way, the college would tell me how to be a singer.

It didn’t.

But after college, armed with my vocal performance degree that, it turned out, absolutely nobody gave a rip about, I soldiered forward with the intention of becoming a professional singer. I made a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes. I worked in a soul-sucking accounting office so I could sing in a professional opera chorus, which I didn’t even want to do. I was abandoned by a band leader 1200 miles from home with $200 in my pocket. I trashed my voice and had to spend six months making it better. I tried to do the right thing, but often failed, which made people mad at me (not something you want in the freelance musician community). I made a lot of mistakes. Because that’s what happens when you try to do something that matters to you.

You become a singer by moving in the direction of becoming a singer. You cannot stay safe and also have new experiences. You cannot stay comfortable and still pursue your dreams. Nobody can tell you how to be a singer, because every singer has a different story.

In the world of Day Jobs, you are given The Program: apply for job, interview for job, get job, or, do not get job and repeat. If you’re waiting for someone to give you The Program for singing before you begin, then you’ll never begin. Nobody has your Program, so nobody can supply you with it. People can give you suggestions, ideas, leads, contacts, opportunities, and advice, but in the end, you have to make your own way to the stage.

Here is how to become a singer: take a risk. Try. Most people never even try.

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