A Coaching Career in NYC

I spoke recently with Joan Krueger, a successful New York City coach, about issues for both new and established coaches wanting to start a career in NYC.

“Speaking for myself,” Krueger said with a laugh, “I didn’t know anyone when I first arrived here.” Krueger did temp work to supplement her income at first, and signed up for a vocal literature course at Juilliard to make contacts and get an inside track on the accompanying and coaching situation in the city. “Play for everyone and everything, and meet as many singers as possible,” she added. “Auditions for opera companies are good, and if you don’t know anyone, playing for a teacher’s studio is also a good idea.”

As far as money goes, Krueger stated up front that she is an established coach, and therefore cannot speak to the rates for new and emerging coaches. But the opportunities for a skilled coach are excellent, she said. “A good coach will never go hungry. The outlook is good here.”

I asked Ms. Krueger what she liked best about coaching. From her perspective, the sheer variety of a coach’s work–constantly changing repertoire, new faces and voices, constant exposure to new environments–is a real bonus. In addition, she likes being able to work from her home. “I love not having to commute,” she confessed. “I support myself doing something I love to do. This is one of the few careers in the arts where you can do that. There is work.”

On the minus side, Ms. Krueger cited only a few things. Although these situations can happen in recitals, it’s generally in playing auditions where she finds the following problems: poor lighting, or a piano that is out of tune or whose action is very bad. But her biggest frustration is one that may sound uncomfortably familiar to many auditioning singers: photocopied music set into plastic sleeves. “It doesn’t matter–glare or non-glare plastic, I hate it all!” With another laugh she asked why on earth singers would want to preserve a five-cent photocopy for 20 years, even offering to replace the sheet herself if she tore it, for the simple relief of being able to see the music clearly and have far less trouble turning pages.

In conclusion, I asked Ms. Krueger what her overall feelings were about her job as a coach and accompanist. Her reply was fast and simple. “I love my life. I have the best life of anyone I know.”

Emily Brunson

Soprano Emily Brunson was senior editor for Classical Singer from 1998-99.