Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Why Aren't You Singing on Broadway?"

Saturday musings...

A young and talented and deep-thinking artist that I have recently had many conversations with, Arianna Armon has given me further ideas for upcoming blog entries and this one is no exception!

Along the same theme of dealing with people who are not initiated in our business, nor our lifestyle and who often ask questions out of pure ignorance, not necessarily rudeness, and these are some of them.

"Why aren't you singing on Broadway?" "Why aren't you singing at the Met?"

Those are two HUGE questions, which draw more energy than we often realize.

Before we begin our own journey, often as youngsters when we are still starry-eyed and dreamy, we look at Broadway or the Met as the iconic "place" to aim for! If we make it to "that place" and sing and perform there, then we know we have "made it"!  I still see it when young singers come to me for a voice consultation to work with me - singers who have just arrived in NYC or are striving to move here.  When I ask them what sorts of goals they are aiming for - the green ones ALWAYS say "I wanna be on Broadway" or "I want to sing at the Met one day".

Those of you reading who have been around the block a time or two are giggling to yourselves. Not because it's funny, but because we have ALL been green, we've all thought it or said it out loud.  Then the REALITY of being an artist and building a journey begins, and we begin to see for ourselves!

What the green performers and the general public don't know - yet - is that even though Broadway and the Met SHOULD represent the highest of standards in their respective businesses, they often do not.  

"You are so good - why aren't you on Broadway?" is often a question.  Sadly, "good" has very little, if nothing to do with it.  If all we had to do was be good at what we did, or even EXCEPTIONAL and we'd get a Broadway role or a contract at the Met, THAT would be easy!!! Sadly, exceptional or even competent has very little to do with the "business" on Broadway, or the "business" at the Met.

Now, don't misunderstand me - there are some marvellous singers and performers in both these places, but it doesn't preclude that ALL are and that there are not marvellous singers and performers ELSEWHERE as well.  And that just because a singer is NOT on Broadway or at the Met that they aren't good enough to be there.  

What we learn very quickly if we choose this journey, is that there are no absolutes.  Broadway is NOT an absolute.  The Met is not an absolute.  They are flawed systems, like every other one, and they do not hold up the highest standards that we as a society have deemed they do. 

We do not have to get to Broadway or to the Met to feel we have achieved artistic success! In fact, artistic success can often be found elsewhere!  Some singers never get a chance, and some decide they are content to be elsewhere.  It is not about "settling" it's about BEING WHERE YOU ARE and making your journey YOURS.  The arrival is not what is important, it is the work and the journey.

We do not understand that until we begin the journey.  The people that ask these questions don't understand the questions they ask because they have nothing in their lives that relate to it.  As a journeying artist, it becomes less important WHERE you are working, but JUST that you are!   Sometimes you work for the money, cause we all have bills to pay! Sometimes to work for the opportunity to do a role you really want to inhabit; sometimes to work WITH a certain director/conductor/choreographer/another actor; The reasons are always changing! Only YOU know what are the right decisions for YOU.  

As I get older (!) I realize more and more that I owe NO ONE an explanation for my journey.  My journey is uniquely mine.  My decisions uniquely influenced my journey.  I made and am making it work.  

YOU do not owe explanation, excuse, or treatise to someone who asks you an unintentionally loaded question like "Why aren't you singing on Broadway?" or "Why aren't you at the Met?" They wouldn't necessarily understand your answer anyway.

Sometimes simple is the best:  "Maybe someday I will."

Smile - and work on YOU and let your journey unfold.


  1. THANK YOU. I don't know of ANYone who doesn't need to read this. And then read it again. And photocopy it, and carry it around in their pocket.

  2. I whole-heartedly agree.....I can't tell you the number of times people have asked me about my work in theater, film, music etc. with questions continually bordering on impolite and intrusive....why do people feel the need to quiz and interrogate those who choose to pursue careers in the arts? I've come to realize that aside from ignorance - there is often a general disdain for those who continue to pursue their dreams - because it mirrors back to the individual what choices they themselves could have made - what dreams they let slip and fade - by down-playing someone else's experiences, or passing judgments on what has or has not been accomplished, I think a lot of people are able to convince themselves that they made the right choice in not pursuing their dreams of grandeur...if only they knew how wonderful the road is that leads there....

  3. I cringe inside everytime I get asked this question. The person asking usually intends it as a compliment - they think I am good enough to be on Broadway. There's also the sense occasionally that they think being on Broadway (or singing professionally) hasn't occured to me! *laugh*

    I usually laugh and give a response along the lines of "It's not from lack of trying!" Going into the actual reasons will probably just make them glaze over.

    Someone whose only involvement is as an audience member doesn't understand that you can have a wonderful and successful career performing on tours, in concert halls, off Broadway, in Europe, and any number of other venues.

    I do think the question is well intentioned. I just wish it wouldn't be asked!

  4. I think the worst part about someone asking these types of questions is that it pulls me out of my place of living the journey and makes me anxious about NOT being on Broadway or at the Met. It's one of the reason I hide my age - not just because the biz cares, but because otherwise, I get these types of questions with the undertone (and sometimes, the question!) of "don't you think it time to give up the dream and find a real job"? I'm no longer a 20-something starving artist so in their eyes, it's time to move on. But in my world, it's about more than one goal. And sometimes...I AM the one who needs to remember that.