Sunday, June 28, 2009

Someone Sponsor Me!

Sunday evening musing...

I often read and post on a Classical Singers Forum and currently there is a thread brewing from a young singer who feels her family isn't supporting her as she wants to pursue grad studies in New York City.  There is an interesting exchange about reality, being in the moment, money and all that implies.

What I found even more interesting is that I have found several young classical singers on myspace that are actually asking for help to pay for your their voice lessons and are asking, with a straight face, for someone else to pay for their lessons, because they are expensive and they need them.   

This sense of entitlement boggles my mind, but I know it exists.  Very respectfully to this younger generation - you are so used to "instant" that it doesn't occur to you that building the business of YOU - and the craft of your artistry takes TIME and DEDICATION. YOUR time and your dedication and YOUR sacrifice. Not somebody else's.  

Artistic development is not instant.  It takes commitment on EVERY level.  It does not happen immediately. It takes sacrifice. It takes focus. YOUR sacrifice and YOUR focus.

When we look at sponsorship as a historical endeavor, an artist would need to prove themselves first in their genre - by performance, longevity, commitment - something!! Sponsorship doesn't happen cause we want it to! It needs to be proven that you and your talent are worth the risk and the investment.

One comment in the Classical Singer Forum thread was that singers need to live in the moment and go for it.  This is highly over-simplified and frankly, rather naive.

I suggest a living in the moment happens in the artistic development of one's craft - living moment to moment to explore and experience.  However, a singer who is not planning on the development of "ME Inc" and the business of singing, is being naive and frankly, ridiculously self-involved and behaving like a spoiled brat!  This sense of entitlement is not living in the moment, but rather, not taking responsibility of any kind.

As I continue to write these blog entries, I continue to say: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE.  Your parents are not. Your teachers are not. Strangers you are asking for money are not. YOU ARE.

It is not up to anybody else to put your through grad school or tell you it's okay to take a risk - BUT YOU.  

If you feel grad school is important then you figure out how you are going to pay for it.  If your artistic development is important to you, you will weigh the pros and cons of what you need to do to further your career.  Perhaps it's grad school, or perhaps your money is better spent elsewhere.  There are no easy answers, or easy paths.

When I see and hear young singers expecting others to answer their questions and frankly, whining about how hard they have it, I honestly question their true desire to be an artist.  Being in the moment does not mean you lose a sense of reality!  What is real? your talent, your dedication, your focus.  What else is real? The investment in EVERY currency - money, time, energy, focus, sacrifice.  

ALL of this investment must start with YOU the singer.  It might be supplemented by others, but if you do not show your investment in yourself, how do you think anybody else will take you seriously?

Sacrifice for your craft is not some blood-letting exercise!!! If your craft is important to you; if you need to fulfill your artistic path; if in the moment, you KNOW you need to be true to yourself as an artist and could never be happy letting that go - THEN PLAN FOR IT!  Look ahead - create!!!! If you are a creative spirit, then USE IT in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY in order to access the NOW and the FUTURE!

What seems like sacrifice, becomes investment and the investment is YOURS and the investor is YOU.  Your return is 100% YOU.  

YOU are responsible.  YOU are the one to prove to yourself that you can develop a plan to show what you need to do! What you need and what you want are not always the same, but you will see how the paths begin to intersect and work together.  Finding out what you want now, is not necessarily what you NEED.  

Grow!!! Grow up!!! Make REAL decisions! Make MATURE choices! Ask questions, of yourself, of your path.  Create, Develop, and CLAIM.  Don't wait for somebody else to do it for you - because, they never will and you will still be sitting there waiting, watching your life go by.

Be in the moment - by BEING IN YOUR LIFE and on the journey you are discovering!!  Rejoice when you find a road block, because it now DEMANDS you get creative and figure out a way around or another way altogether!!

GO GET IT YOURSELF!!!  Nobody gets it for you, but you.  


  1. Alright Susan!

    Again you have have hit the nail on the head. I not only agree but wrote on the equivalent topic in Rock n Roll last year.

    I think it boils down to a confusion between talent and what you have earned. You can take no responisbility for your talent it is innate, it entitles you to nothing. The sweat you put into your work and the hours dedicated to the business is how you become successful, that may be why the call it the music "business".

    As always, I continue to learn from you.


  2. Beautifully said - and I continue to learn from you! Much fondness!

  3. Susan, when I think of this topic you discuss here I always think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (link to chart here:

    The fact that we are even able to purue the arts puts us at the top of the pyramid, in the "self-actualization" part. The reason we can be there is because someone who came before worked hard to fulfill the stuff in the base of the pyramid, worked and toiled to get the more primal needs met.

    Our families worked hard to fill those primal needs met, and it is a glorious thing when the great grandchildren of someone's hard work have inherited the opportunity to be able to work for things higher up in the pyramid.

    Reaching the top of the pyrmaid, and being able to pursue the arts does not mean that human labor and sweat stops, only that it is able to be put towards "higher" goals. The generation that gets to work in the arts is a triumph for the work of those who came before. There should be a sense of GRATITUDE to have this kind of work to do, because it is born on the sweat of other generations.

  4. I wonder how early it starts - I recall in high school that the same kids would always get the leads in the musicals. Everyone expected it. Everyone auditioned. The same people always got the parts. Are these the same people who now expect things handed to them? I agree with you that as adults they need to get over themselves and take responsibility, but I can also see where being the big fish in the small (local theater and high school) pond may have planted the self-centered seed.

  5. Thanks Fresca for the further development...

  6. I have recently run across this kind of "entitlement" from a potential new student. She is trying to talk me down to 50% of my current lesson price by asking to study twice per week. While I'm willing to work with her a little bit because of the increased frequency of lessons, I cannot come down to where she is wanting me to be. I spoke with her honestly about a voice teacher with training vs. a teacher who has no experience. She feels that someone who can sing (she's really wanting to get into music theater & learn how to belt) must be better than nothing. I warned her that a trained teacher is really who she wants. I haven't heard back from her & I'm afraid she'll go with a teacher who is cheaper. Unfortunately, that often happens. Because of the economics, students go with the teacher they can afford at the moment, rather than the teacher who will teach them for a lifetime. In the long run the cost-benefit does NOT balance out, but in the moment, young singers are unable to see this. All I can do is thank goodness there are wonderful teachers out there who talk honestly about the business.

  7. You can only try to get the information out there. I continue to learn, even after all this time, they don't always hear you - and you can't save them! Each of us had to learn and be responsible and so must they!

  8. Susan, respectfully, in my opinion, it depends on the personality and what is taught at home. Just because you have been a big fish does not necessarily mean you will walk into another situation with attitude or a sense of entitlement. It means you might need to learn a thing or two, but in all honesty, I have found one does not necessarily mean the other. There is an obliviousness about this sense of entitlement and it comes from all sides!

  9. Susan, I very much agree with your sentiment. I'm afraid that the young generation today expect, actually demand, instant gratification. I am finding that my own teenage children, although they've grown up in a family where we have to work for what we have, seem to constantly be requesting things, but when asked to work for it, voice displeasure in the options. I'm sure that youth today will find out later that there is much more deep satisfaction to be found in working for what you want. Scholarships, bursuries, grants are all out there, but you still have to work for them. If they could realize the satisfaction gained by doing it themselves... perhaps in time. But it requires patience. Another thing in short supply. :-)

  10. As I look in the mirror and find more white hair (that I have proudly earned), I often wonder why some of these younger singers are not going out there and working....either as a singer, music teacher, church musician, working in a music store, singing in clubs, whatever they need to do to get where they want to get.

    I love donating money to charities. I love helping a charity than can help the poor or unhealthy. I have no intentions of sponsoring a singer just for being broke.

    Singing is hard. Get used to it!

  11. Singing IS hard - and you are either dedicated to whatever you need to do, or you are not! AGREED!

    And J - I do agree with the instant gratification...wish there was a way to diffuse it!

  12. Hi,

    There's the money aspect and then there are other kinds of support.

    I've noticed most people who seem to be well on the road to making SOME kind of life as a singer (whether they end up earning a full time living at it is another matter) have a support system. Either there are family members who encourage them, or older singers, or mentors, role models of some kind.

    I stopped singing when I was 30 and started again when I was 54. I know the only person who did that was me. I can't blame anyone else. On the other hand I wonder if I had had a different social environment whether I would have done things differently. I sang with the "opera underground" and worked as a secretary. I got cheap singing lessons from a student teacher (who is still my teacher today and who is SUPERB even though he has no degree and I doubt that he ever heard of NATS).

    But my friends were not interested. At the time I was a heavy duty pc Lesbian and there was no such person singing that I could look at and say "this is someone just like me and there she is onstage". Now everything is different of course.

    I felt out of place among other singers (who all seemed to be straight - I mean the women) and my personal friends thought the idea that I wanted to sing opera was hilarious and rarely came to my performances.

    Singing has always ended up being what I squeezed into the tiny pittance of free time that I could manage to steal.

    Maybe that's why it's so precious....

  13. Your post will inspire many - thank you for taking the time to comment! The preciousness of something is in its reality - not its entitlement. THANK YOU!

  14. Susan--this is perhaps my favorite blog you've written thusfar. Well said and so true.

    I am a young singer and I find that the thing that universities omit in education is that part of becoming a professional singer is becoming a professional in the business world. In other words, most of us don't go from our master's degree to an A level artist program that affords us a living on a singer's salary. Most of us have to work the day job in order to afford the lessons and coachings, auditions and competition fees. This is the very unfortunate but reality. Graduating from a master's degree program and going off into the professional world of music is the most overwhelming transition a singer makes in the early stages of trying to forge a career. It's so frustrating. Either you buckle down and get the day job and practice in the evenings or you beg everyone you know to give you money so that you don't have to be tied down to a job. Either way the money has to come from somewhere. I found in my life that at some point I was going to need to be a responsible adult. Prolonging the inevitable does nothing to further my cause.