It has been a lifelong dream for me to release an album. After a couple of years of working with an incredible group of musicians and engineers, pausing for a pandemic, and resuming the hustle and bustle in 2023, I finally released my debut album! Creating and delivering an album is incredibly hard work. You have to decide whether you want to let a record label take the reins or you take control of the entire production. I chose the latter, and my journey officially started in 2017.
The first thing you have to check off your list is vision. Only you, as the artist, know how you want your album to be. I chose to embrace my culture, my first language, and expand on my repertoire. We have a standard repertoire list in opera, mainly Italian, French, and German. I chose Spanish because that is my first language.
Ask your inner circle and brainstorm ideas on composers. A great musicologist will be helpful along your journey and share important information. Be mindful of copyright dates. Do your research on that composer’s life and his/her/their accomplishments. Work on those translations. Read the librettos or poetry and discover what was happening during their lifetime. Start gathering your team of musicians and practice before going into the recording location. You will need a production team: sound engineer, master engineer, graphic designer, photographer, and so forth.
Challenge yourself as a singer. I had become so comfortable in the lyric repertoire that there was a time when I should have paid more attention to agility and moving passages. The Spanish repertoire, for me, was a breath of fresh air, and I fell in love with all the pieces.
Work, practice, and record yourself. I used my phone and my laptop a lot. As time goes by, you will see and hear the progress. Listen to your rehearsals and correct your mistakes. Share those recordings with your mentor or a close colleague that you trust. After you are comfortable with the new repertoire, perform it for a live audience. Before the pandemic, I would perform at least one of these pieces with different organizations in my community. The feedback was very welcoming and encouraging. One audience member was shocked to find out that Spanish opera existed, and it made me realize that I was on the right path with my recording project and that this music needed to reach new audiences. Once you are happy with your progress, set apart some time to schedule a recording session with the sound engineer and your musicians.
When you record, ensure you have plenty of rest and a game plan. If there are pieces that you can do a cappella with you and the sound engineer, do them and save your money. As you’re recording with your team, you’ll know if the performance was to your satisfaction. I did one track in one take because it felt so easy and smooth, but the others were done at least twice. The most difficult tracks had multiple segments of music or numerous instruments. Set aside a session where you focus on those pieces.
After you’ve finished recording, listen to all the tracks and take notes. Talk to your master engineer about your ideas and see if you can piece together an aria to your satisfaction based on the takes you’ve recorded. Once the mastering is done to your liking, reach out to your graphic designer.
Your cover art is extremely important. This is what audiences will see when your distributor shares your album. I used a photo from a photo session in Madrid, Spain. Remember, in the United States, digital is king. Compact discs are hardly being manufactured anymore, but you can eventually sell them if you so desire. I chose digital because I mainly wanted to focus on the American audience. Shop around for distributors and do your math. There are different distributors with pros and cons. Choose the one that you feel will be the most beneficial.
When I decided upon my release date, I made sure it was distributed before a major holiday, Spring Break, and on a Friday. I told everyone, especially my high school students, and the day before my album dropped, my youngest class gave me a standing ovation. It was humbling and incredibly inspiring to have their support. My older students could not believe their teacher was about to release an album. On the day of the launch, it was difficult to contain my emotions, seeing teenagers downloading, streaming, and listening to my all-Spanish Classical album WILLINGLY!
Opera singers have a gift, and the world deserves to hear your gift. So dream big and go after it. There will be days when you want to give up. Don’t. Keep going because it will all be worth it in the end.